Science – Cracow’s Increasingly Significant Industry

 There are many ways to demonstrate Cracow’s position on the scientific map of Poland, but we will use the latest and the most symbolic example. Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej (The Foundation for Polish Science) has recently selected 159 of the most talented scientists in the whole country and awarded them special scholarships. As many as 30 of these scientists work in Cracow at the Jagiellonian University, the AGH University of Science and Technology and several other institutes which are part of the Polish Academy of Sciences and are situated in the city.
Cracow is one of two the most important academic centres in Poland and its educational institutions compete successfully with those in Warsaw in all the rankings. Cracow’s academia is extremely wide-ranging as it is possible to study and carry out research in almost all fields of knowledge. There are opportunities to study art, pedagogy, physical education, economics, technology and humanities in Cracow. Most institutions are state-run, but others are private, with the latter sector showing dramatic development. However, it could be said that science has become the most significant ‘industry’ in Cracow over the last 20 years, i.e. since Poland reverted to a market economy. Almost 200,000 students study science here and Cracow’s higher education institutions are among the largest employers in the city. But the educational boom is not everything, because Cracow’s scientific expertise has become increasingly international in recent years. This has been particularly noticeable since 2004, when Poland acceded to the European Union. As a consequence, Cracow’s researchers are able to apply for more and more European grants for scientific research, with the funds from various E.U. institutions subsidising their development and their designs. Some time ago there was concern about the lack of suitable mechanisms which would allow the absorption of their discoveries and inventions into the economy, as Polish firms are still relatively slow in adapting to the new inventions and new technologies. Therefore, Cracow’s largest educational institutions, together with the local authorities, decided to establish the Special Economic Zone – the Kraków Technology Park 10 years ago. The founders of the park (including the Jagiellonian University, the AGH University of Science and Technology and Cracow’s University of Technology) wanted to create favourable conditions which would encourage firms to invest as well as to provide opportunities for the highly qualified scientists. Over 80 companies are already participating in the scheme. Among them are international corporations, such as Motorola, MAN and Shell, as well as Polish companies established by scientists educated in Cracow. Comarch, a company specialising in information technology, is the best example of the latter. In fact, it could be considered the flagship within the Polish market economy, but this not mean to say that it is not well-known in foreign countries, e.g. Germany. The company, which employs 3,000 people, was established by Prof. Janusz Filipiak, a graduate of AGH, and his wife Elżbieta, a graduate of the University of Economics in Cracow. Therefore, it could be said that Cracow’s educational establishments are able to develop the scientific research in those fields on which contemporary science worldwide is concentrating.
For instance, the AGH University of Science and Technology has invested 20 million euros in the construction of a large computer centre, covering 10,000 square metres, in which there will be 15 highly specialised laboratories, as well as 25 million euros in the Centre for Materials and Nanotechnology. Recently, the Jagiellonian University has constructed an ultra-modern campus on the south-west edge of Cracow, with Park LifeScience, which offers specialised laboratories and services to firms focusing on biotechnology, also located there. Moreover, Cracow’s science plays a part in several major European projects. For example, a considerable number of scientists from Cracow, mainly from the Institute of Nuclear Physics, which is part of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Jagiellonian University and the AGH University of Science and Technology, work on a permanent basis in the largest project of contemporary science, i.e. the Large Hadron Collider that was constructed by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Thus, science in Cracow has already reached a high level and today the scientists in the city have ever better equipped laboratories at their disposal. Moreover, many of them work successfully in the most famous universities across the world, so that Cracow now waits, ever hopeful, for its first Nobel Prize laureate for scientific achievement, thus making its science famous in the way Wisława Szymborska, the Nobel Prize laureate in1996, did for its literature.