“KHARKIV: RESTART”: people as a trigger for investment. Should we wait for “after the Victory” or live now?
When will the right moment come “after the Victory”? This narrative, which postpones cooperation “for later”, is not very suitable for large Ukrainian cities – Kharkiv, Dnipro – which have survived against all expectations and to which people are returning.
So it is very timely to talk about how frontline cities should communicate about investment during the war. We need to talk differently than everyone else is used to. Because these are unusual times, and the issues are too complex and difficult.
On 19 September 2023, the investment forum “KHARKIV: RESTART” was held. It did not become a classic forum, but is Kharkiv a classic investment story in the context of a full-scale war?
In fact, the event was a manifesto that declared that Kharkiv had survived. But now, it has an ambition not to survive, but to live. Because people are coming back. So the city needs special attention – from the national authorities, donors, and international partners. Investors who understand the risks but are ready for them. Local businesses for whom Kharkiv is not just one of many geographies and “nothing personal”.
The event was attended by representatives of all government agencies, from the President’s Office to the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers. A separate panel was dedicated to the dialogue with the security forces. The power panels were moderated personally by Mayor Igor Terekhov.
But the dialogue was not only between the authorities of different levels. At the panel “IT industry, innovations and technologies – the future of Ukraine’s development”, Oleksandr Borniakov, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation for IT Development, Olga Shapoval, Executive Director of Kharkiv IT Cluster, Valeriy Krasovsky, Co-founder and CEO of Sigma Software, and Oleksandr Lutsyk, Head of the Kharkiv office of EPAM Ukraine, discussed the recovery of Kharkiv and the place of technology and the IT industry in it.
The panelists discussed that the key milestones in the city’s recovery will be achieved by technology businesses working in synergy with scientific potential and talented youth in the smart city – Smart City Kharkiv.
“It took us a long time to explain that we are not sitting in the trenches in Kyiv waiting for help, waiting to be liberated. IT and other sectors are working in Ukraine. We are very proud of our developers and entrepreneurs, because even in the face of a full-scale invasion, the IT industry grew by 7.5% in the first year,” said Oleksandr Borniakov, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.
Patterns of future changes are already being formed today, as the future of its people depends on the strategy and tactical actions to restore cities – infrastructurally and economically – and they are the ones who drive life in any city.
“Building the future of Ukraine and uniting around this goal is needed today. Now it is important for Kharkiv IT business to partner with local authorities to address strategic issues. This will help to preserve the IT industry as a key industry that will economically restore not only Kharkiv region but also Ukraine,” emphasises the executive director of Kharkiv IT Cluster.
The Kharkiv IT Cluster community is driving change today, without putting off life and without waiting for the war to end. Over the past year and a half, the Kharkiv IT Cluster community has doubled in size, demonstrating that even players in the same industry can unite for the sake of the future of their hometown and country, and the ecosystem for the development of technology business. Today, out of more than 270 members and partners, Kharkiv IT Cluster has only one case of a company closing its business.
This year, Kharkiv IT Cluster is a part of the Kharkiv recovery strategy and the construction of a Smart City, which will be a new rethinking of Kharkiv as an innovative, modern city with a heroic character now, not after the war.
“Ukrainians are the best specialists in the world because they can work in bomb shelters during rocket attacks. So what will they be able to do when all this is gone?
It definitely makes sense to invest in Kharkiv to be involved. We have worked on various areas with the Kharkiv IT Cluster team. It is clear that if we build new districts, they should be equipped with all the latest technologies. Our companies have a lot of experience, of course, we have seen how this is done in Israel, Sweden, and the UK. We can attract technologies from there, but it is also an impetus for Ukrainians to create new IT products in Smart City” – Valeriy Krasovsky, co-founder and CEO of Sigma Software.
It definitely makes sense to invest in Kharkiv to be involved. We have worked on various areas with the Kharkiv IT Cluster team. It is clear that if we are building new districts, they should be equipped with all the latest technologies. Our companies have a lot of experience, of course, we have seen how this is done in Israel, Sweden, and the UK. We can attract technologies from there, but it is also an impetus for Ukrainians to create new IT products in Smart City.
The Kharkiv IT Cluster team is convinced that the future of IT in Ukraine can only be built in synergy with the state. The key message that united the participants of KHARKIV: RESTART” participants: people are the biggest and key capital of Kharkiv.
“Before the war, almost 3,000 EPAM employees worked in Kharkiv. It was the second largest office in Ukraine. After the invasion, a large number of IT people left the city, but now there are more than 1,500 team members in Kharkiv. They have already returned because Kharkiv is recovering right now,” said Oleksandr Lutsyk, CEO of EPAM Ukraine.
People are the potential that is the best investment in the future. And Kharkiv is a city of people, a city with character, which proves its resilience, fortitude and loyalty to its future every day.
The IT Cluster in the Cloud project was launched to support small and medium-sized IT companies whose specialists have been displaced throughout Ukraine and the world. Thanks to this project, 254 more companies have joined the partnership, helping to build an ecosystem for technology businesses rooted in Kharkiv and developing globally.
The Kharkiv IT Cluster is a powerful association that continues to grow even in times of storm. Joining Kharkiv IT Cluster means becoming a part of big changes in the universe of purposeful and caring people.