Creative industries and their importance for urban economies were the focus of the Create&Grow: Creative Sofia Meets Creative Vienna event, which took place on February 22 as part of the Conference of the cities of Vienna and Sofia. The meeting was chaired by the business agencies of the two capitals – Vienna Business Agency and Sofia Investment Agency – and is part of the common policy of the cities for fostering knowledge sharing and internationalization of companies from the sectors that have high potential to drive the economies of modern cities.
A total of 65 Sofia-based companies from the fields of film production, video games, animation, fashion, design, architecture and creative sector marketing took part in Create&Grow. Six of them shared their successful stories in Bulgaria and their experience on the Austrian market and participated in the discussion panels to launch a discussion on important topics such as: the importance of knowledge sharing programs and funding; creating an environment for internationalization of the business as the only opportunity for continued growth in a small internal market; evaluating the creative idea in creating new technological developments; the image of the Bulgarian companies that outpaced the outsourcing model and has already demonstrated their potential in creating and developing local products and services, etc.
The key topics for the sector discussed at the meeting can be found in the publication of Nikolay Mihaylov, member of the board of directors of Creative Industries Foundation, who moderated the panel “Creative Sofia: success stories and opportunities for cooperation with Vienna “.
The creative industries sector in Sofia in figures
The Chief Executive Officer of Sofia Municipal Privatisation and Investment Agency Vladimir Danailov took part in the Municipal Strategies and Digital Economy discussion panel, part of the Knowledge City Conference 2019. The event was organised by Investor.bg under the patronage of Sofia Municipality and was held on February 28.
The conference gathered business representatives, public administration and institutions for an open discussion about the possible solutions to specific sector topics. The programme included presentations of good practices from cities close to Sofia like Ljubljana, Warsaw, Vienna, and others. Topics related to the management of knowledge resources, digitisation and the most innovative technologies, the local example of the Sofia Municipality and other European cities, the participation of the business in the sectors of mobility and connectivity, urbanization, and funding were also discussed during the conference.
As part of the forum, Mr. Danailov presented Sofia’s participation in the European Commission’s Digital Cities Challenge initiative as an example of the role of city administrations in the process of digital transformation of the cities.
“The industries in Sofia have come a long way and currently the majority of them (e.g. the IT sector, Outsourcing, Creative industries) are industries of knowledge. They moved from outsourcing to complex smartsourcing services. Thus, Sofia became a wonderful example of a city of knowledge”, Vladimir Danailov said in an interview for Bloomberg TV Bulgaria after the conference. He added that the business understands the need for intelligent solutions and that human capital is the major resource on which the cities of knowledge rely.
You can watch the entire interview here.
The “Investment in Smart Cities” Forum was held in Sofia on 21 February, as part of the two-day Conference of the Cities of Vienna and Sofia, organized on the initiative of the Municipality of Vienna, in partnership with Sofia Municipality. Experts from the two capitals exchanged good practices and new ideas, as well as discussed ongoing municipal projects.
Presentations on “Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with a Focus on Smart Urban Solutions” were delivered by Botyo Botev, Municipal Councilor, Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee on Economics and Property at Sofia Municipal Council, and Elisabeth Miksch-Fuchs, head of the Public-Private Partnership Unit in the Construction and Mechanization Department of the Municipality of Vienna. The Municipality of Vienna transfers specific tasks to the private business after detailed negotiations on work mechanisms and remuneration, and Mrs. Miksch-Fuchs gave examples of public-private partnership benefits, both for the public and the private sector.
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, and Gabriele Tatzberger, Startup Services at Vienna Business Agency, gave presentations on the topic “Encouragement and Funding of Startups and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises on a Municipal Level ”.
The subsequent discussions were focused on the issues related to the growth of shared economies and the development of innovations in smart cities. Presentations on these topics were delivered by Mr. Petko Anchev, “Green Sofia” Project, Sofia Municipality; Arch. Lyubo Georgiev, Director of OP “Sofproekt – Master Plan”, Sofia Municipality; Dominic Weiss, Head of the Intelligent Cities Agency – Urban Innovation, Municipality of Vienna; and Klemens Himpele, Head of the Economics, Labor and Statistics Department of the Municipality of Vienna.
Klemens Himpele pointed out that the sharing economy must become an economy of justice. The phenomenon of shared use of public libraries, swimming pools or ski rentals is not new neither in Vienna nor in Sofia. A relatively new phenomenon is the use of the Airbnb platform. The problem is that twelve platforms are currently renting out flats in Vienna, and it is not clear whether tourist fees have been collected and paid to the municipality. Himpele is convinced that the benefit of sharing should not be for tourists only but for citizens too.
The huge potential of digitisation in all areas of life was also highlighted. However, the main focus of this digitalisation processes should not be on the replacement of people with technology, but above all on supporting and easing people’s
The fifth edition of Innovation Explorer took place in a crowded hall on February 22. Again, it met the expectations to give stage to the ideas of tomorrow and the ambassadors of the future. Organised by Innovation Starter together with Capital, the 2019 release of the technology forum was titled Beyond Ultimate Frontiers of Technology and Humans.
We have come a long way to develop Sofia’s technology industry from an outsourcing centre into a sector that not only provides high-quality products and services, but develops and invents them here, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency Vladimir Danailov said in his opening remarks. Here is an excerpt of his welcome address.
‘Sofia has a great story to tell! My team and I have had the privilege to be telling this story on behalf of the city for the past two years. We are telling it in Europe and the rest of the world. It is a story of Humans and Technology and built up on 3 pillars:
The first: It has never been a better time for entrepreneurship and scaling companies, in and from Bulgaria, than now! We have a vibrant startup ecosystem, 15+ VC funds, incubators and accelerators, access to market. The trust and the image of our business and companies in our 12th year as an EU member are at its greatest level ever. We are turning “made in Bulgaria” into a quality brand and reshaping the image of Bulgaria and Sofia.
The second: We already have a strong technology brand! We have come a long way to develop our technology sector from outsourcing into high-level technology projects done in Sofia. We climbed the ladder of the value chain and our companies are no longer preferred only because of the lower prices – they are preferred because of the high level of excellence they deliver. Moreover, we already invent products and solutions here.
The third, and most inspiring thing: people are coming back to Bulgaria. They are coming back home. The brain drain is starting to reverse. So many bright Bulgarians choose to come back to Sofia after graduation or after spending several years of working abroad. They come back to start a business, to develop a career and to raise their children here. They find challenging and interesting business projects here, a good standard of living and comfortable lifestyle, innovation and business friendly environment.’
Due to the great interest of Sofia business in funding and growth instruments, Sofia Investment Agency, in cooperation with the Investment Council at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Municipal Guarantee Fund for SMEs, is organizing an open information meeting on “Sofia Municipality’s support for investments, entrepreneurship, innovative and startup companies in Sofia”.
The meeting targets startups and small and medium-sized enterprises based in Sofia and aims to provide information on the activities of Sofia Municipality in support of entrepreneurs willing to develop business in Sofia.
Information on the following business initiatives and instruments will be provided:
The meeting will be held on February 18, 2019 at 2.30 pm at BCCI, Hall A, floor 1, No 9 Iskar Str., Sofia
Participation in the information meeting is free of charge but a preliminary registration is required.
For additional information:
Iskra Yovkova, Sofia Investment Agency, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +359 884 648 080
Gabriela Dimitrova, Investment Council at BCCI, e-mail: email@example.com, Tel. 02 8117 489
Sofia Mayor, Yordanka Fandakova met with representatives of the Family Business Association – Bulgaria. The meeting discussed the ongoing cooperation between the municipality and the association and participation in joint initiatives. At the invitation of the Mayor of Sofia, the Family Business Association will join the spring afforestation season of the new forest in Sofia.
Sofia Municipality began planting a new forest on an area of 225 decares in the district of Suhodol, with the aim of planting over 125 000 trees.
Mr. Viktor Gugushev, President of Next Generation at the Association and Mr. Ivan Staykov, Vice-President of the same attended the meeting. Mr. Vladimir Danailov, Executive Director of the Municipal Investment Agency, was also present on the side of the municipality.
Over the recent years, business conditions in Sofia have been developing and the city has become more attractive to various companies, shared from the Association. In the last years, the Bulgarian capital has become an attractive place for opening of offices and development centres of many global and European companies.
Sofia Mayor, Yordanka Fandakova pointed out that the development of business and the creation of a good business environment is a key factor for the city’s economy. Well-educated young and innovative people are the potential for the success of Sofia. Through the Municipal Investment Agency we support business in the city, develop opportunities for entrepreneurship and especially youth entrepreneurship and innovation, said the Mayor. 90% of the IT companies in the country are based in Sofia and here are employed more than 40 000 of the workers in the capital.
Mayor Fandakova informed that the Municipality of Sofia opens a call for project proposals within a pilot programme for innovative, start-up and social entrepreneurs, Accelerator Start-up Sofia. The program aims to help accelerate access of innovative entrepreneurs to funding by helping them develop and submit proposals to potential investors and funding organizations. It will be implemented jointly with the efforts of the Municipal Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium Enterprises at Sofia Municipality, the Sofia Municipal Privatization and Investment Agency and the Europe Programme of Sofia Municipality.
Mr. Viktor Gugushev presented to Mayor Fandakova the programme of the Bulgarian Association, which managed to win successfully the competition to host the World Meeting of the Youth Structure to the International Family Business Organization, which will take place in 2020. Part of the initiatives will start from Sofia, and the
fDi Intelligence, a Financial Times publication with world leading authority on foreign investment, just published an interview with the Mayor of Sofia Mrs.Yordanka Fandakova about the city’s rapidly improved business environment.
Investments require three key things: knowledge, security and opportunities. This autumn almost every week a new company opens a new office in Sofia or expands its current operations. More and more companies from all around the world do research on Sofia. According to the latest fDi Intelligence survey, in the next two years Sofia will be among the most attractive international investment locations. I am sure that the fact that Sofia is being listed in a growing number of world rankings will contribute to the increasing interest towards the city, Fandakova says in the interview.
More on how Sofia is catching up with other European capitals: fdiintelligence.com/Locations/Europe/Bulgaria/Sofia
Sofia Investment Agency is pleased to invite creative companies based in Sofia to the network meeting CREATE & GROW: Creative Sofia Meets Creative Vienna. Part of the agenda is the presentation of the Vienna Calling: Creatives funding programme and the opportunities for Bulgarian creative companies to expand in Austria and other German-speaking markets.
The event is organised by Sofia Investment Agency in cooperation with Vienna Business Agency. Sofia and Vienna signed a ‘City-to-City’ agreement in October 2018 with the aim to facilitate and encourage the business cooperation between the two cities. Creative industries are a priority sector both in Vienna and Sofia, and the event aims to foster long-term cooperation in the sector.
If you are a company in the fields of Creative Industries – architecture, design, art market, fashion, multimedia, publishing, gaming, music business and film business willing to participate, please send us an email before Tuesday, February 19th, 2019.
Please follow the link for more information, full agenda and registration.
The last Academy Seminar of the Digital Cities Challenge project took place on January 29-30 in Algeciras, Spain. Sofia along with forty other European cities participating in the initiative by the European Commission got together to share their strategies and key actions towards digital transformation to be implemented in the next few years.
Sofia worked on the development of its implementation roadmap and the fine-tuning of its digitalization strategy. We are grateful for all the suggestions and ideas we received as a part of the peer-review sessions during the seminar.
We would like to thank Angelina Todorova, Head of the FMFIB Advisory Platform, Fund of Funds, Bulgaria, for her participation in the seminar. Mrs. Todorova presented on ‘Leveraging European Funds to Support Urban Development and SMEs’ as a part of the overview of funding opportunities for digital projects.
Sofia Investment Agency, on behalf of the city of Sofia, continues its participation in the Digital Cities Project and in the next few months the Agency will be finalizing the strategy report and discussing the options for the creation of governance/steering bodies. We will begin the implementation of one pilot activity before the final conference in Brussels in June.
The mission of the digital transformation strategy of Sofia is to define a series of actions that will strengthen the ICT business ecosystem in Sofia and will enable it to:
(a) develop innovative solutions for the digital transformation of the city;
(b) create new markets for digital products and services at local, national or global level, and to facilitate the access to these markets; and
(c) support the system of innovation for the development of new digital services and solutions.
The roll-out of this strategy will be accompanied by the implementation of various activities that were identified during the interviews and workshops with local stakeholders.
The list includes a total of 14 activities to be implemented in the short, medium and long term. Examples of key activities to be implemented as part of the strategy include:
The creation of a governance structure has been suggested to ensure the implementation of the strategy.
The final step of the initiative is going to
‘Building green and low-emission buildings, while taking into consideration the public interest and impact on the urban environment’ – recommended Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, during the meeting with the Association of Commercial Building Owners in Bulgaria (ACBO).
‘Investments you make in business buildings have impact on the environment, which is why the focus on landscaping and the use of energy-efficient materials and technologies are of great importance’, Mayor Fandakova added.
‘The creation of sustainable business buildings is important to the business, and that is why we will continue to focus on the creation of buildings with lots of green areas, trees and parkland’, Tanya Kosseva-Boshova, Chairperson of the ACBO Board of Directors, said.
The new office buildings and business centers are related to the construction of infrastructure and the provision of parking spaces. ‘The public transport access option for employees is already taken into account during the planning stage, which is important for the improvement of air quality in the city’, Mayor Fandakova said. According to her statement, in recent years Sofia has started the implementation of the largest modernization of public transport vehicles and the extension of the metro. With the supply of another 82 new buses this year, a total of 90% of the buses in operation will be renewed and the metro, which will have the first 8 km from its third line put into operation, will have an underground network of a total of 48 km.
The Association of Commercial Building Owners in Bulgaria supported the fostering of the use of public transport and said that they closely monitor transport development projects, including night transport, metro and infrastructure construction processes. Adina Welsh, Executive Director of Raiffeisen Property Management Bulgaria, also pointed out the interest in encouraging the use of shared travel, which is also important for the reduction of the number of cars in the city.
During the meeting, Mayor Fandakova introduced the priorities for Sofia’s development as well as the draft budget of Sofia Municipality for 2019.
Architect Zdravko Zdravkov, Sofia’s Chief Architect, presented the project for the construction of ‘Filip Kutev’ Blvd.
The Association of Commercial Building Owners in Bulgaria works in close cooperation with Sofia Investment Agency and, as a result, the two organisations had a joint participation with a stand of Sofia at the international EXPO REAL 2018 exhibition in Munich, in which the capital
New opportunities for partnership initiatives between Sofia and Berlin were discussed during the two-day visit of Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, and Stefan Yonkov, head of the Trade and Economic Office at the Embassy of Bulgaria in Berlin. The discussions were focused on startup collaborations and traditional and technological industries in the two capitals.
The talks with Dr. Christian Herzog, founder of the platform and head of the Digital Business and Startup Companies Division at Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie, were mainly focused on the joining of Sofia to the Start Alliance platform, the business network of the most attractive business centers in the world.
Berlin Partner is a public-private partner network that has been supporting the local and foreign business for more than 20 years and has shaped the face of the German capital as an attractive business destination. The organization cooperates with the Berlin State Senate and with more than 280 companies dedicated to promoting the city and responsible for the image of the German capital around the world.
The aim of Start Alliance is to help startups in adjusting their business models to international requirements, support their global growth and accelerate corporate innovation.
Over the past few years, Sofia has been showing a sharp development of the technology sector and entrepreneurial environment and is enjoying a strong international investor interest. The inclusion of Sofia in the alliance will be an extraordinary opportunity for our city to be a valuable partner in the network, which has now included undisputed startup hubs like Beijing, Berlin, Dubai, London, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Vienna and Warsaw, CEO Danailov said.
In addition, opportunities for cooperation in the field of traditional and technological industries and partnership initiatives between the two cities in support of startup businesses were also discussed at the meeting with Berlin Partner.
The activation of the economic relationships between Sofia and the German capital was also the focus of the discussion with representatives of the Senate Department of Economics, Energy and Business of Berlin.
According to Stefan Yonkov, Bulgaria’s commercial representative in Berlin, both cities have many common interests in entrepreneurship, high technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) and many others. Our country is an attractive business partner because of its geographic location with convenient logistical connection to leading German business markets as well as due to our
On December 4, the Digital Cities Challenge Project of the European Commission brought together the mayors of the participating cities for a summit of knowledge sharing and collaboration on the digital transformation of Europe driven by the cities. Sofia was presented by Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency.
Sofia was among the first 7 cities approved to take part in the implementation of the project and to develop its own strategy for digitization in a network of over 40 cities that currently participate in the initiative. The Digital Cities Challenge (DCC) Project aims to achieve sustainable economic growth in the cities through the integration of advanced technologies. Sofia’s participation in the programme is managed by the Sofia Investment Agency.
In what was a day full of presentations and panel discussions, Markku Markkula, Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions and Rapporteur for Digital Europe, opened proceedings by calling it a “revolutionary step forward for the cities”.
Picking up the baton, Slawomir Tokarski, Director for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing at the European Commission highlighted the importance of merging Digital, Industrial and Urban policy. He also invited the participants to inspire and learn from each other to make the Digital Cities Challenge stronger and to better to respond to societal challenges. An overview of the Digital Cities Challenge so far and the vision ahead was given by Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of Advanced Technologies Team at European Commission.
Franc Weerwind, Mayor of city of Almere and Member responsible for Digital Connectivity at the Amsterdam Economic Board, shared the success story of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, as one of the six Mentor cities in the Challenge.
“The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is one of the Mentor cities in this programme, because we believe in sharing our vision with other cities in terms of knowledge and innovation, but, please, let me assure you that our ‘success’ story has been established, due to knowledge and innovation coming also from your cities,” said Mayor Weerwind.
All mayors presented their cities visions in the 4 panel sessions:
Insight was shared on how to Shape a winning strategy and brand, by ”REal” Granada, Herakleio’s first Greek smart city strategy, the talent management in the youth-full city of Derry and the ”Connected city” of Gelsenkirchen.
Pori’s ROBOCAST cluster, Alcoy’s smart governance plan, Padova’s self-driving vehicles and Smart Costa Blanca were the examples on how to reinvent growth through technology