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 email@example.com.
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
Sofia Investment Agency team is glad to present the new Sofia Business Guide – just published and now available for download from our website.
Sofia Business Guide covers a wide range of topics, such as local economic data, labor force, education, transport and connectivity, industrial spaces, priority industries. The Guide also serves as a step-by-step handbook on how to start your business in Sofia as it contains latest data on business taxes, investment incentives, how to register a company action list, among others.
By summing up and assembling the most important and up to date information in the 60 pages of the Sofia Business Guide, we wanted to give a general, but detailed, overview of Sofia as an investment destination and to assist for a successful onset those who have considered beautiful Sofia as a place to set up their business and everyday live.
The document is available in 4 languages – English, French, German and Bulgarian and can be downloaded from Invest Sofia’s website. Data is presented predominantly in graphics, tables, and infographic.
Feel free to use all content and graphs in your business endeavors whenever you present your projects to foreign partners and potential investors.
For users from abroad, our team is available for further information and detailed analysis on specific topics, as well as for ongoing support on every stage of the investment plan.
Sofia Investment Agency would like to thank the Institute for Market Economics, Bulgarian Outsourcing Association, Puzl CowOrKing, Colliers Bulgaria, Forton I Cushman &Wakefield and Innovation Starter for all the information and support they provided.
Sofia Investment Agency together with Sofia Municipality and Urban Mobility Center today launched its official participation in a special training and networking programme for digital transformation of urban environment and society. The programme is part of the European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge project in which Sofia as a city won a place together with 15 other European cities.
The EU initiative aims to help the selected cities develop digital policies and introduce them in the daily life of residents, entrepreneurs, employees, and institutions. Sofia will receive strategic support in solving and implementing specific urban projects.
In Brussels, SIA’s team joined the first from a series of four academy seminars which aim at introducing Digital City teams, allowing Digital Cities to meet their peers and Digital City team leaders, presenting good practices of external inspiring examples related to digital transformation, providing an overview and description of digital transformation trajectories, and providing important networking opportunities to promote collaboration and mutual learning among Cities. All Digital City Challenge participants will agree on a comprehensive concept and next steps action plans, as well as on priorities and milestones.
Sofia will present main motivations and expectations behind joining the project. A separate session is dedicated to the Industry perspective – what kind of companies develop their activity through digitalization, what are the benefits of digitization for companies, how does it transform the way they work (impact on working organization and competencies needs, and what do they need to succeed in their digital transformation.
More details from the meeting will follow soon.
A team of Sofia Investment Agency visited Poland between January 22 – 24 to take part in business meetings with representatives of 10 public and private organizations in Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz. Vladimir Danailov, Executive Director of Sofia Investment Agency, and an Investment Analysis Department team of the Agency launched an open dialogue on potential partnerships in joint projects with the Polish Investment and Trade Agency, the Mazovia Development Agency, representatives of the European Funds and Economic Development Directorate at Warsaw Municipality, Poland’s Industrial Development Agency, Center for Innovation – Warsaw, Lodz Special Economic Zone, Krakow Technology Park, Malopolska Development Agency, Municipality of Krakow, Urban Development Directorate – Investor Support Center and Science Park for Biotechnology and Center for Innovation.
The Bulgarian team of the Agency introduced to its Polish colleagues the business environment in Sofia as well as investment opportunities in the city. For their part, the Polish host organizations presented opportunities for bilateral business contacts and the conditions for development of specific industries in Poland. At the meetings with organizations we also discussed successful practices for developing a more favorable business environment in the cities of the two countries and effective incentives for investors, implemented by both countries.
Właśnie skończyliśmy spotkanie robocze z naszymi kolegami z Sofia Investment Agency. Dziękujemy za ciekawą dyskusję!
— PAIH (@PAIH_pl) January 22, 2018
We are convinced that the three-day meetings were useful and interesting for both parties and the contacts made will turn into fruitful business relationships and lead to the implementation of new business projects. Our team thanks our colleagues from Poland once again for the interesting discussions and willingness to support together Bulgarian businesses in Poland and Polish companies in Sofia.
If you are interested in an investment opportunity in Poland or looking for a partnership with a Polish organization, do not hesitate to contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org for specific guidelines and opportunities that we have found during our visit.
More about some of the organizations we have established partnerships with.
The Polish Investment and Trade Agency (formerly Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency), helps investors to enter the Polish market and find the best ways to utilise the possibilities available to them. We guide
The outsourcing industry in Bulgaria is changing rapidly and is looking for new specialists. About 20 000 new job openings are expected by 2020. This was announced at a joint press conference of Sofia Investment Agency (SIA) and the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association (BOA), where Plamen Tsekov, member of the Management Board of BOA, and Vladimir Danailov, Chief Executive Officer of Sofia Investment Agency, presented current data on the outsourcing sector from reports of the two organizations.
The industry has fundamentally changed its content in recent years. Based on key customer support services (call centers) in the period 2010 -2013, where processes and technologies were relatively standardized and uniform, the need of the business grew into customer service with high added value. It demanded the processing of far more complex processes involving much more analytical activity, building, maintaining and providing growth in core business activities such as marketing, sales, accounting, human resources, etc. That is why this sector is in need of specialists in human resources management, financial and accounting outsourcing, IT specialists, Plamen Tsekov said. Some 80-90% of the outsourcing activities in Bulgaria are concentrated in Sofia. The added value of the outsourcing sector in Sofia reached a record-breaking BGN 2.2 billion, according to official statistics, Vladimir Danailov said.
The problem with the staff is in the focus of SIA and together with the business and the Ministry of Education and Science, a new digital platform is being developed to give schools and universities a specific opportunity to work with business representatives in the city, Danailov stressed. Nowadays, our sector of the economy requires not only proficiency in two or more foreign languages, but also engineering and business skills, Tzekov added.
According to the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association’s report, the outsourcing business is expected to generate a turnover of EUR 2.5 billion by 2020. The sector is seen to reach 4.3% share of GDP and to increase its number of employees to 62,500. By the end of 2016, more than 47,800 people have been employed in this industry and the data for 2017 is expected to report an increase of about 12%. A total of 1.5% of all income taxes paid in the state treasury in 2016 come from the outsourcing industry and 0.9% of companies’ operating income is for taxes.
The outsourcing industry is the backbone of the middle class in
The Invest Sofia team won a place in the Digital Cities Challenge project of the European Commission. Thus Sofia is among the 15 cities that will be supported by the project in initiatives for digital transformation of urban environment and society. Sofia will be included in a special mentoring and networking program and will receive strategic support in solving and implementing specific projects for the city.
The European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge initiative aims to help 15 European cities to promote the use of cutting edge technologies. Thus they will stimulate their growth, create jobs and become more attractive places to live in. The initiative includes cities in Europe, currently showing steady progress in digitization and strongly motivated to benefit from digital transformation.
As part of the project, Sofia will receive free support, mentorship and assistance in implementing projects that promote further innovation and productivity and above all improve the quality of life in the city.
What else is expected:
– Free advice and assistance from experts who will be familiar with city environment, current challenges and future ambitions;
– Access to tools that allow an assessment of the digital maturity of the city and outline future results that are to be achieved;
– Access to training sessions, European networks and platforms to build a local team of experts;
– Dialogue with other European cities that have begun or are about to begin the process and have good practices for exchange of experience and ideas;
The team of Invest Sofia won the project at the very first stage of the competition, when the first 5 cities were selected. The project will last for 18 months as of January 2018 to June 2019. The remaining cities of all 15 will be included in a 14-month program and will be selected in February at the second stage of the application.
The organization responsible for the implementation of the Digital Cities Challenge project is Invest Sofia, and the contracting authority for the implementation of the program is Sofia municipality. At the end of its participation in the European Commission’s project, Sofia will have a developed clear strategy and action plan for the transition to digital transformation. It will include actual, achievable and measurable steps that are to be taken in the short, medium and long run. A community of local stakeholders willing to be involved in the digital transformation process will
Sofia Municipal Privatization & Investment Agency and the Ministry of Education and Science signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which aims to link academics and students with the business. A free to use and unlimited in access web platform will be developed where companies will be able to announce available internships and trainings as well as vacancies. The future “Digital map of the educational system for staff training in Sofia” will provide latest data on the number of students currently studying in the professional schools and universities, as well as on their majors.
On the occasion of the signing of the Memorandum, Vladimir Danailov, Chief Executive Officer of the Agency said: The mission of the Agency is to support the development of a healthy and stable economic, business and social environment in Sofia and for this reason the Agency is committed to strengthening the relationship between business and education by partnering with the Ministry of Education and Science in our efforts. Our daily communication and meetings with partners, and discussions with representatives of educational and business organizations, made it clear that both sides need access to up-to-date information on the number of specialists in professional schools and universities as well as on the vacant positions on the labor market. This brought to life the idea of creating a single digital map / platform providing useful information to both communities: business and education. We would like to thank the Ministry of Education and Science and especially Minister Krassimir Valchev and Deputy Minister Tanya Mihailova for supporting us in this idea and I am sure that this partnership will bring positive results for the business and the education.
It is expected the web-based platform to start in March 2018, initially in Sofia Municipality, but later on to be developed as a national project.