Poland's getting greener - Polish eco start-ups and technologies
Poland, once called "the most polluted country in the world" (Södelrind, 1986) is now on the threshold of a major change of how it is viewed by rest of the Europe and the world, respectively, by introducing pro-environmental programs and by large-scale investments in the modernization of its industry and innovative start-ups focused on green technologies
It has been already 25 years of economical, social and industrial transformation as Poland has struggled to overcome the remnants of the communist, centrally planned economy that was the main factor behind the nearly complete destruction of the natural environment in the entire region of Central Europe.
Right now, it is finally possible to see the results of addressing vast amount of ecological issues, by accepting, adjusting and developing European programs and various forms of cooperation with neighboring countries. The shining example is, for instance, Polish engagement in HELCOM, an international commission that adopts recommendations for the protection of the marine environment. For Poland, the neighboring countries are an inspiring source of efficient ecological solutions for sustainable development, waste management and renewable energy.
The latter is probably the most crucial for Poland as its energy industry is biased by relying heavily on fossil fuels, where the ongoing modernization has likely made the least progress. There is a reason, though. Large investments in green technologies, protection of the environment and the constant search for new, eco-friendly solutions take time and, most of all, money. Sticking to fossil fuels is dictated by the realities of the market and the state of the economy, and getting rid of that relatively cheap form of energy production would halt the fast development of the other branches of the Polish economy - including those dedicated to green technologies. It is a hard trade-off, but it buys time to introduce more eco-friendly solutions, eventually leading to a major shift in structure of the energy industry itself.
The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (Narodowy Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej) has already addressed that problem; however, the reality is harsh – the energy efficiency of Polish industry is two times lower than that of other countries of the EU, and the demand for energy is constantly increasing. That is why NFEPWM launched E-KUMULATOR (a program that supports entrepreneurs in the area of low emissions and resource efficient economy). By the end of 2017, a total sum of over 80 million EUR is to be spent on new investments and another 1.2 million EUR for conducting external energy audits. All of this is to support projects concerning recycling waste for acquiring fuels, reducing basic resource usage and curbing the amount of harmful emissions. It is the best time for such a program, as the example of other European countries shows that proper and smart waste management is a cornerstone of a sustainable development process.
But sustainable development is not only about mimicking others and relying on their know-how and technology; it should also be about innovation. Poland's efforts are easy to spot, as the Polish Ministry of the Environment has endorsed a GreenEvo project for innovative companies and eco-oriented start-ups. The companies participating in GreenEvo – the Green Technology Accelerator – will be able to use different forms of support. The aim of the project is to help Polish green technologies win foreign market shares. In this way, the Ministry of the Environment strengthens the international operations of the innovative eco start-ups that participate in the scheme by giving marketing support, launching commercial missions abroad, conducting specialist training courses, sharing knowledge of foreign markets, helping to protect industrial intellectual property and aiding the further development of participating companies. Their technologies include MWR - Molecular Waste Recycling, ARGO - electroless home sewage treatment plant, various types of bio-reactors and many more that are listed on the GreenEvo program website.
Source: GreenEvo brochure
A great example of a Polish company that has succeeded abroad with its technologies is Ecotech, also a GreenEvo competitor. It qualified to the prestigious EU Gateway program whose goal is to promote European enterprises, help with environmental solutions exports and develop business relations. This resulted with Ecotech being a major partner for Chinese and Taiwan companies.
Start-ups go green
Polish green innovations do not entirely originate from government projects and large investments. The idea of using modern technology for creating environmentally friendly solutions has been adopted by entrepreneurs who have used their creativity to launch numerous interesting business initiatives.
Cloud Your Car utilizes the idea of the Internet of Things. The founders of this project, Patryk Szymczak and his team, have created a GSM/GPS device equipped with sensors and fitted into a car’s lighter socket. It connects with a data cloud and communicates with users using a smartphone app as an interface. That allows users to obtain cloud-stored data of a car's performance, condition and location and helps control maintenance costs. Because of the network feature of this system, it is also possible to monitor the same characteristics of other connected vehicles, such as those that belong to the members of your family or friends. That allows users to, for instance, compete with each other in to drive in the most environmentally friendly way. The ultimate goal of the project is to cloud-connect every single car in the world using their sensors.
Another start-up using micro-sensors to create an intelligent, responsive environment monitoring system is Clime, a ScaleMeGlobal contest laureate. This one, instead of vehicles, focuses on keeping things in order inside of a house. Placing a number of tiny, candy-shaped Clime micro-sensors everywhere in a home allows users to monitor the temperature in every corner, detect movement, humidity and light level. Clime sensors communicate with a smartphone using a Bluetooth 4.0 chip, and seamlessly integrate with other intelligent housing technologies. The creators of Clime, Bart Zimny and Andrzej Pawlikowski, both 3D printing designers, "want to manufacture devices for the masses, for people who are not geeks that buy every novelty". They also want to add even more functionality, such as CO2 and pressure sensing. Clime’s creators believe in the idea of "smart living", which is about the optimization of everyday routines and the efficient usage of home resources.
To live smart is also to live healthy. An eco lifestyle has gained huge popularity in Poland. Nothing shows a change in people's habits better than the way in which they enjoy their food. A good example of that is Eco-eaters, an online catalogue of healthy, natural foods that promotes ecological comestible products. It is dedicated to informing readers about where they can find quality food choices to be bought on a fair-trade basis from a range of suppliers following the best traditions of Polish cuisine. Ekozercy.pl is also about the best places where, aside from eating healthy, one may spend some time surrounded by nature. This community driven initiative helps to connect people and to celebrate their lifestyle.
Speaking of an ecological lifestyle, it is hard not to mention Józef Kramarz, the founder of Kramarz Inventions, a Polish Innovation Award nominee, who has spent the last 25 years making hundreds of inventions - several dozen of which have been patented, and many more are still waiting to be completed and revealed. Most of them are dedicated to heat recovery and renewable energy in general - such as technologies of retrieving heat from the air, ventilation, exhaust fumes and sewage. His website is a place where scores of incredible, yet already tested solutions are available to interested investors and other inventors working on their projects. His passion and spirit is probably the best example of how modern technology and ingenuity are creating a better, and greener tomorrow for Poland.
The Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP) supports the project of Polish Platform of Eco-innovations (Polska Platforma Ekoinnowacji) according to major strategic UE document "Europe 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth"
Got any questions? Send an e-mail to the author