PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION
BLACK COUNTRY INTERNATIONAL
MEET SYLWIA PIWOWAR:
DIRECTOR AND CENTRAL LEAD FOR INFRASTRUCTURE IN POLAND
Director and Europe Central Lead for Infrastructure at the Department for International Trade in Warsaw, Sylwia Piwowar, talks to Prosper about the recently launched Infrastructure Team in Warsaw.
"The Europe Central Infrastructure team covers 5 core markets: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia," Sylwia told Prosper, "Additionally, there are five so-called 'shadowing markets'; Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Slovakia), so as you can see, we represent a large region.
"We recently launched the DIT European Infrastructure Team, it gives us very close links with colleagues from other parts of Europe who are working on similar projects and shows that by contacting one of us, businesses have quick access to relevant DIT colleagues within Europe.
"Working as a network, both Europe Central and pan-European," she added, "brings a lot of advantages, UK companies can reach out to wider groups of potential partners and communication with the team is easier.
"I have been working on infrastructure for 10 years now, my focus at the start was predominantly on the rail sector. It was at a time when Poland was receiving European Union funding for the development and modernization of its railways.
"In more recent years DIT has changed its approach, allowing us more flexibility in identifying new opportunities for the UK Plc and our portfolio has significantly expanded," she continued.
"Together with my team, we now work on airports, ports, water management, construction, inland navigation, smart cities and sports infrastructure. But the railway sector remains a priority for us. "Our role is to identify opportunities in the region and to present them to UK companies.
"We support UK companies in various ways: by finding potential partners, buyers, organizing trade missions, study visits, exhibitions, seminars/ conferences and preparing market reports. "Obviously, the pandemic has forced us to change our approach and we've needed to adapt to a completely new environment.
"We are aware that in these challenging times, our support for UK business is even more important than a year ago. Our events are now in a virtual format, but we are doing our best to continue our planned activities.
"Meanwhile the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a major economic impact on the Europe Central markets, those that were the first to impose lockdowns," Sylwia added, "It has significantly impacted infrastructure which is the backbone of the economies.
"Fortunately, for the sector, most governments in the region believe that infrastructure investment is key to restarting European economies after the pandemic, especially given that under-investment in some key areas has been apparent.
"Numerous studies have shown the correlation between the performance of the economy and the quality of its infrastructure - such an approach will activate the construction sector and the whole supply chain. Despite the COVID outbreak, infrastructure/transport investments in Central Europe have continued and remain a priority, which will create a range of business opportunities for British companies," said Sylwia.
"All major infrastructure investments are related to the European Commission's policy concept of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Other strategic investments have been initiated on multilateral platforms such as Three Seas Initiative, V4 or BRI. For instance, The Three Seas Initiative's priority is to – amongst others - accelerate the development of transportation in the region between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas.
"Additional infrastructure projects that have been identified present priorities for individual governments. In addition, transport integration with neighbouring countries is another factor essential to develop the regional economy, therefore most of the rail/road projects (for instance in V4, Croatia, B&H) have continued.
"As an example, the flagship infrastructure project in Poland, the Solidarity Transport Hub, will have a fundamental impact on the future of the Polish economy, creating 150,000 new jobs. The project will not be postponed and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the important tenders were launched by the Special Purpose Vehicle
"However, it is difficult to map out how the crisis will affect the infrastructure sector as a whole in the longer term.
"On the sports infrastructure side, countries which have previously committed to major international sports events, Hungary and Poland, are continuing towards the projects, 2023 World Athletics and Giro d'Italia, 2023 European Games, respectively. However, some of them have been rescheduled.
"In most of the markets, digitalisation (including the digitalisation of administrative institutions) in the infrastructure sector is expected to accelerate. There is a push from the industry to simplify procedures and to reduce the time needed for launching investments".
Concluding Sylwia said, " In my opinion, despite the difficult circumstances around, there are still great opportunities for business in the infrastructure sector and our team are very supportive and dedicated to advising UK companies willing to enter markets in our region. See you in Poland!"