Petr Vokřál, the mayor of Brno, tells Sebastian Shehadi how the Czech Republic’s second city became a tech hub, despite some infrastructural difficulties. 

Q: What is attracting foreign investment to Brno?

A: In the past few years we have tried to develop Brno into an a technology-orientated city. In the past we have had lots of material industry, heavy industry. This is now changing to high-added-value technologies. We started already in the 1990s with the first technology project in the Czech Republic, which brought us our first investors who started as small entities and are now quite big, like IBM and so on. Because of that initiative we have developed a system with the universities. We have in Brno 80,000 students which, for a city that has 400,000 inhabitants, is not a bad ratio. We have a very good ability to satisfy investors in terms of educated people. We have good experience with investors from the past 20 years. Also as a city we also try to support development in new locations for investors.

Q: What are the business challenges that Brno is facing?

A: The problem that Brno is facing is traffic infrastructure. Accessibility to Brno. The highway between Vienna and Prague is under construction. The highway to Vienna on the Austrian side is already finished. On the Czech side it’s not really ready and it will take at least five to 10 years to finalise it. We have fewer connecting flights than we would need for investors and international conferences and so on. Accessibility is in my opinion the biggest problem that we have to solve.

Q: What are the most attractive sectors for FDI?

A: We have a lot of investors in the IT sector. A lot of them started as start-ups in Brno and now are already international themselves. The second sector is microscopes. Thrity per cent of world production is in Brno. In my opinion it is not well known. And then, technology in the energy sector, nanotechnology, biotechnology.

Q: Are you affected in Brno by eastern European regional politics, more specifically, the situation in Ukraine?

A: Not really. What we are facing is more a lack of, I would say, mid-sized management. Here it would be great if the politics of the state would allow us to bring for example, from Ukraine, more employees – staff from middle management to manage the machines.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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