Funding and Investment Poland & Krakow
The European Union is one of the biggest sources of funding for innovative companies in Poland.
Opportunities for game development studios on a countrywide level in the years 2016-2019 include inter alia grants from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (Development of Creative Sectors Programme) and grants for R&D works in gaming financed by the National Centre for Research and Development (executive agency of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which finances the industrial research and development works) under the Sectoral Programme “GameINN”. In the years 2016-2019 two “GameINN” calls have been launched and the NCRD managed to allocate about 400 M PLN in R&D works conducted in gaming companies. For example, the Polish flagship game development studio, CD Project Red, has been granted money to carry out four R&D projects worth 55 M PLN under the “GameINN” programme with the financial support from the NCRD exceeding 22 M PLN.
The other NCRD programmes such as “Fast Track” or “Bridge Alfa” can be also sources of significant support for game development studios. The “Bridge Alfa” programme’s aim is to support the creation of dedicated investment vehicles for R&D works and to allow the private investors get public funding that can be later conducted in R&D projects by promising startup companies (at early stages of development).
Thanks to the programme a few investment funds were established that declare their aim in financing innovative enterprises from the video game industry.
The “Fast Track” programme finances R&D works in microenterprises and SMEs and can be described as a programme that puts emphasis on reducing formalities to a minimum and on a short decision-making time.
The industry is also supported by projects and programmes of another governmental agency, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PAED). The PAED is an executive governmental agency and member of the Polish Development Fund group – which takes part in the creation and implementation of the state policy in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation, thus implementing various state- and European- funded projects and programmes. Among them the program “Go to Brand” should be noted as a source of potential support for video game industry in exporting products and services and promoting themselves worldwide on the most promising markets.
Apart from that, a state-owned and Warsaw-based company, the Industrial Development Agency JSC, part, has launched a dedicated game incubator. ARP Games are located in the southern Silesian city of Cieszyn and organises also calls for industry start-ups, offering educational as well as financial and merit support for young entrepreneurs and development teams.
Not only national, but also regional initiatives are significant and worth noting. In the Małopolska region these initiatives are led mainly by the state-owned Krakow Technology Park LLC (KTP) in cooperation with regional authorities (e.g. Małopolska Marshall Office, the city of Krakow). Also included are the international Digital Dragons conference, the support for promoting local enterprises abroad under the Creative Małopolska programme, educational initiatives in cooperation with the Digital Dragons Academy and other projects aiming towards establishing incubation support for gaming companies. The KTP thus helps creating a robust ecosystem for the game industry in the region.
Examples of supporting instruments on national level
- Who: enterprises/non-governmental organisations/local governments’ culture units
- What: supporting the creative sectors in the fields of: education (e.g. support for scenario writing workshops), networking, research (e.g. research on game users), export activities, product development (incl. preparation of prototypes – area that was most interesting for game companies). Selected examples of eligible costs: remuneration, transport costs, promotion and advertising costs, printing/publishing, production costs of prototypes / demo version of creative products, exhibition spaces, financial prizes for artists participating in competitions.
- Nature: (small) grants
- Size & conditions: most grants under 100,000 PLN, most projects not exceeding one year
- Geographical scope: national (PL)
- Time scales: one call per year, decision making within four to five months
- Other: approx. 1/3 of applicants receive grants, scheme has been dedicated to the creative sector in general, with a significant number of grants aiming at smaller or independent game developers
2. GameINN – R&D FUNDING FOR THE GAME INDUSTRY (National Centre for Research and Development)
Four calls of this type have already been implemented, projects are currently executed by companies. Time horizon for GameINN – 2023.
- Who: companies or consortia of companies
- What: implementation of R&D projects that include industrial research and experimental development works; projects that will contribute to the global competitiveness of domestic video game developments. Selected examples of eligible costs: salaries, subcontracting, R&D equipment and intangible and/or legal assets.
- Nature: grant
- Size & conditions: projects with eligibility costs between 400,000 PLN (2nd call) or 500,000 PLN (1st call) and 20 M PLN, max. duration of the project is 3 years
- Geographical scope: National (PL)
- Time scales: 1 call per year, from call to deadline: 3 months, decision making within 3 months – 230 days from the call’s announcement to publication of the ranking lists
- Other: fairly recent scheme – started in 2016, 1st call (2016) – 40 (out of 72) projects, 114.65 M PLN granted, 2nd call (2017) – 38 (out of 90) projects, 92.76 M PLN granted
3. BRIDGE ALFA (Grant scheme of the National Centre for Research and Development)
- Who: innovative entities operating in Poland (micro and small enterprises), whose projects are included in the National Intelligent Specializations. Therefore, the Bridge Alfa scheme can be a source of indirect albeit potentially quite significant support for start-up companies in the gaming industry.
- What: National Centre for Research and Development (NCRD) grant scheme financing and setting up investment vehicles (Bridge Alfa funds) created in order to commercialise the most innovative ideas of SMEs. At least three of numerous Bridge Alfa funds are already selected by the NCRD and are directly targeting R&D projects in the game industry: Satus Partners LLC: “Alfa Games – B+R+Games”, BLITE FUND LLC: “Blite Fund – Fund supporting financially and essentially innovative research and development projects in the area of intelligent technologies: creative video games and multimedia” and Leonardo Fund LLC: “Leonardo Fund – support for innovative R&D projects”.
- Nature: financing innovative projects in the proof of principle and proof of concept phases through above-mentioned investment vehicles.
- Size & conditions: the value of the project (budget of the investment fund): min. 10 m PLN – max. 30 m PLN (for Bridge Alfa 2016 call). Share of the public support in a grant – ca. 80%.
- Geographical scope: national (PL)
- Time scales: max. 5 years (disbursement of the received subsidy).
4. ARP GAMES LLC (operates on a countrywide scale, located in southern part of Poland)
The company provides support to the video games industry in Poland. The company runs inter alia an acceleration programmes for game developers. ARP Games conducts also activities dedicated towards promoting the Polish video games industry.
- Who: young game developers (teams with at least 2 members of any nationality) and start-ups
- What: video game accelerating: Support of conceptual phase of a project. Each team can receive a grant for finishing a project, access to necessary hardware and software, personalised workshops, legal and organisational advice, meetings with investors, marketing and promotional help and other actions suited for their personal needs.
- Nature: grant, scholarship
- Size & conditions: grants up to 100,000 PLN, a scholarship for up to 20,000 PLN per team
- Time scales: 2 calls per year – every 6 months, approx. 10 teams get support, 3 months acceleration phase, decision making within 4-5 months, from approval to actual start of the support period 1 month
- Other: scheme is fairly recent, started in Jan. 2017
- Who: young game developers (teams with at least 2 members of any nationality) and start-ups, chosen from teams having passed stage I
- What: support for a commercial business/creation of commercially viable companies
- Size & conditions: throughout the second stage teams will start companies in which ARP Games will be a minor shareholder, 50,000 PLN as well as help in promoting their game and gaining new investors
- Time scales: 2 calls per year – every 6 months, 10 teams get support (number may be lower in the 2nd stage of the competition, if the team fails to achieve the assumed goals)
5. INVESTORS SUPPORTING GAME COMPANIES:
“Get the brightest ideas into commercial world and make them viable businesses for the benefit of our environment”. Apis Venture supports IT startups, game companies also. Financing for innovative activity of SMEs and scale-up support for companies at the initial stage of development.
The goal of the Leonardo Fund is to support the commercialization of R&D, innovative ideas and modern technologies based on: the life science sector and creative industries, as video and multimedia, games industry.
Strongly experienced investors (Satus VC, private game industry investors) has established new VC fund, with game companies as a main target. Operational readiness – middle of 2020.
“We are a team of entrepreneurs and community leaders with the aim to help early stage startup founders build multi-million-dollar global software enterprises from Poland.” SMOK Ventures have been active since 2019.
- Who: dedicated to people interested in pursuing a career in the video game industry, mostly to those with no knowledge or with basic understanding of the topic.
- What: Digital Dragons Academy is an educational project dedicated to the people interested in starting a career in the video games sector. Organised by the Krakow Technology Park (Digital Dragons team), formerly jointly with GameDesire company, Digital Dragons Academy is a monthly lecture series run by the leading specialists from Polish game development studios. DD Academy occasionally provides educational workshops and so far over 2000 people have taken part in the lectures.
- Nature: workshops and speeches with experts from top Polish game companies and experts from abroad.
- Size & conditions: cycle of workshops. Cost of participation in one session – 35 PLN (ca. 8 €).
- Geographical scope: workshops conducted in Krakow at Krakow Technology Park and (since 2019) in Warsaw at Google Campus are dedicated to people interested in pursuing a career in the gaming industry or simply interested in the creation of games. People from all over the country are invited.
- Time scales: full cycle of workshops lasts ca. 1 year.
- Other: main topics i.a.: game design, project management, graphics in games and game art, publishing and business models, technologies in video games, basics of marketing and PR, user acquisition and analytics. The goal of Digital Dragons Academy is not to give a complex training, but to give participants a sample of what game industry consists of and increase their interest of game development in order to encourage them to learn more on their own and to apply for work in established game companies or establish their own.