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Norwegian Funds Boost Innovation for Polish Businesses and Senior Living Solutions

BUSINESSNorwegian Funds Boost Innovation for Polish Businesses and Senior Living Solutions

“Entrepreneurship Development and Innovation” is a program implemented with funds from the Norwegian Funds, operated by the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. This is another source of financing that has given Polish companies the opportunity to develop and implement innovative products and solutions in the market. Beneficiaries are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that carry out projects contributing, among other things, to the improvement of the quality of life. There are several examples of successful projects on the Polish market implemented with the support of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the years 2014-2021.

“We have many EU funds and other sources of financing, but Norwegian funds are interesting in that they place great emphasis on social and environmental elements, running a business by women, improving the quality of life of elderly and excluded people. An additional plus is also cooperation with foreign partners, networking and conferences, which allow contact with other entrepreneurs, as well as cooperation with Norwegian companies in the implementation of technologies or solutions that function on their market,” says Magdalena Sobczak-Solarska, co-owner of Villa Zakątek to the Newseria Biznes agency.

Although Norway is not a member of the EU, it ensures its contribution to creating a green and modern Europe through a special financial instrument, the Norwegian Funds. This instrument is aimed at countries that joined the EU after 2003, including Poland. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises were able to apply for grants for the implementation of projects related to, for example, environmental protection, implementation of innovative technologies and solutions improving the quality of life. The aim of the Norwegian Funds is also to stimulate bilateral cooperation between companies from Poland and Norway. For native entrepreneurs, this mechanism is an excellent way to develop cooperation with the local market, which offers attractive opportunities.

An example of a successfully implemented project with the support of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014-2021 is the “Implementation of the Independent Living service using innovative technologies to support the quality of life of older people”. The goal was to introduce a new, innovative Independent Living (IL) service to the market, which responds to the needs and improves the comfort of life of seniors.

“Poland is one of the countries with the most advanced aging process of the population, which brings many challenges not only for the individual, for elderly people and their families, but also for the whole society. The Independent Living service is a response to the needs and challenges of an aging society, related to loneliness, isolation, social poverty, which appear in this age group and which are compounded by various diseases related to age. All of this is particularly painful, if the elderly person is lonely, lives in a single-person household, and in Poland, most single-person households are run by people over 65, and this trend will intensify over the years,” emphasizes Magdalena Sobczak-Solarska.

The project implemented by the Lublin company MSCG was worth PLN 19.9 million, of which almost EUR 2 million (about PLN 8.5 million) was co-financing from the Norwegian Funds. Within the framework of the project, a building consisting of 43 apartments – Villa Zakątek – was constructed, where the Independent Living service based on modern information and communication solutions was implemented.

“The Independent Living service offers seniors autonomy and independence, providing them with a space to live, which is fully adapted to their needs, and on the other hand, great emphasis is placed on social ties, on creating a community that mutually supports, inspires. That’s why in addition to apartments in Villa Zakątek, there are also spaces that serve integration, activity, spending time together. And this fact of establishing social ties, undertaking activities – within the package of activities, mobilisation, gymnastics – is aimed at improving the quality of life of older people, improving their intellectual abilities through activation, interaction with other people, participation in classes, caring for physical fitness, so that they can be as long as possible able-bodied and independent,” says the co-owner of Villa Zakątek.

Polish society is aging faster than the EU average. According to a report by the Central Statistical Office (GUS), the proportion of elderly people in the population of Poland has reached 25.9%. By 2060, 11.9 million people over the age of 60 are expected to live in Poland, 21% more than in 2022, constituting 38.3% of the total population.

“Innovative solutions supporting seniors will develop as this social group needs them. That’s why producers of ordinary, everyday products will also expand their usefulness so they are better adapted to older people. Such innovations are needed in essentially every area of life,” adds Ewa Hiller, industrial design designer, creator of the Borba Bag.

The Borba Bag – a shopping bag with an electric drive, designed with older people in mind – is another solution co-financed by the Norwegian Funds. The grant of PLN 850,000 enabled Design Team to create the final bag design, manufacture and test it in Norway in senior centres and shops.

“Norwegian Funds turned the idea into a business. Without them, this project wouldn’t have been created,” emphasizes Ewa Hiller.

With the Borba Bag, seniors can transport even 12 kg of shopping, and an electric motor helps overcome obstacles and climb stairs. The bag has an adjustable height, so its user does not have to bend down when removing and inserting items. An application for smartphones was also created within the project, which enables managing the bags, which is a great convenience that, for example, rental companies or nursing homes can use. Borba Bag can also be simply bought by individual customers.

“At the moment, we have a product that is suitable for sale, it is designed in such a way that it can be mass-produced and we already have the finished, first batch produced,” says the creator of the Borba Bag.

An example of innovation, developed thanks to the co-financing of the Norwegian Funds, is also a protective material preventing skin chafing, e.g. in children, obese people and physically active people. The nearly PLN 550,000 grant allowed the Polish company to cooperate with experienced chemists, representatives of the cosmetic and medical industry and scientists from the Łukasiewicz Research Network and the University of Oslo in Norway. The result of their research is a non-allergenic material compatible with the skin, which protects it from injuries and abrasions, but the possibilities of its use turned out to be much wider.

“This material can also be used as a cosmetic because its carrier layer may have caring, protective substances e.g. against the formation of wrinkles. It can also be used in medicine, because therapeutic substances that ensure the regeneration of parts of the body – for example in the diabetic foot – can be introduced into the composition of this material,” says Urszula Markowicz-Jureczko, owner of AXYZ. “Currently, the material is in the finalization stage, we have a prototype and we are looking for development possibilities in other areas, including in medicine, but of course, here very large funds are needed. However, the role of the Norwegian Funds has so far been invaluable, because clinical trials, material endurance tests consumed a lot of financial resources and without the Norwegian Funds it would definitely not have been successful.”

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