The IT sectors of Ukraine, Poland and the UK are increasingly intertwined

The war in Ukraine has pushed the Polish and Ukrainian IT sectors into even closer collaboration—offering a unique joint value proposition for British buyers.

The United Kingdom has infamously left the European Union, Poland is an EU member, and Ukraine is currently in the process of joining the bloc. But in recent years, these three markets—each with its own advantages and needs—have become increasingly enmeshed European information technology hubs.

Ukraine and Poland are two of the continent’s largest tech talent pools. According to the Future of IT in emerging Europe report 2023, there are almost 815,000 IT specialists employed, a third of all IT specialists across the emerging Europe region. Additionally, Poland ranked first out of 23 countries in the region for IT talent and Ukraine ranked seventh.  

While the enmeshing was already well underway before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the invasion forced the exodus of over 8.1 million Ukrainians to neighbouring European states—with over 1.3 million settling in Poland—and disrupted supply chains, but Ukraine’s IT sector has remained especially resilient.  

Spotlight on Ukraine 

The Russian invasion has catalysed the rapid development, updating, and export of new military technologies (MilTech) and government technologies (GovTech)—inadvertently highlighting the ingenuity of Ukrainians by putting a global spotlight on their products. MilTech producers are using the conflict to stress-test their products. Estonia, already a global leader in GovTech and digital public services, is using code from Ukraine’s Diia government services application and Mykhailo Fedorov, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for Innovation, Education, Science and Technology — Minister of Digital Transformation, recently teased at a Tech Emerging Europe Advocates (TEEA) meeting in Warsaw on March 31 that other countries would soon announce similar partnerships with Ukraine.  

This spotlight, and the desire to turn solidarity into material support, has prompted UK buyers already curious about Ukrainian service-providers to actually begin partnerships.  

“When the crisis actually hit in Ukraine, there was such an outpouring of love for Ukraine that a whole host of companies in the UK chose to go into Ukraine for the first time because they wanted to support its IT industry,” says Kerry Hallard, CEO of the Global Sourcing Association (GSA) and chairperson at Global Technology and Business Services Council (GT&BSC), a speaker at the TEEA event. 

This isn’t just altruism—the UK IT sector is currently plagued by thousands of vacancies and a lack of talent.  

“To be able to deliver the big changes of the big industrial revolution happening in tech, you need access to talent,” Maistro Group director David Rumble adds. 

“The economic migration and people who’ve been displaced as a consequence of the conflict into Poland—it just brings more capacity, it makes it much more visible to buyers.” 

Creating a joint value proposition 

The Ukrainian and Polish IT sectors had long been both friendly competitors and partners, and the mass migration of Ukrainians into Poland has only furthered existing collaboration while creating room for new opportunities.  

“From the buyer side perspective, there was a belief that Poland was completely saturated—that because of attrition and because of 35 per cent pay increases in the space of one year, it had no more room for development,” Hallard says. “So obviously, the influx of skilled IT talent coming in from Ukraine actually opened opportunities, again, for organisations to look at investing.” 

While many Ukrainian IT workers remained in Ukraine or have since returned, moving operations into Poland while awaiting a cessation of hostilities has reduced risk and made buying Ukrainian services even more palatable to British businesses.  

Konstanstin Vasyuk, the executive director of the IT Ukraine Association, says: “We have a distributed offices model, which means part of the workforce and talent is still in Ukraine, but a lot of people are working from Poland. So there’s synergy. And of course, from the customer side, it’s much safer to contract companies with open centres in Poland. We understand that.” 

Vasyuk’s IT Ukraine Association signed an MoU with the British Computer Society’s (BCS) Chartered Institute for IT to boost collaboration in October 2021.  

Grzegorz Łańcucki, head of financial services industry at GFT Poland adds: “It’s amazing how smoothly the blending is happening—largely thanks to the English fluency of the IT workforces of both Poland and Ukraine.” English not only serves as a lingua franca for Polish and Ukrainian IT workers, but further improves their value proposition to the British market. 

Next steps 

While Ukrainian and Polish IT service providers have a lot to offer British buyers, building brand awareness in a new market takes time.  

“Wherever possible have boots on the ground in the UK,” Hallard advises, noting this can take the form of a partner or representative who can interface with interested clients on behalf of Polish and Ukrainian companies unable to open an entire office in the UK.  

Hallard is also supporting market introduction programmes and standardised contracts to make this engagement easier. Buyers looking to diversify their supply chains after the shock of the invasion are seeking out lesser-known and small companies as well. 

“They’re also looking at bringing smaller companies into their supply chain”, Hallard observes. “There’s a mandate that 25 per cent of spending in the public sector has to be with smaller companies, and 10 per cent of all marks for RFPs (request for proposals) has got to be on social value. 

Once UK buyers become more familiar with what specific Polish and Ukrainian firms have to offer, it will be easier for them to find the providers that best match their needs—strengthening tech sectors within and beyond the EU’s bounds to the benefit of all parties. 

Grzegorz Łańcucki, Konstanstin Vasyuk, Kerry Hallard, and David Rumble were speaking with Emerging Europe’s Andrew Wrobel at the Tech Emerging Europe Advocates Meeting in Warsaw on March 31. You can watch the full discussion below.

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