Year after year, the European Congress of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises is the largest European meeting of this business sector. The slogan of the 13th edition was: “Ready for change/chance”?



Change has already happened


Much emphasis has been placed on the changes taking place in the Silesian voivedienship. The Katowice Special Economic Zone, which has been operating in the region for years, is one of the best in the world. It is on its territory, in the companies operating there, as the company’s representative noted, that changes have been taking place very quickly.


If we think about the economic zone, or Silesia, there is still a stereotype that we often encounter in the opinions of residents. Workplaces are seen like Henry Ford’s factories of the early 20th century: simple production, physical labor and production lines arranged in a hall. Meanwhile, we are already in a very different place! The Korean plant in Dabrowa Gornicza or the Brembo auto parts factory and many other investors scattered throughout the province – these are examples that are not only modern, but set trends in what is happening in the world,” said Mateusz Rykała, Vice President of the Management Board of the Katowice Special Economic Zone S.A. during the panel “Silesia – a region of change and opportunity.


This modernity is evidenced by personal transfers: the keenest minds from all over the world are flocking to work in plants operating in the KSEZ.


A few years ago, just before the pandemic, we issued a decision and one of the world’s main design offices for the ZF technology concern was established in Czestochowa. Engineers from all countries were offered to move to Czestochowa, and it happened. There, they are working on cutting-edge solutions, such as autonomous driving or radar mounted in cars,” he added.



Energy transformation


The opportunities and threats to the European Union’s energy transition were discussed by participants of the SILESIA 2030 conference “Critical raw materials in the EU – 21st century oil? Opportunities and threats to the European Union’s energy transition”.


The end of thermal coal, on the use of which not only the Polish economy has relied for decades, is closer rather than further away – the future of coking coal looks quite different. Representatives of Europe’s largest producer of this raw material hope that it will still be on the European Union’s list of critical raw materials. According to projections by the World Steel Association, the production of coking coal-based steel is expected to grow up to 150 million tons per year within a decade.


But JSW is looking to the future with a brave glance at and is exploring markets for coal-like products, such as coking tar used to make synthetic graphite.


Demand for this raw material is expected to increase more than 25 times by 2040, as it is essential for battery production. What lies ahead of us, in the long term, is keeping an eye on it, observing the changing market and diversifying production,” stressed Wojciech Kaluża, vice-president of JSW S.A..


Will Europe use India, Turkey and China to process scrap metal and steel, in countries where no one looks at the carbon footprint?


During the SILESIA 2030 conference “Critical raw materials in the EU – 21st century oil? Opportunities and threats to the European Union’s energy transition,” Tomasz Heryszek, CEO of Węglokoks S.A., spoke about what could become a European reality:


It all depends on whether we need, for example, lithium in Europe. Will it be consumed and transformed in countries where the cost of labor is many times lower, and then the finished product will come to us? Will it be the case that scrap will flow out of Poland to Turkey and return from Turkey in the form of finished products, the price of which will be lower than the price of the products we will be able to produce in Europe,” said Węglokoks S.A.’s CEO.


There are many issues that indicate that this is the direction we are going. I’m also talking about sheet metal, flat products that come to us from India, where nobody is concerned about the carbon footprint, the ETS, carbon emissions. It’s simply cheaper, and ultimately it goes back to Europe,” he added.



Time for green energy


According to plans, the Tauron Group is to produce 80 percent of its energy from so-called green sources by 2030.

 In consultation with the Ministry of State Assets, we have established a program that boils down to the fact that as of January 1, 2023, we no longer have mining within our energy group. Our three mines were transferred to the Treasury. We also planned to transfer coal-based generation assets from January 2024 as part of the creation of the National Energy Security Agency project, and thus we would become an energy group whose main task would be to supply electricity and heat to end users. We have the concept worked out, and we are prepared to find our way as a group in the new realities.”  said Artur Warzocha, Tauron’s vice president for corporate affairs.


The coal assets were supposed to be taken over by the polish National Energy Security Agency, but a law on its creation failed to be passed before the end of the past parliamentary term.Surprises for business


Surprises for businesses


Unexpected challenges have fallen on those running businesses in recent years, every now and then. One such obstacle has been drastic increases in electricity prices.


In 2024, entrepreneurs may be surprised by a few things. One of them will be energy prices. The shield will end and it is unclear whether it will be extended. Customers will return to high tariffs or contracts they signed in 2022 for amounts above PLN 2,000 per MWh. Some will also return to exchange contracts – I don’t know if you use them – but they rely on the customer taking all the risk of buying energy. The trading company only takes a margin for the service,” said Malgorzata Wiatrowska, ESG expert at VeloBank S.A., during the discussion: “Is it worth pursuing energy transition today – what challenges and support await entrepreneurs?”.


We live in a time of volatility


Volatility, volatility and more volatility – this is how experts define the business reality of recent years. That’s why from the very beginning of its existence, the organizers of the ECSME have attached great importance to making sure that participation in the event gives entrepreneurs a powerful dose of new knowledge. During the panel “Use the business potential of data in your company,” Tomasz Mirowski, Chief Technology Officer, 3Soft S.A., spoke about the barrier that is often encountered when introducing processes in companies: 


Automation is the basis for proper data management. From our experience and the projects we have implemented: implementing a data management process starts with people, not data. It is usually the case that we have silos of data and people who rely on their Excel, believing that this is a great value for them and to be or not to be. The vision of automation is the potential for them to lose their jobs,” said Tomasz Mirowski.  – The first stage of automation, is to spend a lot of time talking to people. Once we convince teams that what we are doing is valuable to them and the company will grow and they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, then we only go to the data. Automation means leveling out human error,” he added. 

How does automation help small businesses? So that data from sales, for example, arrives on a manager’s desk within minutes, and this allows real-time response and no time wasted.


Electronics above all


Saving time and money – these are the most serious arguments for introducing a completely electronic invoice and document workflow in companies. As part of #ECSME, we devoted an entire panel discussion to this issue: “ National e-Invoicing Systema revolution throughout the organization”.

The legal order allows us to process documents in electronic form one hundred percent. You don’t have to wait for July 1, 2024 to realize a truly digital workflow in your enterprises. We can do it today,” said Bogdan Zatorski, Symfonia’s Business Analysis and Legal Requirements Manager.



13th ECSME in numbers


The 13th European Congress of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises was attended by more than 6,500 listeners. More than 50 discussions took place in ten congress halls. The Katowice congress is the largest meeting of the small and medium-sized business sector in Europe.

Partnership in the European Congress of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises is first and foremost an opportunity to exchange experiences and views with entrepreneurs from all over the world. The development of enterprises should be realized by associating economic goals with ecological ones, which will allow solving socio-economic problems in accordance with the concept of sustainable development,” concluded Marek Bar, President of the Management Board of Huta Łabędy S.A.


Representatives of more than a dozen industries presented themselves at the Business Expo, including companies providing advice on raising EU funds, renting cars or offering business management software. In the zone one could check whether a contractor is reliable, as well as learn about a modern method of health and safety training using VR goggles.


The second fair space, Work For All, was organized jointly with the International Rescue Committee with job seekers and employers in mind. The stands of employers, but also of universities, were very popular. This testifies to the great dynamism of the Silesian labor market.


The organizer of #ECSME is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Katowice. As a creator of the meetings and events industry, it has been supporting regional business and stimulating its development for more than 33 years – including among young people at the threshold of their professional careers. CCI is also active in business and communication consulting for its Member Companies and helps establish contacts with partners at home and abroad. In addition, it shapes and disseminates the principles of ethics, honesty in business and generally understood corporate social responsibility. The fourteenth edition of the European Congress of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises returns next year.