Interview with Wojciech Maroszek about Gaming and Technology Hub

Interview and Conferences
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Gaming & Technology Hub

Interview with Wojciech Maroszek about the Gaming and Technology Hub in Katowice. Text version.

Introduction

Who are you, what does KISA do, and what is your role in the Hub project?

My name is Wojciech Maroszek. I am the Deputy Director for the Hub at Katowickie Inwestycje S.A. Katowickie Inwestycje is a company owned by the city of Katowice, entrusted by the city with the role of project manager for all investments that the city is carrying out. These investments include schools, sewage systems, waterworks, linear infrastructure, roads, and unique projects like the Hub, which was commissioned by the city of Katowice.

Back to the past. The hub project is not the city’s first project of this type. Can you briefly present the history of constructing the “Culture Zone”? From an idea and doubts to the current state.

Katowice is a city that can certainly be proud of the fact that it dared to deal with the topic of transformation of post-mining areas and achieved great success in this respect. Such two historical projects, one is the Silesia City Center implemented commercially, but let’s remember that it is now also a post-mining facility that has been successfully developed. The other is the Culture Zone after the mine, which stood in the middle of the city in the very center and the city of Katowice, the authorities of the city of Katowice made a bold decision to transform this area with a large organizational financial effort. I think that after years we can all see what effect it brought, primarily in terms of image, we sometimes think that the image is not that important, but in the case of Katowice it caused a radical change in the appearance of the city center. I think that the forest of office buildings that we have in the center of Katowice is largely because there is no such large area in the city center as then after the Katowice Mine. Of course, due to its scale, there were some fears and doubts about that project. At that time, the International Congress Center was a unique facility in Europe, to this day it is unique on a Polish scale, after all, it is unique, large, functional, and modern. The situation is similar with the headquarters of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which remains the best quality hall recognized in Poland and one of the best in the world, so the expenses incurred were very high, it was both the city’s involvement and EU funds. On the other hand, I think that after years we see that it was worth taking the risk and the cultural zone was of great importance for changing the image of the city of Katowice, which directly translated into economic success in changing the economic fabric of the city, regardless of course of the effects related to the recovery of pro-mining areas, with its new development with social or cultural goals, which are obvious especially in the case of NOSPR.

What prompted the Katowice city authorities to decide to create a Hub for the gaming and esports industry?

So we have a clash of two phenomena, because one is the presence of a pro-mining area adjacent to the historic Nikiszowiec district, which is a world-class monument, and the willingness of the city of Katowice to take on another transformational challenge in a wider context, as Gaming itself, because let’s remember that the Hub is to be an element of such a wider project – a district of new technologies, where this post-mining area is to be recovered for the economy, used for modern technologies, including the gaming industry, and become a driving force for development for the entire district. Nikiszowiec is a district that still has some social problems, which also has some land reserves, and even the success of Nowy Nikiszowiec, a newly built housing estate, shows that there is room for this and the development of post-mining areas for primarily economic purposes, but also new areas not yet used as new housing tissue. The second aspect is the Gaming industry itself, and here again, there are a few factors. In Katowice, we estimate that already in Katowice and its vicinity there are about 4,000. People work in the Gaming industry, so this is a significant number for the number of jobs in general in the region, above all, it is an industry that is developing very quickly in our country. If we look at specialized advertising portals, we will see job advertisements in this industry all the time. The second aspect is the supply of staff for the industry, which is a very important argument for them, in our case, we already identified 7 universities that currently offer 11 majors for people who may work in the gaming industry in the future, either directly or around it. And of course, the 3rd element or IEM, an event of global importance, which made Katowice a recognizable element on the world map, mainly in the e-sports market, but also in the broader gaming market.

Construction and organization

As for the planned dates and stages of the Hub project in Katowice, when will people visiting Katowice be able to see and use the Hub?

The project I am in charge of covers the area around the Pułaski shaft, these are the buildings that stand there today, i.e. historic buildings + an office building on the other side of Szopienicka Street and the building we want to build, i.e. a production hall facility and we would like this project to be completed by the end 2026, somewhere at the end of 2026, beginning of 2027, this would be the moment when this area would be made available to investors and the industry, but it will also be an area for residents and visitors.

Will the construction be phased or do we have to wait for the whole project?

No, at the moment the schedule is foreseen that both of these projects will be implemented in parallel and will be completed more or less at the same time. time for the physical implementation of these works, especially the historical aspect of the buildings, while this new facility, the facility production halls, is currently at the stage of an architectural competition, but, in turn, the construction of a new facility will not take as much time as dealing with the existing tissue.

Comparing the design of the Culture Zone and Hub. The Culture Zone has better transport accessibility. We have proximity to tram networks and convenient transfers to trains, and of course access to buses.

Yes of course. The problem of the Hub’s communication accessibility is very important. Of course, you have to remember that this area was economically functioning until a few years ago. Miners used to come there every day and leave after work, so Szopienicka Street, which leads to this area, of course, had similar loads, as I mentioned, we will not build new in this project I am working on new facilities, large office buildings, there will be only one production hall facility, so the number of workstations that will appear there will not be that significant, this is not the clue of the entire project. So Szopienicka Street has already passed this efficiency test when it comes to road accessibility. However, we are exploring other possibilities, for example, related to the railway track, which is right next to it, adjacent to the area of the future hub, and we are exploring the possibility of using it as a kind of metropolitan railway or circulation around the city, we will see how our talks with the railway lines that own this infrastructure go.

Does the company plan to work with the transport organizer to adapt public transport in the area to facilitate access to the Hub project?

Yes, especially when it comes to the use of the railway track, we are trying to engage Polskie Linie Kolejowe in the conversation, this line was open until recently, of course as a freight line, which, as we know, does not interfere with anything, it is not a liquidated line, it is not a dead, also a potential opportunity to this track is to be used.

Financing

What are the planned sources of financing for the Hubu project? We know about EU subsidies. What else will be part of this funding?

We assume two sources of financing, i.e. the city of Katowice’s funds and European Funds under the European Funds for Silesia, or more precisely, the Just Transition Programme. This fund is specially dedicated to post-mining regions, with the largest amount in Poland falling to the Śląskie Voivodeship and our project has been included in the list of key projects, so EU funding is guaranteed at the level of PLN 300 million. We hope that with time, such experiences will also be in the case of projects in the Culture Zone and that this level of funding will increase slightly.

Does the company also plan alternative sources of financing for the Hub project, if there are additional costs and it was not possible to obtain financing from the European Union, are there plans B?

No, the fact is that the implementation of this project seems to be conditioned by EU funds, but as I have already mentioned, the project was highly rated at the concept stage and is very advanced, which is also very important from the point of view of the voivodeship authorities and is directly included in the voivodship programs, so the risk that he would not receive it is negligible. This project is one of several dozen that will prove how effectively the voivodship is transforming heavy industries. This project is important not only for the city of Katowice but also for the authorities of the Voivodeship.

Gaming is also popular in Poland from the investment side, it is one of the most popular stock exchange niches, mainly thanks to the success of The Witcher and CD Projekt. Has the company thought about financing the project with Municipal Bonds in order to build a community around this project? And use the market niche that we have among another group of stakeholders?

The city assumes that it will not act as an investor in the strict sense. The city takes on the task of creating conditions for the development of the ecosystem. In this, for example, without waiting for the opening of the hub walls, we are starting activities combining cooperation between various stakeholders, stakeholders of the hub or the Gaming industry, e.g. Last month we managed to organize a meeting between universities and the Gaming industry, it turns out that in many places, these two parties did not have contact with each other, and here we managed to get to know and develop preliminary guidelines on how the hub would function, also strictly not an investor for them, but creating conditions for growth, creating conditions for the implementation of subsequent projects, e.g. related to accelerating or supporting startups, absolutely yes. And of course, a place for all stakeholders who want to function here, e.g. investors interested in investing in emerging games.

Cooperation and Competition

Will the Hub be open to cooperation with other countries and Hubs related to the development of new technologies. Maybe there is already an organization, a hub with which contact has already been made and these talks are ongoing?

The industry is developing so fast that it swells in the activity it conducts today, but also reaches for newer and newer technologies. For new fields, therefore, there is no such simple transfer to other centers, or other hubs, while preparing for the project, we started talks with the Krakow Technology Park and here I assume that we will not compete directly, we would rather look for other niches. We are not focused on competition with other centers, I will give you an example of Hubs located in North America, where the local regulations allow you to directly subsidize the costs of salaries in the industry. This is practically impossible in European conditions, so it’s hard to talk about competition at this level. However, we are sure that by creating an interesting ecosystem with very diverse partners, we will provide modern infrastructure that can be used on a sharing basis, for hours, for days, without having to invest a lot of money ourselves. Giving access to the educational system generates a large quantity and quality of employees. We will make Gaming in Katowice one of the industries that will grow the fastest and will determine the shape of the city’s economic fabric in the future.

What challenges does the Hub face in the context of competition with other Gaming centers in the world.

I think that the biggest challenge will be the decision of what technology, and infrastructure to make available in the Hub, these technologies are changing so quickly that if we were to decide today what technologies they should be, they would have a certain risk of missing. We can say that Motion Capture will still be needed in a few years, but others will not. To minimize this risk, we want to leave decisions on the high-tech solutions we want to offer in the Hub as late as possible, and of course in dialogue with the industry and stakeholders who would benefit from it.

What activities is the Hub planning to stand out from other gaming-related centers in Poland? The already mentioned Hossa Gamingowa promoted rather other centers. Are there any planned activities to complete the associations, apart from the annual IEM competition?

Yes, we have aspirations to create a Katowice brand related to Gaming, which will accompany specific events and will characterize the Hub itself. When it comes to something that will be unique in the Hub, I am very pleased with the industry’s reaction to the very idea of operating within historic walls and in such a post-industrial environment, I like it and it will make us stand out, and having the experience of such global players on this market, we see how important working conditions are important to them, i.e. the atmosphere of this campus, the provision of relaxation zones, a completely different style of work than the traditional one, and this is provided for in our building design and land development plan, as well as the idea of what is to be inside. This space will be adapted to the needs of a modern employee, one who would go to work for the leading international corporations in the world today.

Competition is one thing, good alliances are also important. Does the Hub plan to establish strategic partnerships with other centers related to technology and Gaming in Poland? Wrocław seems to be a natural place. If so, what forms of such cooperation are being considered?

For now, we are focusing on finding partners in the region. Partners who could also become the entity that will manage the Hub here are mainly addressed to universities when it comes to the idea you presented, i.e. partnerships with other centres. They also come into play, but let’s remember that the Hub is a certain framework, a certain form in which there are very good conditions for development, while this development will be strictly commercial, it will be carried out by entities, so there will be no competition here, even on legal restrictions, great rivalry as to support instruments, but there will be an attempt to create the best possible conditions, but the method of breaking out will be by self-breaking of entities here in the Hub, or rather we expect a few global players, but those of medium size, which have offices in other places in Poland, but also in the world in general, Katowice will be one of the locations for them, although we believe that one of the key, one of the most valuable.

Strategy

Will the Hub offer special initiatives for Gaming companies that decide to set up their headquarters or office in this place? If so, what kind?

When it comes to state aid, i.e. a rule that applies throughout the European Union, these restrictions are quite significant. Of course, the Hub operator or other stakeholders who would like to use the resulting tissue will be able to use the instruments that will continue to appear for Gaming from time to time. On the other hand, any individual possibility of assistance is strictly limited by law. We are currently making efforts to obtain approvals for the financial shape of the Hub at the European Union level, which means that we will have to provide infrastructure at attractive prices. Therefore, our project, due to its size and reasonable tariff policy, will have to defend itself in Brussels when it comes to approving state aid, but thanks to this we believe that it will succeed and we will be able to offer the infrastructure of the industry and cooperating entities on really attractive terms.

Most of the discussion when it comes to Hub, however, is Gaming. And what about the technological aspect? Will other tech companies find something for themselves in this place? As an example, let’s take our blog: Suppose Hub exists today and I would like to invest and develop new technologies around my projects, which are mostly not related to Gaming. Will I find something for myself?

I’ll probably answer yes. It’s the same with Gaming itself, which, as I said, is starting to reach new places. For example, Gaming is starting to enter more and more into education through games, through simulators. Education is understood not only as schools, true, but as vocational training, professional development, and highly demanding elements, such as medicine or defense. So this line between Gaming and the environment is blurring, or else it is constantly moving. It’s similar the other way around. It turns out that more and more new technologies can be used in Gaming. Above all, we want the Hub not to be limited to one large entity that will rent the entire space, or reserve the entire infrastructure, because this is not the point of our activities, we want it to be a place open to entities of various sizes, i.e. both slightly larger and beginners, but also for those single, just starting companies that just want to try cooperation, it can be seen today that such a form of cooperation will appear that institutions that will not have a physical seat in the Hub itself, but will, for example, maintain their representative offices to offer their services to entities, therefore we believe that the Hub will be a place where everyone, including companies not strictly related to Gaming, will find potential partners for talks, be it investors or contractors. It will just be a very lively place. Sharing new ideas, ideas, and, of course, new technologies.

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