Contrary to a popular belief, the economy of Pomerania is not built solely on the maritime and tourism industry. Although our coastal location plays a crucial role, the Pomeranian economy is a healthy mix of traditional trades and new sectors and technologies. According to the Digital Poland “Map of Polish AI” report, Tricity is one of the main centres for the development of artificial intelligence in the country. Pomerania stands out from the rest of Poland not only thanks to a large number of start-ups and companies with an established position in the AI market but also due to the active community and rich scientific and institutional facilities that favour the development of new technologies. The AI sector has found its perfect growth conditions and is thriving in Pomerania.
Pomeranian success stories
Artificial intelligence is no longer a distant future from science fiction movies but has entered our daily life. Every day, we use technologies based on AI. Most often, without even realizing that there is an intelligent machine behind the tools and processes that make our everyday life easier. Artificial intelligence helps you efficiently park your car, ensures the safety of your money in the bank, and watches over your health via popular devices and applications.
Numerous innovations based on artificial intelligence come from the Tricity. One of many great achievements of Pomeranian AI is a popular speech synthesizer called Alexa. Few people know that the technology behind its creation is the work of Polish innovators from the Gdynia based start-up Ivona Software. Their advanced technology was so successful that the international giant Amazon noticed its potential, and, in 2013, bought the company and Ivona became Alexa. Today, Alexa is the most popular device of this kind, only Google Assistant can compete with it.
Another local start-up that has achieved international success is the Gdańsk-based Neoteric, a company that helps businesses implement modern solutions based on machine learning. According to the ranking of the prestigious Clutch portal, Neoteric is one of the top providers of AI solutions in the world. “Our adventure with AI began in 2015. Today, we work for global brands such as the World Bank, Boeing, and Nestle, helping our clients increase their sales, optimize margins and improve internal processes using predictive models and recommendation engines. The Tricity and its economic ecosystem are conducive to similar successes. Local universities provide well-trained graduates who later gain experience in global companies present on the local market such as Intel, Nordea, and Lufthansa. This is where young, innovative companies such as ours can build their teams from,” says Darek Kociecki, Chief Growth Officer at Neoteric.
Pomerania is a great place for tech start-ups due to numerous initiatives supporting young companies on their way to success. One of the examples of the success of said support is Toucan Systems, a company established thanks to the Capital Fund of the Pomerania Development Agency, which helps young entrepreneurs implement innovative ideas. Their product, the Toucan Eye device, enables visually impaired people to live independently. Thanks to the use of AI solutions, this easy-to-use device analyzes the environment, reads texts and converts them into speech. Toucan Eye provides the visually impaired with practical information such as the number of the building or room at the office, content of the menu in the restaurant and timetable at the bus stop. Currently, the company is working on another innovative device called Toucan Assistant, which will support seniors in everyday tasks. The founders of Toucan Systems admit that they owe their success not only to creativity and competence but also to many seized opportunities and favourable local conditions. “Thanks to the funds of the National Center for Research and Development obtained with the support of Pomerania Development Agency, we were able to develop and create an internal research department that deals with projects using artificial intelligence to solve important social issues. Of course, the creation of such a department would be impossible without access to talented university graduates. High level of education is the domain of Pomeranian Universities. That has been noticed by foreign companies that are eagerly opening their own research centres in the region. The potential of Pomerania is enormous, so we are glad that we have our headquarters here,” says Radosław Zdunek, President of Toucan Systems.
We care more
For the last decade, the Invest in Pomerania (IiP) initiative, established by the local government to attract foreign investors to the region, has been dynamically operating in the Pomeranian Voivodeship.
The primary objective of the IiP is to attract and support new investments, but an equally important goal is building the positive image of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, with particular emphasis on the economic potential of the region. “Thanks to the constant analysis of Pomerania’s strengths, we have drawn attention to the strength of the local AI industry. When promoting our voivodeship, we often work directly with local companies, we talk about their successes, products, services, and technological advancement. The promotion of the region goes hand in hand with the promotion of companies operating within it. Therefore, in collaboration with companies from the industry, we have created AI Pomerania (http://aipomerania.com/), a website and promotional platform where entrepreneurs from Pomerania present their products and services based on artificial intelligence. Thanks to initiatives such as AI Pomerania, local companies are gaining publicity, and the region itself is becoming associated with the development of the latest technologies, which translates into further investments in the future. Growth of the AI industry in Pomerania is also supported by the lively cooperation of representatives of business, science and regional authorities, which we initiate and support as part of our mission,” explains Bartosz Wojtasiak from Invest in Pomerania. IiP believes that the best way to showcase the success of the region is via the successes of its partners and that is why the Live more. Pomerania (www.livemorepomerania.com) initiative was born in 2018. Live more. Pomerania brings together the best of what the region has to offer and showcases it to the world, positioning Pomerania as the place to live, work, and study.
A modern industry such as AI, cannot progress without highly skilled workers. Constant access to specialists in such fields as IT, mathematics, physics, automation, electronics, telecommunications, and life sciences is one of the greatest challenges faced by every region aspiring to the role of a technological hub. Pomerania definitely meets these expectations. The region has one of the best Universities of Technology in the country and many other renowned academic institutions. Identifying a further talent crunch, IiP and LmP launched Jobs@Pomerania. www.jobs.livemorepomerania.com is Poland’s first market-driven profile led recruitment platform aimed at everyone currently not working in Pomerania. The platform is free for use by Pomeranian employers and currently features more than 3,000 profiles ready to be hired. In 2020, recognising the humanitarian crisis in Belarus, IiP launched Come2Pomerania (www.come2pomerania.com) as a complementary program to the Poland. Business Harbour initiative. It has already helped a few companies relocate to the region.
Bringing specialists to the region is the first step to success, the next one is retaining them. The Tricity does not disappoint in this respect either. The constantly increasing number of international corporations such as Intel, Nordea, Lufthansa, and Boeing, which eagerly choose Pomerania for the location of their R&D departments working on AI solutions, is an opportunity for talented, young graduates to acquire practical skills and grow their careers. Equally important for professionals and AI enthusiasts are numerous opportunities for development, exchange of experience and knowledge offered by the Tricity. Dozens of meetings, hackathons, and conferences are organized in the region (also online during the pandemic).
The AI Bay – Zatoka Sztucznej Inteligencji, operating at the Gdańsk University of Technology, is a science club that stimulates research, development and education in the field of machine learning. Hackerspace Trójmiasto – the largest hackerspace in northern Poland is also very active. “Hackerspace is a community of creators of various fields. We connect programmers, electronics engineers, craftsmen and artists, both amateurs and professionals. Everyone who likes to create something out of nothing will find their place here. Thanks to the presence of a diverse group of specialists, we can realise any crazy idea. Most of our projects revolve around the subject of programming and the IT industry, but very often we add elements from a completely different world. Sometimes it is a combination of technology and music (as in case of Music Jam), sometimes with ecology (Hack4change hackathon), and other times with games (Game Jam marathon),” says Marcin Młyński, founder of Hackerspace Trójmiasto. Since 2007, Tricity has been hosting Infoshare – the largest technology conference in Central and Eastern Europe. The aforementioned organizations and events are just a few examples of the wide range of initiatives that motivate AI specialists to stay and grow in the Tricity.
Where business meets science
Like every other industry, the growth of AI in Pomerania is fuelled by a symbiotic relationship between business, academia, and the scientific community. A key role in AI development is played by the Gdańsk University of Technology with all its scientific facilities and the status of a research university. Its Research Centre partners with both public institutions and technological companies, especially those associated with the Pomeranian ICT Interizon Cluster, the organisation that brings together companies from the ICT industry.
Since 2019, the Gdańsk University of Technology has also been operating the Digital Innovation Hub (DiH4.AI). The hub, financed by the government, supports entrepreneurs in the process of implementing modern solutions in their companies. “I’m certain that over time, AI will become indispensable and will be present in every company, but so far we are at the stage of building awareness of the business,” says Przemysław Kowalski, Executive Director of DiH4.AI. “Building and presenting to entrepreneurs the context in which AI can be used and the value it can bring to the company, is the first activity that representatives of the innovation ecosystem should undertake,” he adds.
Gaining the interest of domestic entrepreneurs in AI solutions is a big challenge, but it’s necessary for the development of the Polish AI sector and the economy in general. Current economic forecasts clearly indicate that companies that will not implement modern technologies or will delay in doing so, will quickly lose their competitive advantage. Understanding this, experts cooperating with the Innovation Hub have created a unique tool that allows entrepreneurs to assess the opportunities, threats, costs, and benefits of implementing AI solutions. “DIH offers entrepreneurs comprehensive services, starting with the consulting process, in which we conduct an audit of the company’s digital condition according to the ADMA methodology. During this process, we identify the company’s needs and shortcomings, and then, together with the entrepreneur, we build a digitalisation strategy. If there are competency gaps in a given company, we send employees to training organized by DiH4.AI. Companies can also use the computing power resources offered by our computing cluster. We also provide access to a robotic laboratory, where entrepreneurs, together with our experts, can build a prototype of a device or product. Additionally, we organize various types of events: meetups, hackathons, conferences, and seminars, through which we popularize knowledge about AI and inspire by showing interesting applications of new technologies,” says Jacek Kawalec, strategic director of DiH4.AI.
In addition to universities and dedicated projects, the implementation and commercialization of AI solutions in the region is favoured by a well-developed technical and business infrastructure, such as technology parks, incubators and accelerators, as well as top-class office spaces. Both the Gdańsk Science and Technology Park and the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park in Gdynia enable entrepreneurs to work on prototypes in their laboratories and consult with experts on technology commercialisation, patenting, and financing.
Innovation is a measure of the competitiveness of modern economies. For this reason, both Pomerania and Poland, in general, strive to be a creator of the new technologies, not only a consumer of solutions created by others. In a dynamically developing industry such as AI, in order to become one of the leading players on the market, it is not enough to keep up with trends – you have to create them. This rule applies not only to ICT companies developing new technologies but also to regions aspiring to be one of the most important technology hubs. It is necessary to constantly grow, to notice emerging needs and potential of new solutions, as well as to attract new investments and cultivate established cooperations. In Pomerania, this theory is put into practice. The rich landscape of Pomeranian AI creates perfect conditions for the development of large and small companies. AI in Pomerania is doing well and is still growing in strength.