Many R&D centers, especially in the IT sector, already operate in Sofia employing thousands. The city continues to expand its portfolio of innovative businesses thanks to its young and educated population and the favorable business climate. Sofia has identified several key industries, new and innovative as well as traditional industries with proven potential. See what are they and why did we choose them, and explore how you can grow your business in Sofia.

Life sciences

The life sciences industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Bulgarian economy.

Bulgarian pharmaceuticals have strong traditions in the production of generics and, more recently, the clinical trials sector has grown into a 150 million leva per year industry.

Favourable cost base, competent medical personnel and developed mechanisms for technology transfer and know-how sharing are the factors contributing to the further growth in the sector.

The high level of digital skills and the developing start-up eco system make Sofia an interesting place for medical tech start-ups and bio/pharmaceutical R&D.

The focus on life sciences innovation will only increase in the coming years due to the demographic and economic circumstances in Europe.

Retail

With 406 660 m² of shopping centers, Sofia is a mature retail market that is expected to grow steadily over the next several years.

Two trends to keep in mind are the increasing share of non-grocery retailing and the growth of e-commerce.

In 2015, 25% of the population of Southwestern Bulgaria (a region that includes Sofia) made an online purchase. This amounts to nearly half a million people.

Close to 90% of the purchases were made from Bulgaria-based online sellers and over 70% of the orders were in the Fashion segment.

With 70% of Bulgarians expected to have internet access by 2019, the e-commerce market is projected to grow to 3.4 million users by 2021.

The absence of major e-commerce players like Amazon from the market combined with high digital penetration and well-formed e-commerce habits, together with the expectation of same or next day delivery, makes Sofia a good test market for new business models, while the low use of e-banking services and Cash On Delivery payments (60-70% of transactions in 2015) may pose a threat to the sector’s growth.

Urban Environment

Sofia is one of the greenest capitals in Europe- the ratio of trees to people is one of the highest on the continent.

The city has an extensive public transit system and is surprisingly compact for its population of 1.3 million people.

After a period of intensive infrastructure development that included the construction of 40 km of metro line to serve 350 000 passengers daily, the focus has now shifted to implementing comprehensive urban environment solutions to answer specific urban issues like air pollution, energy efficiency and water & waste management.

ICT

Striving to become the regional ICT center, Sofia is home to over 25 000 IT professionals and boasts one of the highest average internet connection speeds in Europe.

The city has attracted global IT R&D leaders like SAP Labs, HP, VMware, IBM, CISCO that already operate large R&D centers in Sofia employing, educating and developing thousands of highly qualified professionals

The city has been gaining popularity as a start-up destination with a developing start-up ecosystem.

Business Services

Sofia has already proven itself as an attractive global BPO center, with professionals working in more than 25 different languages.

The city’s new focus, however, is to shift to smart-sourcing, building on its highly skilled and competitively priced talent pool – over 50% of the city’ population holds a university degree – that can offer attention on innovation and excellence.

Manufacturing

Sofia has great manufacturing traditions and the main focus of the capital is the establishment of high-value added productions and the introduction of cyber-physical systems, automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.

The competitive real estate, energy and labor costs, as well as business-friendly tax frame and large labor pool, make greenfield development an attractive option.

Many Bulgarian producers are looking for partnerships with foreign companies and offering the advantages of market knowledge and established logistics networks.

Tourism

The number of visitors to Sofia grew by 8% in 2016, continuing a strong upward trend with several new airlines announcing direct flights to destinations in Europe and beyond.

The many new cultural attractions, vibrant street life in the summer and rich festival and event calendar year long make Sofia an increasingly recognizable tourist destination.

Major international hotel chains are due to enter the Sofia market in 2017 increasing the number of 5-star rooms in the city by approximately 200.

NDK, the biggest convention center in the city is undergoing a major renovation in preparation for the Bulgaria’s EU Presidency in 2018.

Smart City

With high-level of digital penetration, Sofia is a great place for R&D in the area of smart city solutions. Those are solutions that improve the quality of life of the citizens by enabling the city to use technology, information and big data to improve planning, infrastructure and services in all areas.

The areas of development are e-governance and citizen services, urban mobility, energy, waste & water management.

Creative Industries

Sofia is the Bulgarian national center of cultural and creative industries: 58% of the Bulgarian CCI workforce is located here.

About 7% of all people employed in Sofia are working in the creative sector that includes, among others, advertising, architecture, crafts, design, film, interactive leisure software i.e. video games.

Employment in the sector is still growing.

X