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Hungary aims to become e-Europe's Silicon Valley of the future

Hungary aims to become e-Europe's Silicon Valley of the future

Ask most people to compile a list of the world's top high-tech regions and the chances are Hungary won't come up very often.

But the former Soviet bloc nation is trying to change all that.

Last week, Hungary sent a delegation of high-level government and industry officials to Silicon Valley with the goal of persuading IT firms here to set up operations in their country.

"Hungary would like to become the Silicon Valley of Central Eastern Europe," said Csaba Kiliån, director of investment with Hungary's Investment and Trade Development Agency.

Kiliån and four other delegates, including a managing director of Hungary's national bank and a former government minister, visited high-tech firms up and down Silicon Valley last week, trying to persuade them to set up research and development or manufacturing operations in Hungary. The Hungarian delegates wouldn't disclose who they met with, saying that talks are still in progress.

The delegates told their Silicon Valley hosts that Hungary has a surplus of skilled programmers and engineers who will work for as little as one-eighth of the salaries demanded by their US counterparts. Other benefits, the delegates said, include a supply of affordable housing, a regulatory environment that is kind to outside investors, and a central location from which US companies can expand into the rest of Eastern Europe.

"We have a stable and fast-growing economy that provides competitive advantages for companies that move there," said Attila Chakiån, a former Hungarian minister, who now serves as economic advisor to Hungary's Prime Minister, and who was also part of the delegation. "Our goal is to bring more value-added production to Hungary."

According to Kiliån, Hungary has already attracted investments from many of the world's top high-tech companies. Motorola said recently that it will set up an R&D facility there with about 400 engineers, he said, while Nokia has announced plans to open a similar facility that will house 500 R&D staff. Many of those R&D jobs will be filled by Hungarians, he added.


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