Sofia-based startup for unmanned cargo drones Dronamics has announced the first of several strategic partnerships aimed at international expansion in delivering shipments with Black Swan drones. Dronamics is partnering with the German logistics company Hellmann Worldwide Logistics. It will start delivering on the territory of continental Europe, where the regulatory environment allows operations throughout the European Union. The aim is to achieve faster deliveries at a competitive price, including short distances and the transfer of goods, which does not depend on long supply chains and the problems of potential blocking of shipments. The Sofia-based company’s big goal is to become the first to receive an operating permit for international drones throughout Europe. Days after announcing the partnership with Hellmann, Dronamics also announced they had signed a contract with a fourth airport in Germany – Bodensee-Airport Friedrichshafen (IATA: FDH). Thus, through the drone ports in these four airports, the startup can deliver shipments weighing up to 350 kg. to 14 million people at locations within 1 hour away of these destinations.
The Transpress transport and logistics company begins the construction of a new logistics center in the Sofia-Bozhurishte Industrial Park with an investment of BGN 10 million. The building is expected to be operational in 2022 and create 100 new jobs. The base will be 40 decares and will have a platform for handling goods, a zone for distribution of goods and supplies, 60 pumps, and an office area. The warehouse will be equipped with the latest generation of highly efficient and “green” lifting machines. Following the trends for transport development, charging power plants will be built, the company announced. The new center will perform transport and logistics activities for clients in the country and for international forwarding.
A year and a half after entering Sofia, the German Commerzbank doubled the team in its technology center and is now looking for another 150 specialists with Java, React, ABAP, others, business analysts, a team manager, and HR specialists, among others. Commerzbank is a leading international commercial bank with services for small, medium, and corporate clients. The experts here are responsible for digitalizing the entire banking structure of Commerzbank and for the development of applications for complete digitalization of the business processes for servicing the bank’s millions of customers.
In Bulgaria, the company is positioned not as a banking institution but as a technology company, and Sofia is its engineering center. A
Sofia Municipality is implementing a system for green energy production and smart services in the largest kindergarten in Sofia and Bulgaria – 76 “Sarnichka” kindergarten in Mladost. The projects are pilot and are part of the Sandbox for Innovation Program of the Sofia Municipality and its unit for digitalization, innovation, and economic development, “Innovative Sofia.”
The kindergarten has been equipped with solar panels installed on its roof, with which it will be able to produce electricity for its own needs. The photovoltaic system will generate up to 30% of the required electricity in an environmentally friendly way. The saved funds for electricity are expected to pay off the investment in about eight years.
The other innovation is the devices installed in the 20 groups of the kindergarten, which measure and show the air quality. The devices have indicators of relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and the presence of fine dust particles. Children will learn about the state of the environment from the reaction of an electronic canary, which will change its mood on the device’s display. The real-time information will help teachers and assistant educators by providing them with data on the state of the air in the bedrooms and study rooms and support children in developing habits and attitudes towards the environment.
The change of address services in Sofia will be possible entirely electronically, and going to a counter and being accompanied by a property owner (in case of rent, for example) will no longer be necessary. For this purpose, the Sofia Municipality has signed a contract for developing the pilot platform for e-services in civil status. The first service, available entirely online, will be a change of address, and by the end of the year, it will gradually be implemented in four capital regions. The first is “Studentski”, where the frequency of use of the service is the highest and will start in September. The other three regions are Vitosha, Sredets, and Slatina. In case of good results, the work process will be fully integrated into all regional administrations.
The submission of project proposals for the new edition of Sofia Municipality’s “Outside” program is open until 30 September. The program supports temporary art installations in an urban environment located on the “Mausoleum” site in the City Garden.
You can find the full information about the required documents, as well as all forms and declarations, here. The
Sofia Municipality has signed the contract for the development of the pilot platform for electronic civil status services. The first entirely online accessible service will be the change of address, and by the end of the year, it will be gradually introduced in four districts of the capital. The first one is “Studentski,” where the frequency of use of the service is the highest and will start in September. The other three districts are Vitosha, Sredets, and Slatina. In case of good results, there will be full integration of the work process in all regional administrations, announced Gencho Kerezov, Deputy Mayor for Digitalization.
Thus, change of address services will be delivered entirely electronically, and there will be no need to go to the counter and be accompanied by a property owner (in the case of rent, for example). The pilot phase aims to test the interaction and user experience for the citizens, Sofia Municipality explains.
The development of the platform will be implemented by Eurotrust Technologies. The project is under implementation with consulting assistance from the Bloomberg Philanthropy Foundation. It is part of the “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions” programme, which Sofia Municipality is implementing through “Innovative Sofia” – its digitalization, innovation, and economic development department and in partnership with “Green Sofia”. The Sandbox is Sofia’s programme for pilot projects for testing innovative technological solutions related to urban challenges, and it focuses on the environment, education, transport, e-government, entrepreneurship, innovation, and other essential topics for the city.
Regarding the development, testing, and implementation of a fully electronic process for changing the address registration, Sofia Municipality also concluded a Framework Agreement to provide the so-called “Cloud electronic signature” – remote electronic identification, replacing the standard electronic and handwritten signature. The service is entirely in line with the requirements of the Communications Regulation Commission and provides the user with the opportunity for identification without the need for physical presence in the office of an electronic signature provider (QES), counter for issuing a personal identification code or other. As part of the pilot phase of implementing an electronic address change, residents of Sofia will be able to identify themselves completely free of charge only with their mobile phone camera and a mobile app.
Employers in Sofia plan a 10% to 20% increase in salaries by the end of the year, a study by the ManpowerGroup Bulgaria HR company states. The data are from the first of regular six-month surveys of the HR company for the planned changes in the amount of salaries and additional benefits. The results cover 12 different sectors, and 66% of the surveyed companies are based in Sofia.
The expected increase in salaries in Sofia is the largest for the country, and similar growth is expected in Burgas and Varna.
The management of the surveyed companies expects this measure to be applied to most employees, not only to specialists in specific positions. The HR company’s observations show that teleworking as a standard practice leads to a reduction in the pay gap between and outside the capital. The trend is most pronounced among intermediate and highly qualified specialists in information technology, outsourcing, business processes, and consulting.
IT, trade, tourism, healthcare and pharmacy, the automotive industry, and manufacturing are the sectors with the most significant expected increase in salaries and benefits.
These are also the areas with the most substantial demand for specialists. According to the survey, 49% of employers plan higher wages in the manufacturing sector, 44% in trade and information technology, and 58% in consulting. The data are based on the responses of the 513 enterprises in the survey from all regions in the country.
At the national level – 76% of companies do not plan significant changes in additional benefits and/or bonuses, but no reduction is expected – only 1% of respondents said they plan such. ManpowerGroup Bulgaria also pays attention to the so-called “flexi benefits” practice – a growing trend among top employers to offer dynamic packages with additional benefits that allow employees to modify their social bonuses depending on their current preferences and needs by choosing from a preliminary setlist. Employees receive this opportunity well because of the various options they can rely on every month according to their current plans and needs.
Examine more labor market trends in the full document “Salaries and additional benefits – trends” of ManpowerGroup Bulgaria.
The Japanese Garden at the Sofia Zoo has been recovered and is now open to visitors. The garden was created 13 years ago by the landscape architect Suematsu Toro, with the support of the Jaika Foundation and the Green Systems Directorate of Sofia Municipality. It has been destroyed over the years, but has now regained its appearance. The place is the only publicly accessible Japanese garden in Sofia.
Starting from mid-June, Vazrazhdane Aqua Park will be ready to welcome its visitors. Available on an area of 6,700 square meters are 5 outdoor pools for children and adults, as well as 3 water slides. The pool for the youngest children and the hydromassage water area maintain a water temperature of 27 – 30 degrees. Daily information about the temperature in each pool can be found on the Facebook page of the aqua park. The wellness complex is open from 09:00 to 19:00 in compliance with all anti-epidemic measures.
For a third consecutive year, the Sports and Youth Activities Directorate of Sofia Municipality is organizing the “HOLIDAY” Program. By the end of July, children and students aged 6 to 18 are provided with free access to a variety of sports, educational and cultural activities. Part of the “HOLIDAY” Program is the initiative “Vacation in action for young people 15 – 29 years”. Find out more about the program by region and types of activities for both age groups on the website of Sofia Municipality here.
The Urban Mobility Center (UMC) has launched several innovations for easier access of passengers to transport documents and modernized travel in the public transport in Sofia. For a second consecutive month, tickets can be validated with a credit or debit card in public transport in the capital. The payment is contactless, and validation takes place immediately after the card is brought closer to the validators in the vehicles. Withdrawals for the trip are made on the next day. The service is available for the inland public transport and is to be introduced for metro passengers. An electronic ticket or daily card can also be activated through the MPASS platform at https://sofia.mpass.bg. This can also be done directly in the vehicle via a mobile phone, where the user receives the transport document with a secure QR code, and the payment is made by adding the value to the user’s mobile phone account by a mobile operator.
Singapore-based software company Acronis has raised $ 250 million in funding and will use the funds to expand its group worldwide, including its Development Center in Sofia. The local office is planned to be the largest one for the company.
Acronis set foot in Bulgaria in 2018 with the acquisition of Sofia-based T-Soft and an investment of BGN 1.2 million. The team of Invest Sofia has partnered with the company throughout the whole process of establishing operations in the capital. The office in Sofia started with 30 people, and today the employees of the world leader equal 360 engineers working on cybersecurity, AI, and Wallachian projects. The company plans to increase the team to 1,000 people.
Another leading consulting company in the field of business and luxury residential properties is entering Bulgaria – the British Knight Frank. The representative office in Bulgaria will be located in Sofia and the company already has established its own office in Interpred. The entry of Knight Frank is in response to the growing market in Sofia and the region and at the start of its activities, the team here will focus mainly on services and mediation in renting and letting properties in the office segment.
Knight Frank has its headquarters in London and has more than 20,000 employees in nearly 500 offices in 57 countries around the world. The group consults and works with individual owners and buyers, as well as with large investors and corporate clients. The company’s office in Sofia will join three other large consulting companies in the field in Bulgaria – Colliers International, Cushman & Wakefield Forton, and MBL.
Nearly BGN 600 million will be invested in increasing the production capacity of BA Glass Bulgaria’s plants in Sofia and Plovdiv. A second kiln is currently under construction at the plant in Sofia and the investment is expected to generate more than 100 new jobs to upgrade its two production plants in Bulgaria. BA Glass Bulgaria is 100% owned by the Dutch-based Glasstank BV, which has glassworks in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Poland, Greece, and Romania. The company entered the Bulgarian market in 2017 with the acquisition of the local “Druzhba” factory.
The production units of BA Glass Bulgaria in Sofia and Plovdiv export to the markets in Greece, Romania, Great Britain, and other countries.
Six start-ups have attracted investment resources from the Fund of Fund’s
The European Commission has published the European innovation scoreboard 2021 and the Regional innovation scoreboard 2021, which show that Europe’s innovation performance continues to improve across the EU. Bulgaria is not an exception, despite its slower pace.
The Regional Innovation Scoreboard provides a comparative assessment of the performance of innovation systems across 240 regions of 22 EU countries, and nine other countries outside the Union.
The Scoreboard shows that Sofia falls into a higher category than other regions in our country. Yugozapaden, the capital region, is the only Emerging Innovator+. Innovation performance relative to the EU in 2014 has increased for all regions, and most strongly for Yugozapaden. The other five regions of the country remain in the group of Emerging Innovator and Emerging Innovator -.
The Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2021 has four new indicators compared to the previous edition, namely: individuals who have above basic overall digital skills, innovation expenditures per person employed, employed ICT specialists, air emissions in industry. The innovation performance has increased for 225 regions out of the total of 240 regions in the scoreboard. The overall most innovative region in Europe is Stockholm in Sweden, followed by Etelä-Suomi in Finland, and Oberbayern in Germany.
The European Innovation Scoreboard on its part evaluates countries on 32 indicators included in a total of 12 groups. Among them are new doctorate graduates (STEM), international scientific publication participation, investments in research and development at the state level and by private companies, individuals who have above basic overall digital skills (% share), number of ICT specialists, number of SMEs introducing business process innovations, employment in knowledge-intensive activities, medium and high technology product exports, among others. Based on their scores, EU countries fall into four performance groups: Innovation leaders, Strong innovators, Moderate innovators and Emerging innovators.
Bulgaria is still lagging behind along with other countries from Southern and Eastern Europe – Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. Our country is penultimate ahead of Romania, although our overall performance is improving by 7.2% compared to the average of 5.6% for this group.
Bulgaria’s strengths are in Intellectual assets, Environmental sustainability and Employment impacts, the scoreboard states. Normalised performance of the share of product innovators has increased with 134% and of the share of Business process innovators with 64%.
Sweden continues to be the EU Innovation Leader, followed by Finland, Denmark and Belgium.
The official press release of the Commission
The third fund of LAUNCHub Ventures has attracted a new EUR 15 million and already has a total portfolio of EUR 60 million, which it will invest in companies from the region in a more advanced stage of development. The funds were raised by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, by the European Investment Fund, and by private investors from Bulgaria and the region. Some of the investors own businesses in which LAUNCHub Ventures has already invested in previous rounds. The new fund has already made its first investments in Greek, Romanian, and Latvian startups. Last April it announced the the largest exit for its portfolio following a deal to acquire the FITE network of live broadcasts of sporting events. The fund has an initial investment of between EUR 500,000 and EUR 2 million. If you own a startup and are looking for an investment to encourage its growth, you can find more information on the LAUNCHub Ventures’ website at https://launchub.com/about
The BlackPeak Capital private equity fund is also opening a second fund, which will target capital of EUR 5 million to EUR 10 million in start-up companies and SMEs from Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia. On demand are companies in a more advanced phase of development, with revenue of over EUR 2 million, a potential for accelerating or enduring growth – organically or through acquisitions. In focus are IT companies, niche production, consumer goods, business services, and healthcare. The Fund will operate under the name Blackpeak Southeast Europe Growth Equity Fund and is entering an investment regime with a capital of EUR 68.5 million and an end target of EUR 120 million. Among the investors are the European Investment Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Financial Corporation (IFC), and others.
InvestHorizon has opened the submission for its accelerator program, aimed at start-ups and developed companies in the field of the so-called “deep technologies”. The program is extensive and offers product/service innovation testing, business model development, preparation for attracting investments and discussions with investors, contact network. The program is open to both mentors and investors. Find more details and an application form on InvestHorizon’s website – https://investhorizon.eu/
The Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA) is organizing the participation of Bulgarian companies in the GITEX Technology Week – the international tech exhibit for information and communication technologies,
The Discoverer supercomputer in Sofia Tech Park achieved and exceeded the planned computing power and performance during the tests in early June. Discoverer has shown a production power of 4,518 petaflops at 100% capacity, with a planned 4.44 petaflops, and the reported peak performance is 6,006.37 petaflops, with initially set 6 petaflops.
The results make it very likely that the petascale computer in Sofia will be included in the world ranking for supercomputer performance “Top 500”. Presence in the ranking of the most powerful machines on an international scale will place our country among the high-tech countries in the world and will turn it into a digital center for Southeast Europe, Sofia Tech Park commented. The documents required for inclusion in the ranking have already been submitted. The final list is expected to be published in late June.
Inside an operational mode, Discoverer will be used to develop new drug molecules, to test the components’ properties in designing them for buildings and cars through digital prototypes, to predict natural disasters, and more. The computing power of the supercomputer will find applications in many scientific fields such as personalized medicine, bioengineering, bioinformatics, pharmacy, quantum chemistry, and biochemistry, combating climate change, and others. The consortium is already talking to private companies that are interested in Discoverer because of the machine’s ability to process large amounts of data in a very short time – for projects in the field of artificial intelligence, financial technology, market forecasting, and more.
Discoverer will perform European tasks utilizing 35% of its capacity, and the remaining 65% will be for projects in Bulgaria, the Business Development Manager at Petascale Supercomputer – Bulgaria Simeon Stoyanov said in an interview with the BNR. In his words, the computer must perform a mix of scientific and applied tasks, both for the public and the private sector, so that the project can start to be self-sustaining and upgrade as soon as possible without relying entirely on the state or European funding. One of the directions for the development of the petascale computer in our country is the addition of a module for the simulation of a quantum computer.
Discoverer is part of the EuroHPC JU European network of high-performance machines together with 4 other powerful machines located in Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and Slovenia. The project is funded by the budgets of the Bulgarian state and EuroHPC JU and is managed
The co-Innovation hub Resonator has just launched the Resonator City Connect Program for solutions that address the urban challenges in Sofia. The initiative is under the patronage of Innovative Sofia – the Digitalization, Innovation and Economic Development Unit of Sofia Municipality. Projects that еnhance city performance and citizen wellbeing by cleaner, smarter and safer environment can be submitted by June, 30, 2021.
People, Infrastructure, Movement, Environment and Sustainable Urban Development are the four priority areas in which companies can apply with demo projects that need testing and upgrading. There are specific sub-topics to each priority area to which the solutions can be addressed. For example, People include topics such as vacant houses and buildings, conditions and functioning of the housing stock, health, economy and more. The focus is on ideas that have the potential not only to be tested and implemented in the context of Sofia, but also has potential to be deployed internationally.
Partners in the initiative are also Sofiaplan, the Bulgarian Association of Robotics and Automation – PARA, as well as many leading companies, including Microsoft, Athlon, Silicon Labs, Arrow Electronics and more than ten other companies and organisations. All of them will support selected projects with specific assistance such as providing laboratory equipment and test environment, cloud architecture credits, engineering support, consultancy
UX and UI design, Digital Twin platform and more. The Sofia Municipality will provide access to open data, tools for evaluation and validation of projects and the opportunity to pilot for Sofia one or more selected projects.
Resonator is the first co-innovation hub in Bulgaria, which brings together people with different professions and experience to cooperate, providing them with physical and virtual space with technological innovations, assistance and expertise. The goal is for them to work together to create new products, joint projects and business opportunities, to share interests and to experiment in many directions.
The participation of the Sofia Municipality in the project is in accordance with the mission of the city administration to be a project owner or institutional partner in accelerators, living labs, etc., as well as with the implementation of the Strategy for Digital Transformation of Sofia. Part of the document are a number of indicative activities for the practical implementation of the Strategy, among which is the so-called ‘Sandbox for Innovative Solutions’ for pilot projects and testing innovative technological solutions proposed by the Sofia-based technology companies
Everything about the Resonator
The European Commission has proposed a framework for a European Digital Identity wallet which will be available to all EU citizens and residents, as well as to the businesses in the EU to prove their identity and grant access to services in the Member States.
European Digital Identity will help achieve the targets and milestones set out by the Commision in the Digital Compass 2030 – a tool that sets out the EU’s digital targets for the next decade. Its priorities include providing all key public services online, providing citizens with access to electronic medical records, and more. The European Digital Identity framework further supports the EU’s transformation into a digital single market, according to the official statement.
Opening a bank account, applying for a loan, renting a car, filing tax returns, buying a new SIM card, enrolling in a university are part of the examples given by the Commission for the use cases. It also states that citizens will be able to prove their identity when necessary to access online services, share digital documents or simply prove a specific personal attribute, such as age, without having to use private identification methods or unnecessarily share personal data
Why is European Digital Identity necessary
The Commission finds the European digital identity necessary to address the shortcomings of existing identification services. Currently the EU uses the so-called “eIDAS Regulation” for cross-border electronic identification and trusted electronic transaction services in the European single market. However, there is no requirement for Member States to develop a national digital ID and to make it interoperable with the ones of other Member States. According to the EC, this leads to high discrepancies between countries and deprivation from the benefits of the single market.
Other arguments include the lack of flexibility in the various cases of use of current electronic identifiers and the existing limitations and complexity for online providers to connect to the system. The Commission also points to the need for a single European approach, as practices at national level will lead to fragmentation and prevent interoperability and cross-border acceptance. It is also noted that the pandemic has intensified the digitalisation of services, which in turn has increased the demand from consumers and businesses for online identification and authentication tools.
What the framework offers
Amendment of the eIDAS Regulation: introduction of European digital identity to improve its effectiveness and extend its benefits to the private
According to data from the National Statistical Institute, the average monthly salary in Sofia has exceeded BGN 2,000 and is 77% higher than the rest of the country. As of December 2020, the remuneration for the employees in the capital is BGN 2,031, compared to the national average of BGN 1,468.
The increase in salaries in Sofia last year was 10.2% (or BGN 188), and on average for the previous five (2016-2020) – over 66%. The second place in terms of income is for the residents of Vratsa due to the opening of manufacturing enterprises in the city, and in third place is Sofia region, as its enterprises attract staff living in the capital and therefore compete on terms and salary with the companies in the city.
According to the national statistics, the lowest average monthly salaries are in Vidin (BGN 952), Blagoevgrad (BGN 956), and Smolyan (BGN 989). In all other districts of the country, the salaries exceed 1000 BGN.
Despite the economic crisis, an increase is observed in all Bulgarian municipalities, except for Pernik. There was a decline of 5.2% last year. The average increase for 2020 in the country is 8.8%, with the most significant increase in the city of Kardzhali – by 17.8% per year, followed by Montana, Vidin, Kyustendil, and Shumen. The lowest growth of salaries is in Varna – only 2.6%. There is a significant difference in the increased wage rate between regions due to the concentration of investment in specific locations and the slow pace in others, including the drastic decline in tourism in cities where it is a primary economic sector.
In terms of occupations, the highest salaries are paid to employees in the IT industry – software engineers and IT managers and those employed in the pharmacy, insurance sector, and human resources specialists. Experts in finance, accounting audit, marketing, law, and web design are also well paid.