From toy shop to workshop: Warsaw’s iconic ‘Children’s House’ apartment store becomes innovation hub

The brand new space houses several workshop rooms equipped with robots, 3D printers, laptop and all the technical novelties STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) could dream about. Kalbar/TFN

Warsaw’s iconic modernist Central Department Store (CDT), dubbed the Central Children’s House (Smyk) because of the huge toy shop on the ground floor, has received a new purpose fit for the XXI century.

The brand new space houses several workshop rooms equipped with robots, 3D printers, laptop and all the technical novelties STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) could dream about. 

Paweł Borys, PFR’s President of Management Board said during his opening speech: “We want to give this place a new meaning, connected to its tradition. 

“CDT will not only be a place, but a broader educational project dedicated to all Poles -  children, teachers, adults and elderly. 

“We invite you to familiarize yourself with the technologies we exhibit - everything in a very modern formula."

Damian Zapłata, Board Member of Allegro, the biggest Polish e-commerce platform, said he was proud to be a partner of the CDT’s educational path.Kalbar/TFN

CDT will organize workshops for groups of all ages, focusing on both developing the innovators of the future and supporting visitors in the safe everyday usage of modern technologies. 

"By establishing the Central Technology House, we want to support all visitors in discovering and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies, and to show how much they bring to our daily lives and the economy. Digital competences developed in CDT will promote the ability to adapt to progressive changes in labour market," Borys added.

Daniel Bąk, representing Accrea Enginnering, was one of the exhibitors present at the event. His company conducted research on human-robot interactions with IURO (Interactive Urban Robot), which moved around Munich and conversed with passer-by’s, asking for directions. Kalbar/TFN

The project was initiated by the Polish Development Fund and was implanted by its Foundation. The strategic partners are Bank Pekao S.A., Comarch S.A., Chmura Krajowa and Żabka. Allegro became a partner of the 'Technology' educational path. CDT is an example of cooperation between business partners and state institutions towards a common goal – innovative economy.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who spoke during the opening, mentioned that the cooperation between the public and private sector is the key to achieving this aim. 

Built in 1951, the Central Department Store (CDT), dubbed the Central Children’s House (Smyk) because of the huge toy shop on the ground floor, is an icon of modernist architecture. Henryk Rosiak/PAP

He said: “In the modern world, there are no highly advanced economies that don’t sustain close cooperation between the world of innovative business and a state that is entrepreneurial.” 

The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of state support for innovation and its role to inspire development. One of the means is the Gov.Tech programme which encourages start-ups to propose new solutions for the public sector.

CDT’s offer is mainly educational. School groups, business representatives and other visitors can register for free-of-charge workshops. 

The project was initiated by the Polish Development Fund and was implanted by its Foundation.Kalbar/PAP

To the Minister of Digital Affairs, Marek Zagórski, the educational purpose of CDT is competence development on all levels. 

He told TFN: “The idea is to not only build a foundation, cultivate basic competences, but first and foremost foster maturity in using modern solutions.” 

Apart from the CDT, the Ministry is working on a new institution, which will focus on advanced education. 

Minister of Digital Affairs, Marek Zagórski told TFN: 'The idea is to not only build a foundation, cultivate basic competences, but first and foremost foster maturity in using modern solutions.'Leszek Szymański/PAP

“This programme, under the working name School of Digital Competence [Szkoła Główna Kompetnecji Cyfrowych], will educate managers who will be able to use modern technologies produced by Polish programmers and also those from around the world,” the Minister added.

Damian Zapłata, Board Member of Allegro, the biggest Polish e-commerce platform, echoed these sentiments and proudly explained why they chose to be the partner of the CDT’s educational path: 

He said: “I personally actively participated in organizing and conducting a number of workshops, among them cybersecurity ones. Our trainers, practitioners show how to deal with these kind of problems. (…).

During his opening speech, Paweł Borys, PFR’s President of Management Board said: 'CDT will not only be a place, but a broader educational project dedicated to all Poles -  children, teachers, adults and elderly.'Leszek Szymański/PAP

“We also share our knowledge and experience in innovations regarding e-commerce for consumers, how they can best navigate e-shopping. 

“These are not only purely technological experiences, but also a combination of technological knowledge with business and consumer knowledge, which is what we focus on, a holistic view on innovation.”

Adam Rorbek, the Managing Director of Spartaqs, which specializes in ‘dronoids’ – intelligent solutions for automated work in professional applications, spoke about the need for better cooperation within the already existing frameworks. Kalbar/PAP

Apart from workshops, CDT provides an exhibition space where leading Polish start-ups, such as Cosmotech 3D, Easy Robots, Estimote, Funtronic, Photon, Remmed VR and Sidly can present their products. 

Daniel Bąk, representing Accrea Enginnering, was one of the exhibitors present at the event. His company conducted research on human-robot interactions with IURO (Interactive Urban Robot), which moved around Munich and conversed with passer-by’s, asking for directions. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki mentioned that the cooperation between the public and private sector is the key to achieving this aim. Kalbar/PAP

Bąk told TFN: “I really like this initiative, I think it creates a lot of opportunities for educating people and showing at what stage of work we are and in which direction technology or robotics are heading.” 

Accrea Engineering combines research with solutions for medicine. 

For the growing start-up and companies, initiatives such as CDT are also a chance to meet with government representatives, who can aid them in further development. 

CDT’s offer is mainly educational. School groups, business representatives and other visitors can register for free-of-charge workshops. Kalbar/PAP

Adam Rorbek, the Managing Director of Spartaqs, which specializes in ‘dronoids’ – intelligent solutions for automated work in professional applications, spoke about the need for better cooperation within the already existing frameworks. 

“We, as a company with completely private and Polish capital, are unable to finance and commercialize all our projects. I admit that we are counting on the help of such institutions as the National Centre for Research and Development, which can provide us with such funds,” he said.

CDT is an example of cooperation between business partners and state institutions towards a common goal – innovative economy.Kalbar/PAP

At the same time Rorbek saw the point of promoting their technologies, to inform the general public about the multitude of purposes drones can be used for, such as carrying cargo, collecting seismic data or search and rescue operations – and not just aerial photography.

The CDT is designed to fulfil this need and many more. Zapłata concluded: “I encourage everyone, kids, young people, the elders, to visit the Central Technology House and take part in the workshops we organize. 

“It will definitely be a great experience and you will learn a lot.”