“Sofia Municipality is the first municipality in Bulgaria to develop, approve and implement a Strategy for Smart Specialization. Its priorities for Sofia are information and communication technologies, as well as creative industries”, Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia, said at the two-day conference “Intelligent Specialization and Transfer of Technologies as Innovative Drivers for Regional Growth” held on May 3-4 at the National Palace of Culture. The event was organized by the Joint Research Center and the European Commission. It was attended by the EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel, the Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev and Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of Regions (CoR).
“In recent years Sofia Municipality has actively participated in and supported events related to digital technologies and innovations, including the Webit Festival and Innovation Explorator, and with the assistance of EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel we will hold a Digital Assembly in Sofia in June, where we will organize a Balkan Hackathon”, the mayor of Sofia said.
The mayor also pointed out that Sofia Municipality is the first municipality in Bulgaria to start the process of opening data. With the support of the Europe Program and the cooperation of the Association for Development of Sofia, a platform with open data from the municipal administration has been developed, including information about the Sofia Municipality budget, the projects under the Culture program, public procurement projects, etc. At present, 27 sets of data have been published and maintained for Sofia Municipality. 23 more sets of data are scheduled to be published in 2018.
“We are also developing public areas with free access to internet in the public transport. The metro of Sofia is fully covered with free internet. Sofia Municipality has also applied for the “WiFi4EU” project for the installation of Wi-Fi in public spaces. Sofia is one of the coordinators of the “Urban agenda for the EU”, where the European Commission and a number of European cities are partnering directly. Sofia is a coordinator of the “Digital Transition” partnership together with Estonia and Oulu, Finland, the goal of which is to implement new solutions for improving European legislation, funding urban policies and training programs to facilitate digital transition in Europe”, Fandakova also said at her welcome speech to conference guests.
On the second day of the forum Vladimir Danailov, the CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, made a presentation on “The
Sofia is among the 10 shortlisted cities nominated for the Emerging Europe Awards in the category City FDI Promotion Strategy of the Year. London-based think tank company Emerging Europe is organizing the Emerging Europe Awards to acknowledge local authorities and businesses and their success stories, leading projects and best practice across all 23 countries from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) – the so-called Emerging Europe region.
For the last several years, the region has been developing much faster than Western Europe and it is a significant growth engine of the economy on the continent. Emerging Europe’s awards aim to foster economic and social growth in the CEE region and to attract investments and entrepreneurs from across Europe and the rest of the world.
The entry was prepared and submitted by Sofia Investment Agency and it successfully passed the first stage of the application process, where applications from all 23 CEE countries were assessed by Emerging Europe experts. Ten nominees were chosen to go forward to the second round. At this second stage, the ten nominated cities will be assessed by juries made up of professionals from inside and outside emerging Europe, who will choose their top three nominees in an online assessment. The winner will be announced at the Emerging Europe Awards Ceremony in the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development headquarters in London on June 22.
The City FDI Promotion Strategy of the Year category assesses the strategies of municipal investment promotion departments or agencies, evaluating their creativity, effectiveness and success. Plovdiv is the other Bulgarian city nominated in this category, and Invest Bulgaria Agency is nominated in the National Investment Promotion Agency of the Year category.
Emerging Europe Awards presents awards in 11 different categories, including Tourism Campaign of the Year, Young Empowerment Initiative of the Year, Equality-Friendly Initiative of the Year, Research & Development Programme of the Year, Social Impact Start-Up of the Year, FDI Project of the Year, Lifetime Achievement.
For all categories except National Investment Promotion Agency of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, the winners will be chosen by a jury of high-level professionals inside and outside the CEE region. Jury members vote electronically and anonymously by sending their choices directly to the Auditor. Emerging Europe is not involved in this process and is only informed of the winners. The organization will publish the list of jury members on its
What are the opportunities for investment and business tax rates, is there a basis for development of smart city projects – these are some of the topics that are of interest to the 25-member CIDIC (European Diplomatic, Economic & Academic Center) delegation currently visiting Sofia.
The guests were welcomed today in Sofia Municipality by Doncho Barbalov, deputy mayor of Sofia, and Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency. Danailov introduced the CIDIC representatives to the main parameters and conditions for the development of business projects in the capital. He said that there are special programs in Bulgaria to stimulate investors.
A month ago, the international rating agency Standard & Poor’s confirmed Sofia’s long-term credit rating – BB+ with a stable outlook, as the state’s. According to S&P’s analysis, financial policy, sustainable income base, clear priorities and goals for the development of the city show the stability of Sofia Municipality as a basis for investment.
The advantages of Sofia as geographical location and climate, convenient infrastructure, highly educated population and a very good standard of living with excellent opportunities for education, sport and tourism were highlighted today before the CIDIC delegation.
Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia: Sofia Produces One-Third of Bulgarian Exports
Sofia produces 40% of the GDP in the country and one-third of the Bulgarian exports, Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia, said at the “Business Sofia 2018 – Digital Horizons” conference. The forum, organized by Sofia Investment Agency, was dedicated to the benefits and opportunities for the Bulgarian business in implementing a digital single market, the challenges in providing experts and the economic and financial programs of the European Union. Special guests at the conference, attended by the Top 100 Sofia companies, were EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel, MEP Andrey Novakov, Labor and Social Policy Minister Biser Petkov and Hewlett Packard Bulgaria General Manager Iravan Hira.
Sofia is the largest regional economy and in recent years the capital has increasingly been turning into an attractive place for investment, Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said. The mayor also emphasized that Sofia is working to develop partnerships with other cities. We are in a process of negotiating through Sofia Investment Agency and this year Sofia will join the European cities network in support of startup companies – SCALE (Startup City Alliance Europe) where the leading partner is the city of Amsterdam. The network comprises 19 organizations from 10 cities. Our goal is to set up a connected European ecosystem from startups and organizations aiming at facilitating the process of entering of new companies in foreign markets, Fandakova said.
Sofia Investment Agency is working on projects and specific cases with over 80 Bulgarian and foreign companies and has managed to present the opportunities in Sofia as a business destination in EU countries, South Korea and the Scandinavian countries. This year Sofia Municipality is a partner in organizing important events in the field of digital technologies. In June Sofia will host the international events for innovation within the Digital Week, which is organized in cooperation with the Bulgarian commissioner, Maria Gabriel. A Balkan Hackathon will also take place.
This places Sofia as an innovation hub in the Balkans and promotes the digital connectivity of the Balkan countries, Yordanka Fandakova said. She added that Sofia, together with Estonia and the Finnish city of Oulu, are partnering for digital transition in a European Commission program. A total of 36 European cities and regions are involved in the partnership.
The challenges to personal data security and EU policies were presented by EU Commissioner Maria
The team of Sofia Investment Agency welcomed students of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The students are studying Building Engineering and the visit is part of their curriculum. It aims to introduce them to innovative practices in the field of construction and real estate. The data will help them complete their Bachelor’s theses. The students are given the chance to choose between several European cities and it was a pleasure for our team to host those who chose Sofia.
We presented the Agency and the trends in the real estate market in Sofia, the investment climate, the life in the capital and the economic development of the city in the last years, the development of the metro network, the infrastructure and specific projects and buildings in Sofia that implement innovative practices for sustainable and long-term construction.
Utrecht University is among the oldest universities in the Netherlands and is one of the largest in Europe. The Times’ “Higher Education’s World University Rankings” for 2018 includes 13 Dutch universities among the top 200 universities in the world, one of which is Utrecht University.
We managed to answer many of the students’ questions and we hope we have been helpful.
“City-to-City”, the new business agreement to support business between London and Sofia, is now a fact. On behalf of London, the program is implemented through the British Investment Agency London & Partners, and on the part of Sofia – through the Sofia Investment Agency.
The City-to-City program aims to encourage and facilitate the establishment of foreign businesses in London or British companies in partner cities. The common ambition is to build two-way, mutually beneficial commercial and investment ties, providing the necessary support for establishing business in new cities.
The agreement between Sofia Investment Agency and London and Partners regulates the terms and services that partner cities are willing to provide as necessary support for start-ups on their territory.
The encouraging measures make provision for:
– providing office desks in office spaces with a discount for a certain period of time;
– discounts for local accommodation partners;
– travel discounts for local public transport;
– getting acquainted with the local business and start-up environment;
– providing useful contacts in specific business areas;
– access to tourist attractions.
On the links below, you will find useful information related to:
– a short presentation of London & Partners;
– a detailed description of the types of assistance that foreign companies receive in the process of expanding their business in London;
– a 9-step guide to setting up a business in London;
– useful contacts of London & Partners.
Should you require further information, you may contact Nadia Soultanova – Head of Investment & Business Development Department.
In continuation of Sofia’s participation in the Digital Cities Challenge initiative by the European Commission, on 29th and 30th of March, we conducted a series of interviews between the experts working with Sofia on the Digital Cities Challenge project and some of the local stakeholders. The interviews are following a digital survey filled by to over 30 local stakeholders assessing Sofia’s digital maturity and identifying the strong points, as well as the areas that need to be developed.
We would like to thank our local partners they agreed to take part in the questionnaire and those who dedicated their time for an interview during the last two days: Mr. Nikolay Stoynev, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Sofia Municipal Privatization & Investment Agency and Deputy Chairman of Sofia Municipal Council, our colleagues from Sofia Municipality, Project Vision for Sofia, Sofia Tech Park, Scale Focus, Bulpros, Telenor, representatives from the banking sector and academia, and prof. Petko Ruskov, mentor at Junior Achievement Bulgaria and Director at “Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation in IT Lab” at the Software Engineering department at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.
The insights received were a valuable step towards creating a digitalization strategy and identifying lighthouse projects.
The European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge initiative aims to support 15 European cities in initiatives for digital transformation of the urban environment, society, business, entrepreneurial environment, policies, and institutions.
Having already kicked off with eight cities (Sofia being among them), the Digital Cities Challenge has completed its selection process with the addition of seven more cities with the potential to unlock unreleased potential by putting advanced technologies at the service of their citizens.
Alcoy (Spain), Arad (Romania), Grand-Orly Seine Bièvre (France), Guimarães (Portugal), Kavala (Greece), Pori (Finland), and Rijeka (Croatia) will join the initiative to receive free coaching and facilitation from high-level experts.
You can see all the participating cities’ profiles on the Digital Cities Challenge website at www.digitallytransformyourregion.eu/challenge-cities.
If you would like to learn more about the project please contact Nadia Soultanova, Head of Business Analysis Department at Sofia Investment Agency by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will present the findings from the digital maturity assessment during a workshop in Sofia next month and would like to invite interested partners from the private and public sector to take part. The exact date of the workshop to be announced shortly.
A team of Sofia Investment Agency was on a three-day visit to Lebanon to present the business environment in Sofia and the investment opportunities in the city. The trade forum was organized by the Lebanese-Bulgarian Business Council (LBB Council) and included presentations of the investment opportunities in Sofia at the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in three Lebanese cities – Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon.
A very strong interest was demonstrated towards Sofia and Bulgaria, especially in bilateral business relations, trade and investment. The meetings were attended by business representatives from companies in the field of tourism, construction, consulting, export, film and advertising, as well as organizations in the field of “smart cities and mobility”.
The opening seminar was held at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and the Mount Lebanon and was hosted by Mr. Mohamed Choucair, President of the Chamber, and President of the Economic Bodies of Lebanon.
The welcome speech was given by Mr. Ahmad Alaeddine, president of the Lebanese-Bulgarian Business Council, who organized the seminar and whose efforts made this event possible.
Mr. Alaeddine emphasized that building stronger economic trade relationship and fostering trade and investments between Lebanon and Bulgaria is a key priority. He shared his belief that the potential of this collaboration is great and it will be beneficial for both countries in the long run.
At his turn, Mr. Choucair shared a few interesting facts about Lebanon. The country had received a financial support in the amount of USD 200 million from the Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) in the beginning of last year. The funds are allocated for building a road infrastructure and promoting employment in less developed regions, as well as for increasing connectivity with the economic centers in the country. In addition to that, in December 2017, Lebanon signed a contract for exploitation of potential offshore gas and oil deposits in a consortium with the French company ‘Total’, Italian ‘Eni’ and Russian ‘Novatek’.
Mr. Fadi Daouk, CEO of BML Bank www.bml.com.lb, said that Lebanon is attractive to other countries due to its strong diaspora of over 14 million people living all over the world but strongly connected to Lebanon, who contribute to the development of the trade with Africa, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Latin America. He also added that Lebanese banks are open to fund projects with Bulgaria.
Sofia Investment Agency is working on several projects in favor of the business in Sofia, including the “Sofia meets …” events, participation in the European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge, City-to-City programme in cooperation with London&Partners, etc. In 2018 the Agency received more than 80 specific inquiries from local and foreign investors and entrepreneurs for cooperation in implementing an investment plan, Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency said during his participation on the second day of the TCI Network European Conference 2018, of which Sofia Investment Agency is an official partner. Within the framework of the panel discussion on “Cooperation between the public and the private sector”, Danailov gave a presentation on the economic profile of Sofia and the investment opportunities in the capital and presented specific cases of the Agency with companies such as Forton / Cushman & Wakefield, Puzl CowOrWorking, Melexis – the Belgian chip and sensor manufacturer for the automotive industry, that double their production base in Sofia, etc.
The TCI Network European Conference 2018 was also attended by Alexander Manolev, deputy minister of economy, and Rosen Plevneliev, president of the Republic of Bulgaria in 2012-2017.
Currently, contracts in the amount of EUR 6.5 million are being executed in order to develop the clusters in Bulgaria. In addition, a new EUR 15 million procedure will be launched in 2018 to promote and develop clusters in the country under the “Innovation and competitiveness,” Operational Program, according to Alexander Manolev. He also laid stress upon some of the good examples in Bulgaria – the Bulgarian Furniture Cluster, the Bulgarian Cluster Telecommunications, the Industrial Cluster Srednogorie, Automotive Cluster Bulgaria, etc., as he focused on the need for more unions in the economic sector as “the Bulgarian business could be a competitor on the global market only if it is united”.
Powerfull talk from Bulgarien President Rosen Plevneliev on the importance of high ambitions, strategies, building cluster organisations – and patience. Effects shows over time #TCIEurope18 pic.twitter.com/5H6Sp0sDKs
— Merete D. Nielsen (@meret_nielsen) March 21, 2018
The annual TCI European Conference brought more than 150 delegates from 30 countries, European and global organizations, cluster managers, economic development experts from all over the world, representatives of academia and institutions. TCI Network is the leading global network of organizations and practitioners in the field of clusters and competitiveness and it holds its conference in Sofia for the
A total of 700 000 people work on the territory of Sofia Municipality and the ratio between men and women is 50/50, said Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency. He was a special guest at the first international conference “Women in Business” held in the capital. Danailov welcomed the participants on behalf of Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, the mayor of Sofia.
According to the Agency’s latest analysis, the percentage of women in leadership positions in economic sectors is growing more and more. Where women are more, companies are more successful, said Danailov. At the forum, he introduced the main activities of SIA and the projects, which the Agency will work on this year.
The organizer of the conference, that was also broadcast online, is Smart Lady Bulgaria. All the videos from the “Women in Business” forum can be viewed on its Facebook page.
Sofia Investment Agency extended an official invitation for partnership to Italian cities at the European Conference “EURONET-Italian Networking around Europe: Innovation and INTERNATIONalization in DIGITAL SOCIETY within the Bulgarian Presidency of EC 2018”. The event was held in Sofia under the auspices of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria and its Chairman, Marco Montecchi.
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of the Agency welcomed the participants of the forum on behalf of Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, the mayor of Sofia. It is my privilege to greet you on behalf of Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, the mayor of our capital, and to send you her message that Sofia is a place where you can make safe and profitable business, Danailov said. He introduced the main activities of SIA – one-stop shop for the business and presentation of all opportunities for development of any company that is ready to invest in Sofia and in the country.
Sofia is looking for and offers business opportunities with high added value, development activities, as well as solution of the challenges imposed by the era of Industry 4.0. The capital is no longer a destination for cheap outsourcing business. Here the companies can find not only highly educated but also creative staff. In 2016/2017 the share of employees with higher education in the sector is nearly 80%. The share of the employed under the age of 34 in Sofia is 38%, compared to 33% of all employed in the capital. We strive and work for development and high technology, for a green city and a friendly social environment. In this sense, the city is investing heavily in infrastructure, public transport and recreation areas, said the director of the Agency. He added that only a few weeks ago, SIA signed the Memorandum of Cooperation with London under the “City to City” program and received an invitation for similar agreement with Vienna.
Special guests at the conference were Minister Liliana Pavlova and the Italian Ambassador in Bulgaria, Stefano Baldi. The videos of the participants’ presentations are available on the Facebook page of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria.
On February 12-13, a team of Sofia Investment Agency attended business meetings in Vienna with representatives of Vienna Business Agency, Urban Innovation Vienna, the MA 23 Directorate of Vienna Municipality and Vienna 3420 AG. The meetings were organized by Eurocomm-PR Sofia, the international relations bureau at Vienna Municipal Council in Sofia.
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, and a representative of the “Investment Analysis” department discussed successful practices for developing a more favorable business environment in both cities and effective incentives for investors, implemented by both countries.
The four visited organizations are the main driving force in Vienna’s administration and development as a business destination and implement policies and activities to develop Vienna as a city with a comfortable, technological and eco-friendly urban environment.
Vienna in figures
Interesting facts about the administration of Vienna and the functions of the visited organizations
Vienna Business Agency
Vienna Business Agency has been actively supporting the development of national and international companies from various sectors in the Austrian capital for more than 30 years by providing financial support, real estate, and urban development incentives as well as free service and advice. With its activities, the Agency is developing Vienna as a competitive business destination in Europe and as a stimulating environment for new companies, while constantly boosting the growth of existing businesses in the city. Vienna Business Agency offers financial