One of them is the “Pro Export” programme implemented by the Investor and Exporter Assistance Centre (COIE) based in Białystok (http://podlaskie.coie.gov.pl/pl/). The COIE division in Podlaskie operates within the structures of the Marshal's Office of Podlaskie Voivodeship on the basis of the Framework Agreement and the Implementing Agreement concluded between the Minister of Economy and the Podlaskie Voivodeship.
COIE experts provide free business-advisory services addressed to foreign investors, and export consultancy for Polish enterprises, business organisations and natural persons who wish to launch export operations.
COIE tasks include primarily the initiation of cooperation between Polish and foreign companies through sharing the contact details of foreign entrepreneurs and the distribution of their requests for quotation. Through the agency of the Trade and Investment Promotion Sections in Astana (Kazakhstan), COIE has recently presented the proposal by the Kazakh Organic Land-Cultivation Association for an investment project involving the production of organic foodstuffs in Kazakhstan.
As part of its export-consultancy services, the Centre also provides information about foreign trade fairs and exhibitions and facilitates the exhibition of promotional materials of Polish companies across selected international fairs and exhibitions (through the agency of Trade Investment Promotion Sections). Fair and exhibition advertisements are published on a regular basis on the website of the COIE of the Podlaskie Voivodeship.
In November 2014, the COIE of the Podlaskie Voivodeship encouraged companies from the region to participate in two large exhibitions: 1st Asian Business Summit of retail trade and consumer goods distribution and the AGROMEK Fair in Herning (Denmark).
The latter is one of the largest agricultural-sector exhibitions in Europe. The fair showcases a whole range of products and technologies directly connected with agricultural production, environment protection, alternative energy sources etc. Through the agency of the COIE of the Podlaskie Voivodeship the Trade and Investment Promotion Sections offered Polish companies the possibility of cost-free participation in the event and the opportunity to present their products.
Moreover, as part of its export-consultancy services, COIE identifies the foreign markets which are suitable for different types of products/services and investments, and advises on the instruments of active export support in the fields of finances, services and institutions. The Centre also organises training sessions and conferences for entrepreneurs (exporters) and assists in using the SOLVIT intervention system.
Regional aid programmes
Since Poland’s accession to the European Union, the support for business development and the promotion of the export activities conducted by companies operating in the region are among the priorities of the Podlaskie Voivodeship. It is reflected both in its development strategy and in the Regional Operational Programme for the years 2007-2013.
Although financial support programmes across the majority of voivodeships provide funds for the participation of businesses in foreign trade fairs and exhibitions, only some regions, including Poldasie, provide direct support for entrepreneurs in terms of their participation in foreign fairs and missions.
The most important aid instrument for exporters, as provided under the Regional Operational Programme was Measure 1.2 “A region attractive for investors”, Sub-measure 1.2.2 “Economic promotion of the region”.
The objective of this measure was to create the conditions for the development of entrepreneurship, the formation of new innovative companies and the improvement in the competitiveness of Podlaskie-based businesses operating in the national and international markets.
The supported initiatives included i.a. projects connected with the participation of entrepreneurs in trade fairs, exhibitions and trade missions. Companies could obtain subsidies for the participation in two such events during one calendar year.
Currently no more contests are planned within Sub-measure 1.2.2 due to the shortage of EU funds.
The new draft Regional Operational Programme for the Podlaskie Voivodeship for the years 2014-2020 does not include any financial support connected with the participation of companies from the region in foreign trade fairs and exhibitions.
The draft programme (in November 2014 it was still pending approval by the European Union) stipulates only indirect support for companies which export to foreign markets. The support for the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises from the region is planned within the Measure 1.3 “Supporting investments in enterprises”, Investment Priority 3.3 “The support for creating and expanding advanced capabilities in product and service development”. The aid will be based on obtaining and implementating innovations considered in a wider context i.e. including the implementation of new products, processes, and organisation and marketing methods. It is expected that the improvement in the innovation levels of Podlasie-based businesses will contribute to the increase in their competitiveness across foreign markets, which, in turn, will significantly boost the sales of products and services from the region.
Support will be provided mainly to enterprises with the highest levels of competitiveness and innovation. Preference will be given to ventures connected with the internationalisation of business activities through the export of produced goods or services and to undertakings improving international competitiveness.
The Regional Operation Programme for the Podlaskie Voivodeship for the years 2014-2020 will be supplemented with the support concerning the internationalisation of small and medium-sized businesses’ activities under the national Operational Programme for Eastern Poland for the years 2014-2020.
Under the draft Eastern Poland Programme for the years 2014-2020 potential exporters are supported under priority axis 2 “Entrepreneurial Eastern Poland” including investment priority 3.3 “The development and implementation of new business models for SMEs and in particular those aimed at internationalisation”.
In accordance with the programme, the support is to be aimed at the increase in the internationalisation of SMEs from the Eastern Poland macroregion , especially across the key supraregional economic specialisations. The aid will include i.a. comprehensive, individual, tailor-made advisory services to increase the foreign trade of the SME sector in Eastern Poland. It mainly concerns the advisory activities aimed at the preparation of market-entry strategies, which include the provision of knowledge necessary to enter a foreign market, as well as the presentation of possible and optimal distribution channels, the selection and establishment of contacts with foreign partners, and the organisation of direct meetings (with the possibility of providing assistance or a translator).
The support of SMEs aiming at starting or expanding their export activities, which includes bringing the concerned entity to the trade negotiations stage, assisting them in negations, and providing aid at later stages (i.a. connected with PR and marketing services, assistance in obtaining certificates, and legal and business counselling) will constitute an important aspect of the programme.
The support will be addressed particularly to small and medium-sized enterprises which are launching activities connected with their internationalisation in a given market.
In order to increase the effects of this support, these advisory activities will also be provided to SMEs during their further expansion across foreign markets.
In addition, as part of internationalisation efforts, the programme will support the activities which concentrate on entrepreneurs’ participation in national and international business and trade fairs in line with their individual needs.
The programme will also provide support for the activities connected with the internationalisation of R&D&I clusters. It involves i.a. the creation of an international network of cooperative relationships, the exchange of professionals, the participation in international research teams, the preparation of international projects, the participation of the members of the cluster initiative in international seminars or their organisation, conferences, technology fairs or workshops connected thematically with the cluster’s profile of operations. The purpose of these measures is to exchange experience, intensify technology transfer and increase the flow of information and knowledge between industry and research centres located in various countries and regions.