Editorial: In Celebration of Budapest and the Vidék

Analysis

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There is something of a theme of celebrations and anniversaries contained within the pages of this issue of the Budapest Business Journal.

For a start, the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce has marked the 30th anniversary of its foundation with a gala attended by 400 guests and an impressive array of VIPs, including Hungary’s President Katalin Novák, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás, and the Ambassadors of Hungary to Germany, Germany to Hungary, and Austria.

Chambers require companies to be present to found them, and it is no surprise that there has been a raft of firms marking three decades in Hungary in recent years. German automotive technology multinational Continental became the latest, in this case at its factory in Veszprém (where it is the largest employer in the city and the region). And the plant has not just reached a milestone in years; it has also produced its one billionth sensor in the city that lies relatively close to Lake Balaton.

Others, too, are celebrating landmarks of one form or another. Law firm Wolf Theiss, for example, was the legal partner for the largest solar power plant yet to open in the Central and Eastern European region, over in Mezőcsát (164 km east of Budapest by road). Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, has just received a tidy sum from the Hungarian Government (HUF 1.7 billion) to help its Hungarian R&D team grow and attempt to bring to market technology it has developed here in Budapest for all-electric and particularly hybrid-electric flight.

And all that is before you reach our Special Report, dedicated to the information and communications technology sector. Here we look at an AI research group based around Szeged University, BT’s Vision for innovation and growth involving cloud tech, and interview a Stanford-educated Hungarian whose one-time startup is a pioneer of remote client identification.

I was chatting with a business leader the other day, and the subject of Hungary’s peculiarly capital-centric nature came up. Budapest is so far ahead of the secondary cities in this country in terms of population that it has always acted like some giant Hoover, sucking in businesses and talent. The fact that Budapest is also the seat of power just amplifies that further. But as that list above suggests, significant things are also happening out in what the Hungarians call the vidék (literally the countryside, though in this context, it means everything except Budapest).

This is a process that has been accelerating in the past decade and more, with Mercedes in Kecskemét, BMW and Bosch in Debrecen, and Apollo Tires in Gyöngyöshalász (80 km northeast of the capital). And then there are what seems like any number of Asian battery or battery part makers setting up around the country. That movement to places other than Budapest is being encouraged by state incentives that hope to create the conditions for Hungarian talent to stay closer to home, especially around its countryside universities, by bringing exciting career opportunities to them.

Budapest will always be a powerful magnet: it has a history, architecture, and culture that matches anything you can find elsewhere in Europe, East or West (another point made by that business leader I mentioned earlier). But you would be wrong to ignore what is also happening in the vidék.

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief

This editorial was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 16, 2023.

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