Titanic Belfast was the location for the inaugural Northern Ireland – Poland Conference, Belfast 2016.  The event which took place on 02 June 2016 brought together government representatives, experts in the fields of politics, economics to foster business connections between both countries and develop bi-lateral business links already worth more than £200 million a year.

The event was officially opened by the High Sheriff of Belfast, Alderman Jim Rodgers OBE, followed by speeches from Mr Conor Murphy MLA and Ms Claire Hanna MLA.

The Trade and Investment Promotion Section of the Polish Embassy in London organised the conference in partnership with Mr Jerome Mullen, the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland in Northern Ireland, with the assistance of conference host Ms Alina Holyst, an active supporter of Northern – Irish Polish connections. His Excellency Witold Sobków Ambassador of Poland was the guest of honour.

Mr Jerzy Bartosik, Minister Counsellor, Head of Trade and Investment Promotion Section Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London and Mr Leszek Banaszak, Counsellor, shared insights into the Polish investment climate and the latest development plan.

A significant section of the conference was dedicated to the Discover Powerful Connectionssession which promoted the most attractive Polish investment regions and presented the benefits of the Special Economic Zones policy in Poland. Two captivating presentations were delivered by Ms Patrycja Wojtania from the Lodz Special Economic Zone and Ms Jadwiga Ozgowicz from Katowice Economic Zone – the biggest special economic zones in Poland.

Alicia Ferrero Vega, Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, delivered a presentation about the support that the Santander Group offers to its customers. The Santander Group, one of the conference sponsors, sets the standard for establishing abroad, putting the strength of its retail and commercial banks in 14 countries within reach of its customers. The company has developed an International Desk in each of its markets to better serve companies with international activity in these countries. The Bank also has a network of alliance partner banks, to serve its customers in markets outside of its footprint, including South East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Bank Zachodni WBK is Poland’s third largest commercial bank, providing innovative and attractive services and products tailored to clients’ needs.  The main shareholder of Bank Zachodni WBK is Santander, the number one bank in the Eurozone and the eleventh biggest in the world in terms of market capitalisation.

More than a dozen Northern Ireland companies already have a strong foothold in Poland. Two successful entrepreneurs spoke about their company’s presence in Poland.

Mr Terry Cross OBE, founder of Belfast based Delta Print and Packaging, which has just been acquired by Huhtamaki, provided an overview of what delegates could expect:

I gave delegates an insight into the recent investment that Delta Packaging embarked on which resulted in the development of a 100,000 square foot production facility in Gliwice to expand the companys European supply chain network.  The new site allows the team to further develop existing relationships with our client base, while realising the full economic potential and incentives of exporting to the international market.

The companys success in recent years has attracted the success of Huhtamaki which recently acquired the Delta Print and Packaging sites in both Belfast and Poland. The company is now known as Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta and with forces combined, Huhtamaki will strengthen its position within the European foodservice packaging market and be able to expand its offering of fiber based packaging to packaged food and retail customers throughout Europe.

Further insights on successful cooperation between Northern Ireland and Poland were shared by Mr Stephan Sakowicz, Head of Gdansk Operations Kainos Group, a fast-growing provider of IT services. Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Belfast, Kainos specialises in the development of digital technology solutions.  

Kainos customers include large global organisations such as Netflix and Diageo, as well as public sector clients in government and healthcare. Many of these organisations are experiencing long-term structural change, and are working with Kainos to develop digital solutions that help them address new and emerging business challenges.

Kainos employs almost 800 staff in eight offices in various parts of Europe and the USA. Over 200 of these work from a flagship development hub in the centre of Gdansk, the historic trading capital of Pomerania in northern Poland.  Kainos selected this location in 2007 as its first mainland European centre, primarily because of the high quality of the local work force.  Since then, the Kainos development hub in Gdansk has grown rapidly, and now forms a central part of the companys development activities and growth plans.  

Kainos Polish employees lead the development of the companys innovative software products, and also work side by side with colleagues from other Kainos locations on client sites in the UK and Ireland.

The event provided local businesses and entrepreneurs with an excellent opportunity to get an insight into the economic growth of the Central European markets and to make valuable connections with businesses, political leaders, market experts, major enterprises and regional chambers of commerce.