On June 5, 2019, a high-level conference ‘Digital Cities Challenge: A strategy for EU cities in the 21st Century’ concluded the Digital Cities Challenge – a project of the European Commission. The event celebrated the work of the participating cities on the development of their individual Strategies for Digital Transformation.
Sofia was invited to present its work at the exhibition area of the event along with other participating cities: Rijeka, Alicante, L’Aquila, Nice, Thessaloniki, Espoo and Pori.
As part of the conference programme, CEO Vladimir Danailov shared Sofia’s experience in working with key city stakeholders to create the Strategy for Digital Transformation for Sofia. Mr. Danailov joined the discussion “Success stories of market creation through the Digital Cities Challenge initiative” part of the “Cities as market creators” session.
The ICT sector in Sofia is very well-developed and consists close to 20% of the city’s economy. However, the majority of ICT companies in Sofia are export-oriented, meaning that they do not create products or services for the local market. As identified in the Strategy for Digital Transformation for Sofia, the city should aim to create opportunities for the local ICT sector to get involved in solving local challenges and to use the city as a test ground for new digital services. In order to achieve that, the Strategy recommends the creation of two new divisions as part of the Municipality – Sofia Digital Agency and Sofia Digital Officer. Those teams are going to be responsible for identifying the needs of the local market and managing the process of digitalisation both within the Municipality and in the city in general. In addition, Sofia Municipality is already supporting local startups through its new program Sofia Startup Accelerator by providing funding and mentoring and encouraging entrepreneurs to use Sofia’s infrastructure to build and test their products locally. Sofia Investment Agency is happy that more than 100 local stakeholders took part in the development of the city’s Strategy.
Watch the video from the “Cities as Market Creators” panel.
All participants’ Strategies have been submitted to the European Commission and are expected to be published by the end of this month. In the meantime, Sofia Investment Agency is preparing a Bulgarian version of its document.
The event brought together 450 city representatives, industry and business experts, smart city practitioners, international organizations, and EU, national and local policy makers. As every ending brings
Watch live now: CEO Vladimir Danailov will join the panel discussion “Cities as market creators”, 16:30 – 17:45.
Link to the live broadcast: 2019.digitallytransformyourregion.eu
We are excited to attend the high-level closing conference ‘Digital Cities Challenge: A strategy for EU cities in the 21st Century’, taking place in Brussels today. The conference will celebrate the work of the cities on the development of their individual Digital Transformation Strategies as part of their participation in the Digital Cities Challenge Programme – the initiative by the European Commission helping over 40 European cities, including Sofia, to reap the benefits of advanced technologies, develop digitization strategies and achieve smart and sustainable growth.
As part of the conference programme, CEO Vladimir Danailov will present initiatives undertaken in Sofia and the achieved results. Due to a special invitation from the organisers, Mr. Danailov will join the discussion “Success stories of market creation through the Digital Cities Challenge initiative” part of the “Cities as market creators” session. The panel will discuss how cities can enhance growth and innovation at local level, by bringing together the new and the old economy, investing in advanced technologies and promoting innovative solutions.
During the last several months, our team had to design the roadmaps for the individual Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia, plan its implementation and monitoring. Sofia is now part of a network of over 40 European partner cities within the framework of the Declaration on our commitment to cooperation on digital transformation and smart growth. We are looking forward to future collaboration between Sofia and other cities across Europe on mutual Digital transformation projects and City-to-City programmes that will help our cities achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability.
The event is expected to bring together 400 participants from all over Europe. Cities, industry and business experts, smart city practitioners, international organizations, and EU, national and local policy makers will celebrate the end of the Digital Cities Challenge and the beginning of its successor the ”Intelligent Cities Challenge” Programme.
Even though it started just 7 years ago, the ecosystem of fast developing startup enterprises in Sofia is already comparable to that in Vienna. At present, there are 16 venture capital funds and 500 startups in Sofia This was reported by the CEO of the Sofia Investment Agency, Mr Vladimir Danailov at the Tenth Credit Risk Management Conference. The event was organised by ICAP – the largest business information and consultant group in Southeastern Europe.
“Many companies, world leaders in their sectors, open not just a local branch, but their technological hub for Europe or even their global one. Bulgarian companies are increasingly engaged in international expansion and startups are scaling up. This comes to show that we are living in one of the best times for running a business in Bulgaria” Danailov said. He emphasised that Sofia Investment Agency is the first instrument in Bulgaria for regional development.
The Agency provides investors and entrepreneurs with information and opportunities to increase access to markets, support them with their communication with the municipal and state administration, as well as with funding opportunities. In addition to establishing close contacts between foreign and local companies in Bulgaria, Sofia Investment Agency also helps them reach potentially interesting markets.
SOFIA’s PLACE – the exhibition zone dedicated to Sofia at Webit.Festival Europe 2019 – welcomed hundreds of guests for a third consecutive year. Our team organized a special two-day program of ‘Sofia’s Place’ with focus on international partnerships and access to financing and mentorship.
The program included 20 speakers from 5 countries, over 13 presentations, and a one-hour accelerator. You can find the whole two-day program here.
Invest Sofia: Promoting Investments in Sofia
Sofia Investment Agency is the first regional instrument for economic development in Bulgaria. We work on activities and initiatives related to the 9 priority industries of the city, as well as on projects addressing the digitalization of Sofia.
A major part of our work is dedicated to helping businesses in Sofia find international partners and go global. For this purpose, we establish cooperation programs with other cities and develop initiatives for fostering the relationship with the Bulgarian diaspora abroad. We have handled over 170 inquiries from investors interested in setting up their business in Sofia.
Click here to download the presentation of Sofia Investment Agency.
Accelerator Startup Sofia
The Municipal Guarantee Fund for SMEs (MGFSME) and Sofia Investment Agency presented their joint pilot program for innovative start-ups and social entrepreneurs “Accelerator Startup Sofia”. The project is implemented in partnership with “Program Europe” of Sofia Municipality.
The thirteen finalists of the Accelerator presented their projects in front of the guests of “Sofia’s Place’. MGFSME also introduced their guarantee instruments in support of the development of small and medium businesses in Sofia. The presentation is available for download here.
One-hour acceleration program for startups with Source Institute
More than 20 startups joined the one-hour accelerator of Salim Virani, founder of the international institute for entrepreneurship education Source Institute. The participating entrepreneurs took part in several practical exercises based on four important issues that business founders face: reducing risk, researching monetizable customer needs, product launch & iteration, and management by the metrics
Opportunities for cooperation with Vienna, Amsterdam and Göteborg
Guest lecturers from Vienna Business Agency, Technordic & Business Region Göteborg, Sweden and The Next Web Amsterdam presented their activities in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation as well as the opportunities for cooperation and support programs that would facilitate the expansion of Sofia-based companies in these
Due to a special invitation from the organisers of The Next Web festival (TNW Conference 2019) a team from the Invest Sofia will participate in the conference on May 9-10 in Amsterdam. It will be part of the special delegation of government and institutional representatives from more than 40 countries from around the world.
The delegation is with an individual programme and aims at networking and best practices exchange in the technological festival, considered to be the core of the startup environment in Europe.
Invest Sofia team will participate in the work groups during the StartupCity Summit, which is part of the festival’s program for a third consecutive year and is considered to be the place to share insights, and discuss the current and future role of local governments in creating flourishing tech ecosystems.
This year, representatives of more than 150 of the world’s most active startup cities from around the world will join the StartupCity Summit. During the last years, these cities have successfully proven their image of locations with dynamic entrepreneurial and startup environment.
The invitation, received by Sofia, to join the meetings on May 9-10 in Amsterdam is considered to be a huge acknowledgment of our capital.
This year at TNW2019, there will be also a strong presence Bulgarian companies. Six Bulgarian startup companies will take part in the festival with the support of Sofia Tech Park. Sofia Tech Park negotiated preferential access for the Bulgarian startups and. The companies Referial, Mimirium, Huperfold, Prodronesys, 15togo, and Dynax will attend the festival this year.
The Next Web Conference is the largest conference dedicated to innovation, startups and technologies in Europe. The event brings together 17 500 visitors a day, 7 000 companies from over 100 countries, 72% of the visitors are the decision makers in the organization they represent.
This is the 14th edition of the festival and this year it will take place at a new, bigger venue – a former shipyard in the Amsterdam Noord residential district, which today is a creative center for artists and entrepreneurs. There is a convenient free of charge ferry to the festival area.
Due to the successful cooperation established during the participation of Sofia Investment Agency in the European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge (DCC) project, our team was invited to a study trip to Amsterdam by the Amsterdam Economic Board and the Amsterdam Smart City platform. Our team got acquainted with Amsterdam’s business and entrepreneurial development and smart city projects and initiatives. Sofia is one of the participants of the DCC project alongside 40 other European cities. Amsterdam is one of the six mentoring cities in the program, due to its development in the fields of innovation, technology and digitization.
During the visit we had the opportunity to learn more about Amsterdam’s experience and successful policies in regards to digital and “smart city” transformation, and the development of sustainable environment for the everyday life of citizens and business.
Our team was welcomed by the Amsterdam Economic Board. AEB is the most important advisory body in the Amsterdam region in the economic field. The Board members are leading CEOs, academicians and government officials. AEB addresses complex urban issues through innovation and collaboration between the private sector, knowledge institutes and government organizations on the metropolitan scale. The Board works with decision-makers, innovation managers and change-makers in industry, universities and government to develop the smart, green, healthy Amsterdam of the future.
Our team was introduced to the ‘Tada – data disclosed’ initiative – a manifesto for the development of a handbook for a responsible digital city. The Manifesto is backed up by individuals, organizations and businesses engaged in responsible attitude and strict data policy. It is open to all stakeholders supporting the idea that data can contribute to tackling the major problems of modern cities, making them cleaner, safer, healthier and more habitable, but only by using them for the benefit of society.
The Economic Board also presented its work on the Triple-helix collaboration – an innovation model, where the business, academia and government collaborate dynamically, supporting innovation and city development, e.g. by implementing common strategies, bundling financial resources, focusing on smart specialization, etc.
The Amsterdam Smart City Platform presented its public policies in four key urban directions: Energy, Digital City, Mobility and Circular Economy. The organization unites citizens, municipalities and institutions in finding and implementing innovative ideas and sustainable solutions to urban challenges. More than 280 smart city projects have been implemented under the Amsterdam Smart City program so
Sofia Investment Agency is pleased to announce that CEO Mr. Vladimir Danailov was invited to speak at the high-level conference ‘Digital Cities Challenge: A strategy for EU cities in the 21st Century’, that will be held on the 5th of June 2019 in Brussels. The conference will celebrate the work of the cities that have been part of the Digital Cities Challenge – the initiative by the European Commission helping over 40 European cities, including Sofia, to reap the benefits of advanced technologies, develop digitization strategies and achieve smart and sustainable growth.
Vladimir Danailov will join the discussion “Success stories of market creation through the Digital Cities Challenge initiative” part of the “Cities as market creators” session. The panel will discuss how cities can enhance growth and innovation at local level, by bringing together the new and the old economy, investing in advanced technologies and promoting innovative solutions.
Mr. Danailov will present initiatives undertaken in Sofia and the achieved results.
During the last several months, Sofia along with 40 other DCC participant cities had to design the roadmaps for their individual digital strategies, plan their implementation and monitoring. The high-level Conference will mark the end of the Digital Cities Challenge initiative and will pave the way for the future Intelligent Cities in the 21st century strategy.
The event is expected to bring together 400 participants from all over Europe, including cities, industry and business experts, smart city practitioners, international organizations, and EU, national and local policy makers.
The Sofia Investment Agency team just published the new Sofia Business Guide 2019 – now available for download from our website.
Sofia Business Guide covers a wide range of topics, such as the local economic development, labor force, education, cost of living, transport and connectivity, industrial spaces, priority industries, startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem, and many more.
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, action list on how to register a company, among others.
By summing up and assembling the most important and up-to-date information in the second edition of the guide, we wanted to give a general, but detailed overview of Sofia as an investment destination and to assist those who have considered beautiful Sofia as a place to set up their business and everyday live for a successful onset .
The document is available in 2 languages – English and Bulgarian, and can be downloaded from Invest Sofia’s website. Data is presented predominantly in graphics, tables, and infographics.
Feel free to use all content and graphs in your business endeavors, whenever you present your projects to foreign partners and potential investors.
For partners 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 all supporting organisations for the information and guidance they provided: The Bulgarian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA), The Fund of funds, Institute for Market Economics, Economic Policy Institute, Sofia Tech Park, MGFSME, Puzl CowOrKing, Bulgarian Fintech Association, Zara Consult, Sofia Airport, IT Step, Bulgarian Outsourcing Association, Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASSCOM), Culture Department of Sofia Municipality, Creative Industries Foundation.
More than 30 student projects were presented at a conference organized by the UNWE Student Council and the Regional Development Department of the university. Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agencyр was also part of the jury evaluating the smart city development projects prepared by the students.
I am glad to have taken part in the conference because its subject is closely related to my work. It is important to make our city attractive for investment and way of living so that we can all stay here and continue to develop. I hope that we could also work with you in the future so that we could build Sofia and Bulgaria as a progressive and evolving place, Mr. Danailov said.
The jury ranked Stefan Lyutskanov first for his “Reasonable Cities in the European Union and Their Need in Bulgaria” development. Daniel Stoyanov (“The Role of Block Technologies in Financing Vertical Urbanized Agriculture in Innovative Cities”) was positioned second. Essen Chavdarova was ranked third (“Art Square”). The three students received cash prizes.
Two of the students have won the right to participate at the XIV International Scientific Conference “Regional Development and Demographic Processes in Southeast European Countries” in the city of Nis, Serbia, to be held on June 21, 2019: Maria Mardeva for her project “Development of Modern Technologies for Dealing with the Traffic” and Alexander Dimitrov for the development “Contemporary Concepts of Development of Smart Cities”
On March 27, 2019, Sofia Investment Agency and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria signed an agreement to support and develop bilateral trade and economic relations. In the presence of Mr. Francesco Calderoli, Deputy Ambassador of Italy in Bulgaria, Mr. Vladimir Danailov, CEO of the Agency, and Mr. Marco Montecchi, President of the Chamber, the two parties agreed on the exchange of information, projects and support for small and medium-sized enterprises on the territory of Sofia and Italy.
The measures set out in the agreement include the exchange of experience in organizing and managing of company service activities, participation in joint forums and trade fairs, exchange of good practices and experience with structural funds, as well as information on European programs and tenders on direct management of the European Commission or its agencies, mainly in the field of scientific research and development of innovation in SMEs.
Signing this document between the Chamber and the Agency is of utmost importance to us when taking in consideration the existing ties between the two countries, Mr. Calderoli said.
We have many things in common in our work, and our business plans include the presentation of Sofia and its business in Italian cities this year, as well as the publication of the “Business Guide”, which Sofia Investment Agency publishes with up-to-date data, in Italian, Mr. Marco Montecchi said.
The interest of the Italian business in Bulgaria and Sofia in particular is steadily growing and our job is to help anyone willing to invest in Bulgaria, Mr. Vladimir Danailov stressed upon.
According to statistics, Bulgarian exports to Italy are + 9.5% (EUR 2.26 billion), while Italian imports in Bulgaria are + 11.6% (EUR 2.23 billion). Italy is the third importer in Bulgaria (following Germany and Russia) – 7.5% (EUR 2.24 billion) and Bulgaria’s second trading partner (after Germany) with an exchange of 12% (EUR 4.5 billion). The increase compared to 2017 is 10.5%.
Sectors with the highest import dynamics are: beverages and cigarettes, machinery, equipment, transport vehicles.
Italian investments in Bulgaria amount to EUR 58.3 million, while Bulgarian ones total EUR 26.7 million.
At present, a total of 2 667 people are registered in the Italian Embassy in Sofia as citizens living in Bulgaria. Among the main reasons for Italians to choose our country and develop business here are the tax breaks and skilled labor force.
The team of Sofia Investment Agency published its new report titled “Manufacturing Industry in Sofia”. The paper contains data and outlines the trends in the processing industry in the capital city of Bulgaria. Despite its share of less than 20% of the local economy, in recent years the sector has been increasing its weight in both the total output and the export of the city.
Key report highlights
More detailed data, charts, analyzes and trends can be found in the full version of the report.
The ‘Manufacturing Industry in Sofia’ report was developed by the Institute for