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Prague's Aspirations to Become a Tech Hub Grow With Massive Stadium Conversion Project

Built nearly a century ago, the Strahov stadium in Prague, once used for mass gymnastics events, has long been a neglected eyesore in the Czech capital. However, recent developments are set to breathe new life into this historical site. In September, city authorities gave the green light to a €400 million plan to transform a section of the sprawling stadium into a technology center. This facility will provide students and entrepreneurs with the space to experiment with robots, drones, artificial intelligence, and medical engineering, fostering the development of innovative business ideas.

Veronika Kramaříková, Vice-Rector for Development and Strategy at the Czech Technical University in Prague, one of the lead partners in the project, highlighted the significance of this initiative for the startup ecosystem. She stated, “For the startup scene, it will mean that, in the middle of Europe, there will be quality facilities with an overlap into academia.”

Construction for this ambitious redevelopment is expected to commence by year-end and may continue until 2030 or beyond. While the project shows promise, certain issues, including securing additional national and EU subsidies, remain unresolved, causing skepticism among local businesspeople about its successful completion.

Despite these challenges, the Strahov initiative is indicative of Prague’s broader ambitions to become a hub for rapidly growing companies.

The national government has allocated 1.3 billion korunas ($57.5 million) this month to support startups and spin-offs, aiming to bolster Czech competitiveness in digital technology. Jozef Síkela, the Minister of Trade and Industry, explained that the objective is to provide assistance in areas with significant potential, facilitating the transfer of technology from cutting-edge research to practical applications.

Misha Votruba, Director of Gradus/RSJ, a Czech biotech fund, highlighted the city’s progress, particularly in mathematics and artificial intelligence. He stated, “What’s really growing fast in this city and country — and where we see that we are at a cutting edge — is mathematics and artificial intelligence.” Prague’s growth has been fueled by increased investment, with many startups securing early-stage capital from local backers and later attracting foreign investors.

Jaroslav Trojan, Managing Partner of venture capital firm Nation 1 VC, noted that more foreign investors are looking at the Czech Republic, especially in later funding stages. Prague’s venture capital scene, which was almost non-existent in 2005, has now become vibrant.

Michal Zálešák, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of venture capital firm Lighthouse Ventures, pointed out the growing involvement of family offices and successful entrepreneurs in technology investments, contributing to significant cross-border activity.

Furthermore, Czech advances in technology have attracted investors from around the world, propelling several startups toward unicorn status, with valuations exceeding $1 billion. Notably, Czech software company Productboard achieved unicorn status in 2022 after raising $125 million.

While Prague’s startup ecosystem is flourishing, challenges remain, including the country’s regulatory environment. However, the appeal of low running costs in the Czech Republic offers startups a cost-effective environment to thrive.

Despite these challenges, Prague’s transformation of the Strahov stadium and its growing reputation in the tech sector underline its ambitions to become a prominent technology hub in Europe.

  • Author: Gunel Musa

Public Relations Manager

05.10.2023
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