Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 3

The Geography of Digital Entrepreneurs in Industry 4.0 in Poland

Krzysztof Gwosdz, Agnieszka Sobala-Gwosdz, Katarzyna Hetmańczyk

Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 3, pp. 327-349

The aim of the study detailed here has been to identify the spatial pattern describing Poland’s providers of Industry 4.0 technologies (i.e. the so-called digital entrepreneurs), and to determine the territorial potential for future clusters of these activities to develop across the country. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this article represents the literature’s very first systematic attempt at a firm-level examination of the current and future “geography” of digital (Industry 4.0) enterprises. The identification of technology providers meeting the criterion reflected type of prevailing activity, by reference to international classifications of economic activity. At the first stage, systematic queries involving such various sources as company catalogues, websites of technology parks, clusters and industry associations, databases of the Patent Office of the Republic of Poland and European Patent Office (EPO) and data relating to the use of European Funds in Poland were used to identify 823 digital enterprises. In turn, reference to NACE codes of prevailing activity allowed for the identification of 30 industries represented by more than 5% of the companies identified (Annex 1). In a further step, location quotients (vis-à-vis the working-age population) were calculated for 426,000 active entities registered in the Polish National Court Register (KRS). This allowed for the identification of spatial concentrations on an industry-by-industry basis (Fig. 1‑2). The synthetic indicator constructed (as the sum of weighted location quotients) offers an approximation of the potential particular places in Poland display, when it comes to the development of clusters of Industry 4.0 technology providers.

The recognised clusters of digital entrepreneurs in Industry 4.0 show a strong concentration in a small number of cities and counties, and above all in the core cities of the largest Polish metropolises. Currently, the seven largest Polish metropolises concentrate within their limits some 76% of digital entrepreneurs, with the capital city (Warsaw) alone accounting for 24%. Forecasted potential for the future development of digital entrepreneurs, beyond the capital and the regional metropolises, are significant for the multifunctional cities located in those regions where manufacturing companies are dense, in particular classified as medium-tech and high-tech industries. Areas of concentration of digital entrepreneurs of the P4.0 kind show the most marked correlation with clusters of high-technology services (χ = 0.71), while co-location with concentrations of high-technology industries is only at a slightly lower level (χ = 0.69). The correlation between the concentration of digital enterprises and population is much weaker (χ = 0.55), indicating that the geography of digital enterprises is not merely a straightforward reflection of demographic potential. The basis for the difference between the geography of digital enterprises in Industry 4.0 and the geography of high-technology sectors in Poland lies in the greater role of multifunctional urban centres located in industrial regions in the south of the country in particular. An extensive zone displaying increased potential for development of I4.0 technology providers is seen to include poviats in the south-west of the country (Fig. 3.). This is in line with ongoing reindustrialisation of the area starting in the late 1990s, and continuing in the early 2000s. This points to the existence of positive inter-path relationships (see Frangenheim et al., 2020; Micek et al., 2022). The heterogeneity of fourth-generation industry technologies means that, on the basis of their own well-recognised potential, individual cities and regions can explore different new paths related to Industry 4.0 technologies. Of the five main industry types of digital entrepreneur distinguished (producers, integrators, distributors, software and engineering/R&D), the strongest territorial concentration is shown by the software and engineering/R&D companies. Much more limited concentration, and thus a larger territorial window of opportunity for the development of Industry 4.0 competencies, is characteristic of digital enterprises that can grow from machinery manufacturers and specialised repair and maintenance activities. In contrast to the former group are the metropolitan ‘born global’ start-ups, for which an important location factor is proximity to manufacturing firms, in a manner that ensures a more-deconcentrated pattern of innovation activities across Polish space.

Keywords: przemysł 4.0, geografia innowacji, sektory zaawansowanej technologii, koncentracja przestrzenna, Polska

Krzysztof Gwosdz [], Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Instytut Geografii i Gospodarki Przestrzennej
Agnieszka Sobala-Gwosdz [], Instytut Rozwoju Miast i Regionów
Katarzyna Hetmańczyk [], Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Instytut Geografii i Gospodarki Przestrzennej