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Expansion of BPO and R&D sector in Poland in 2012


Poland has become a convenient place for foreign investments in service centres, especially Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Research and Development (R&D) centres. In 2012 many new global brands have appeared on the Polish map of business services, maintaining the country’s position as a leader in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region in this sector.

According to the World Investment Prospects Survey 2010-2012 report, prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in the period from 2010 to 2012 Poland was ranked in 12th place as the most attractive host economy for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the world, and in 3th place among European countries. In December 2011 there were 337 service centres with foreign capital in Poland, which belonged to 241 investors. 131 of these centres were in the BPO/ITO category and 93 in R&D. The number of foreign service centres in Poland is increasing every year.

Number of foreign service centres in Poland, 2003-2011

Locations of BPO/R&D service centres in Poland

More and more Polish cities use their potential and manage to achieve a strong position on both the Polish and global map of services offshoring. Over 80% of all the service centres in Poland are located in seven major business services offshoring agglomerations, in Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Lodz, the Silesia Metropolis, the Tricity Area and Poznan. In each of those areas there are at least 25 centres. According to a 2012 report by Tholons, the most attractive location for business services outsourcing in Poland and at the same time in the entire CEE region is Krakow, which took a high 11th place among the most attractive locations all over the world. The second most attractive city in Poland is Warsaw, which took 38th position in the Tholons ranking.

In addition, there are specialisations in the different regions of the country. Warsaw, Lodz and Poznan are dominated by finance and accounting services, Krakow and Tricity by IT projects, and Wroclaw by R&D centres. It should be noted that smaller centres are also becoming more and more popular. The reasons for this are lower labour costs than in large cities, as well as lower costs of renting office space. A good example of this tendency is Bialystok, where Intrum Iustita, Europe’s leading credit management services company, opened a large BPO centre, the first such facility in Eastern Poland. There are hopes that it will help to attract more such investments in the future to Bialystok as well as to other smaller cities in the less developed Polish regions.

Factors which make Poland attractive for Business Service Sector

There are many factors which make Poland an attractive country for investors from the Business Service Sector, especially for BPO and R&D.

Poland is an attractive destination for BPO and R&D services because of its favourable investment climate; still relatively low labour costs, compared to other developed countries; highly skilled workers; and the development of a modern office space market. According to a latest report from CBRE, in 2011 in nine major Polish cities a record 895,000 m2 of office space were leased, while in the first half of 2012 the figure reached 490,000 m2. Most of this space is used by foreign investors to launch their BPO and R&D service centres. Another important factor is the favourable location of Polish cities in close proximity to many important centres of Western and Eastern Europe.

It should be noted that foreign investors increasingly choose Poland as the location for the most advanced business processes. As Krystian Bestry, Vice President of the Association of Business Service Leaders in Poland (ABSL) and Managing Director of Infosys BPO Europe said, many solutions which later are implemented in multinational corporations all over the world come from Poland.

Employment in the business service sector in Poland

Poland is the definite leader with respect to the number of employees in the sector in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 2009 to 2011 around 62,000 new jobs were created in Central and Eastern European service centres with foreign capital, of which as many as 28,000 in Poland. It means that over 46% of the employment growth in the region was generated by service centres operating in Poland.

Already in 2010 a report by Everest indicated that Poland’s pool of professionals and experts in the field of advanced services was second in size only to India’s, and the country was one of the most powerful global centres in terms of customer service in multiple languages. Today it is still Poland’s key asset, according to an ABSL survey titled Business Services Sector in Poland.

In a recent study published by employment agency Manpower Group, titled HR trends in BPO/SSC sector, more than half of the surveyed employers from the business services sector (61%) said they planned to increase employment in H2 2012. Only 7% of the respondents had plans to reduce the number of employees. The declared employment growth is largely the result of new investments and expansion of outsourcing centres in existing locations, but on the other hand, there is also a need to prevent staff turnover, which is indicated by 57% of employers. Despite the fact that one of Poland’s major assets is its relatively inexpensive and well-educated workforce, companies declare that they have some difficulty in recruiting candidates for relevant positions. The main problems are high pay expectations of candidates, as well as their insufficient knowledge of foreign languages. Among the positions that are most difficult to fill are IT, engineering and managerial jobs.

Main countries of origin of foreign service centres

Companies from 24 different countries have invested in the service centre sector in Poland. About 50% of the centres belong to companies from the European Union. 111 centres with foreign capital in Poland are American-owned, 49 French, 29 German and 27 British. The remaining centres are owned by companies from 20 countries (e.g. from the Netherlands, India and Sweden) and controlled by international capital, according to the ABSL report Business Services Sector in Poland.

Openings of BPO and R&D centres in 2012

There were many BPO and R&D service centre openings in Poland from January to October 2012. The biggest and most important BPO investments included Capgemini’s new IT service centre in Opole or Metro’s service centre in Szczecin providing finance and accounting services to the group’s wholesale and retail operations such as Metro/Makro Cash&Carry or Real hypermarkets. It should be noted that it is one of just three such facilities in the world serving the Metro group.

Another recently-opened BPO service centre is a Philips facility inaugurated in July 2012 at the manufacturing complex of Philips Lighting Poland in Pila (Wielkopolskie voivodship), which provides payroll and HR administration support to Philips companies across Europe.

In the R&D sector very important openings were noted in Krakow, where in April 2012 FMC Technologies launched a €3m R&D centre; and where EdF, the French energy group, inaugurated a R&D unit focusing on clean-coal and biomass-coal co-firing technologies, areas in which EdF’s Polish unit aspires to be a leader.

Elsewhere, Dolby Labs, the global audio technology leader, opened a large research centre in Wroclaw, with plans to employ nearly 100 or even 200 people in the future.

Also noteworthy is the R&D centre inaugurated on 13 June 2012 by American Heart of Poland (AHP), an operator of cardiac surgery clinics owned by Advent International. It focuses on preclinical and clinical research into new devices and medicines for cardiovascular diseases. The facility operates at two sites in Slaskie voivodship, in Kostkowice near Ustron (preclinical studies) and Bielsko-Biala (clinical studies).

Importantly from the point of view of assessing the development prospects of the service centre sector in H2 2012 and 2013, many companies from this sector wanted to expand their already functioning research centres. The best examples of this trend are Samsung, which wants to enlarge its white goods R&D unit in Wronki; Kroll Ontrack, the global provider of data recovery and computer forensics services, which announced a major expansion of its R&D centre in Katowice; or Fujitsu Technology Solutions, a leading European IT infrastructure provider, which will increase by a third the number of jobs at its service centre in Lodz.

Planned projects

There are also many service centres scheduled to open in 2013 and later years. For example, WNS, a NYSE-listed global business process outsourcing services company based in India, plans to launch a major service centre in Gdynia. It will provide finance & accounting, contact centre, as well as research & analytics services to companies from various industries. The facility is to formally open during the company’s fiscal second quarter of 2013.

Another large service centre in the pipeline is by Becton Dickinson, a NYSE-listed producer of medical devices, supplies, laboratory equipment and diagnostic products. It will be located in Wroclaw, with an initial staff of around 150. Meanwhile, Bayer has selected the Tricity area as the location for a BPO centre to serve its operations in Central and Eastern Europe, a further confirmation of a growing interest among global pharmaceutical firms in locating BPO operations in Poland.

Another interesting planned project is by Hewlett-Packard (HP), which will open a service centre in Lodz, its second such facility in Poland after Wroclaw. The new unit, which is expected to start operations in Q4 2012, will provide finance & accounting and HR & payroll services to HP clients across the world.

China’s Guangxi LiuGong Machinery, the producer of earth-moving equipment, also aims to invest in Poland, i.a. in Huta Stalowa Wola. The Chinese group is already in talks with the Industrial Development Agency about a plan to build an R&D centre in nearby Tarnobrzeg Special Economic Zone that would work on prototype machines for the European market. Finally, Boeing, the US aircraft manufacturer, on 20 June 2012 announced plans to open a research and development centre in Warsaw, which will be its first major R&D operation in Poland.


According to Manpower Group, the economic crisis will not lead to any collapse in the outsourcing sector in Poland. The demand for outsourcing services in Poland will probably not decrease. Foreign companies are still willing to open their service centres in the country, because they appreciate its well-educated workforce, low costs of office space and strategic location in Central Europe.

However, there are several challenges that the Polish service centre sector will have to address in order to maintain the good trend and cement its leadership on the global map of advanced business services. These include direct support for investors in the Polish regions as well as large-scale activities reinforcing the image of the service sector, which also means encouraging young people to link their future with companies from the BPO and R&D sector. Also necessary are promotional activities abroad and reforms aimed at making labour laws more flexible and better adapted to the needs of organisations serving customers in other time zones or using a different calendar.

Another challenge is the looming crisis on the labour market associated with the coming demographic slump in the Polish society. Poland’s handling of this problem will determine the country’s chances of maintaining its status as a leading hub for business services, as this requires access to a large base of educated people.

What about the impact of the global economic and financial crisis on the BPO/R&D sector? In the words of Jacek Levernes, Head of ABSL, paradoxically the global crisis can help the service sector in Poland, because many global brands grappling with the downturn are deciding to move their offices to cheaper countries.

Ewelina Atlasik

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