Between March 13 and 15, representatives from the Association of Indonesian Municipalities (APEKSI) and the municipality of Semarang – one of the most populated cities in Indonesia – were on a study visit to Sofia. The visit was organized under the International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC) program, an initiative funded by the European Union. The meetings in Sofia aimed to promote cooperation between the two cities in the field of sustainable urban mobility and good administrative practices in large cities.
The CEO of Invest Sofia Ph.D. Maria Hristova and Viktor Gousev, Head of the Investment Analysis department met with Mr. Mukhamad Khadhik, Assistant for Government of Regional Secretary (Semarang), Mr. Endro Pudyo Martantono, Head of Transportation Department (Semarang), Mrs. Indah Wibinastiti, General Manager at the Association of Indonesia Municipalities (Jakarta), Mrs. Dini Laraswati, IURC Indonesia Coordinator (Jakarta), and Pablo Gándara, Team Leader IURC Asia & Australasia. The guests were interested in the activities of Invest Sofia and the strategies and best practices we apply to attract investors to the city. Maria Hristova and Victor Gousev presented Sofia’s economic profile, the priority industries and the incentives in support of setting up or expanding business activities in the city, including the Sofia IS initiative, the Green Card for administrative service, networking activities with local and international businesses and entrepreneurial organizations. Vladimir Tomov – President of the Investment Council at BCCI, presented best practices in the infrastructure projects, accomplished through funding by international funds.
Funded by the European Union, the International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC) programme promotes cooperation between cities on sustainable urban development and builds partnerships between EU and non-EU cities. The visit of our colleagues from Semarang is a follow-up to the study visit of Sofia city experts to Semarang, one of Indonesia’s most populous cities, which took place in June 2022.
Semarang is the capital and largest city of Central Java province. The city administration there is interested in improving its public transport system, especially tram transport, reflecting on the successful practices of Sofia. These include charging facilities in public transport, the SofiaCoin mobile app created under the INNOAIR project, measures to improve air quality, and initiatives to encourage more citizens to use public transport.
The three-day program included meetings with Mr. Barbalov, Deputy Mayor for Transport, representatives of Sofia Municipality, Sofia Electric Transport, the Urban Mobility Centre, Sofia Development Association and other stakeholders. It will include several
Bulgaria already has a Startup Visa issued to investors from outside the EU who want to develop high-tech projects in Bulgaria. Foreign founders can now apply for the document through the Management System of National Investments (MSNI) at https://enims.egov.bg/en.
Non-EU citizens with tech and innovative businesses are now invited to apply for a 1-year valid Visa that can be extended for two more years. The Ministry of Innovation and Growth accelerated the preparatory procedures by publishing the ordinance on the terms and conditions for the certificate two months ahead of schedule. Guidelines on how to apply are published on the website of the Ministry here.
Among the information required by entrepreneurs are data about the company, patents (if applicable), market presence, business goals, etc. After evaluation, a certificate for a high-tech or innovative project is issued. The applications are to be assessed by an Expert Council, part of which are also experts from the Bulgarian startup association – BESCO, the organization that worked hard during the last years for the adoption of an official regulation for the procedure. An ordinance on the terms and conditions for issuing, extending and revoking a certificate for a high-tech or innovative project was adopted by the Council of Ministers in October last year. Thus, our country joined a large part of the EU countries which already have established regulations for the procedure.
The Startup visa will help companies from countries outside the EU to set up their operations here faster, for the benefit of the Bulgarian economy, pay local taxes and attract investments, and bring in new skills, technologies and experts – benefits that will enrich the local business ecosystem and favor the labor market.
A detailed explanation of what the Startup visa is and what it is for can also be found on the BESCO website here.
For the tenth time in a row, the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA) presented its annual Economy of Light awards at a ceremony in Sofia Hotel Balkan. At the invitation of the organizers, the CEO of Invest Sofia, Ph.D. Maria Hristova attended the event. Prime Minister Galab Donev and the Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova were part of the award ceremony together with representatives of regulatory authorities, companies, NGOs, BICA partners, and the media.
The annual competition recognizes achievements in the fight against the informal economy and rewards leading institutions and individuals with an active position and contribution in limiting the grey sector. The awards are part of BICA’s initiatives that aim to increase intolerance towards the informal economy, encourage active actions and encourage the positive impact of the business in the socio-economic environment. According to data from BICA’s latest research, almost 80% of the Bulgarian economy has left the gray sector.
Awards were presented in three categories: to state or municipal administrations, individuals or organizations, and journalists or media. The winners are as follows:
BICA members, social partners, members of the Public Council for Limitation and Prevention of the Informal Economy, state institutions, and media nominate the organizations and individuals. The winners were announced after a secret ballot by an expert jury of over 100 economists, public figures, media representatives, economists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and financial experts.
The Sofia Municipal Privatization & Investment Agency (Invest Sofia) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the boutique presentation agency 356labs. The Agreement will help us provide expert support to investors in Sofia on topics related to business presentation design and development, presentation skills, presentation design, storytelling, etc. The expertise of 356labs will mainly help young startup companies in their first steps of presenting their products and services to partners and investors, during forums and fairs, and more.
The Memorandum of Cooperation was signed at an official meeting between Invest Sofia’s CEO Ph.D. Maria Hristova and Boris Hristov – Manager at 356labs.
Under the agreement, the presentation agency will provide free access to the video recordings from its Present to Succeed conference, where some of the world’s best presentation experts share valuable experience and practical guidance. Access to the 356labs’ manual on how to make online presentations will also be provided.
356labs specializes in all phases of presentation creation: from structure and storytelling to design and delivery. Its corporate trainings cover topics such as online and hybrid presentations, storytelling in presentations, public speaking, and slide design. Among its services are presentation skills; presentation development – from storytelling and design to personal and customized presentation training; organizing online or hybrid events, and many more.
At the invitation of the Catalan organization Biocat, the Senior Executive Director of Invest Sofia, PhD Maria Hristova, visited the technical base of the organization in Barcelona and met with representatives of the municipality of the Spanish city. The visit follows an invitation by Dr. Montse Daban Marín, Director of Science Policies and Internationalization at Biocat and aimed to discuss topics of mutual interest, future joint initiatives, including an official delegation in June this year related to mutual life sciences and healthcare projects between Sofia-based companies and organizations from the ecosystem of the northeastern Spanish region. Our hosts introduced us to their activities, and we talked about EU-funded projects for which we could apply as a consortium.
Biocat is a strategic stakeholder and catalyst for building, promoting and projecting the Catalan life sciences and healthcare ecosystem, known as the BioRegion of Catalonia. The organization was created in 2006 at the initiative of the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona City Council as a public-private foundation whose mission is to identify the needs of the BioRegion and implement a strategy and action plan to maximize the economic and social impact of the life sciences and healthcare innovation ecosystem in Catalonia.
Biocat brings together over 1,500 companies and organizations in Catalonia: administration, companies (biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical technology and services), universities, hospitals, research centers and institutes, science parks and sector support organizations. The cluster strives to position the region as one of the main centers of healthcare innovation in Europe and to connect ecosystem stakeholders with international players for collaborative research, knowledge transfer, internationalization, access to capital, attracting investment, generating synergies and opportunities for growth and scaling.
The meeting with organizations from the BioRegion of Catalonia was part of the B2B networking during MWC 2023 in Barcelona – Europe’s largest and most influential event in the field of connectivity and mobile tech. The exhibition attracted over 88,500 visitors from 202 countries. Over 2,000 start-ups and international leaders were part of the exhibition area, and over 1,000 speakers and top industry leaders participated in the conference program. Over 56% of those who attended came from industries adjacent to the core mobile ecosystem, indicating the growing importance of mobile technology in a wide range of industries. The 4YFN segment of the conference, which is dedicated to startups and entrepreneurs, welcomed almost 800 exhibitors, more than 375 speakers, and over 250 pitching sessions.
For another year, fDi Magazine has chosen the cities and regions worth being shortlisted for the European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023 ranking. Out of a total of 370 surveyed locations in Europe, Sofia ranks as follows:
London and the Ile-de-France region, home to the French capital Paris, hit the leading positions in the “city” and “region” categories respectively in this year’s ninth edition of the prestigious report. According to the analysis by fDi Intelligence, Europe has shown resilience as a global investment destination despite interruptions in the pace of development caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The Old Continent remains the world’s main FDI destination, and the energy transition drives major investment into energy sectors and the transformation of a number of industries.
“European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023” compares the most promising investment destinations across Europe. The indicators of a total of 370 European cities have been assessed, divided into five groups according to the number of population – major, large, mid-sized, small and micro cities, as well as 148 European regions, divided into three groups – large, medium and small regions. Their performance was ranked across five categories: economic potential; business friendliness; connectivity; human capital and lifestyle; cost effectiveness; and FDI strategy. A total of 89 counties and regions applied for the FDI strategy category, with data and analyses being submitted by European investment promotion agencies.You can download the full “European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023” from fDi Intelligence’s website and explore all the winners.
In Sofia, the retail market is returning to pre-pandemic levels, office rents are heavily influenced by inflation, and the high activity of retail and logistics companies leads to almost full utilization of the available space in the segment, with the share of unoccupied production and
logistics space falling below 1% of the total supply. The data are from Cushman&Wakefield Forton’s marketbeat reports for Q4 2022.
Total volume of leased space and completed owner-occupied premises in Sofia amounted to roughly 104,000 sqm, an unprecedented quarterly result. Many occupiers count on built-to-suit projects that are planned and implemented to meet their specific requirements. Active development locations are the state industrial zone to the west and the Sofia ring road area to the east. Projects within the city’s ring road are in great demand for e-commerce operations. Rental prices continue to rise, with prime logistics space in Sofia rented fat €4.75/sq.m for premises over 10,000 sq.m, and small to medium-sized being offered at €5/sq.m compared to 4.6 euros/sq.m in the previous quarter. The price growth is pushed by rising construction prices and operating expenses and is expected to continue. Among the key construction completions in Sofia are the second warehouse and logistics base of the organic food producer Smart Organic and the new Transpress logistics facility.
In Q4 2022, the rise in revenues and recovery in shopping centers footfall and revenue to pre-crisis levels continued. The segment was marked by the extremely rapid development of the retail parks. Again, there is an increase in rental prices, as in the shopping centers in Sofia they remain stable at 35 euros/sq.m, while in high street shops and retail parks prices report a 5% increase, reflecting the inflation and the associated increase in landlord costs.
According to Forton, the share of vacant office space continues to be high. The deals are formed mostly from renewals and relocations and have minimal net effect for the market. Space optimization remains the leading trend, since many companies still use their offices at partial capacity, due to the hybrid work model. The level of completed objects is low and no major new constructions are moving forward in the segment. According to the consulting company, the office completions in 2022 were reduced to 55,514 sqm over the year, since a
lot of projects were withdrawn in time and this will give more time for the available office space to be absorbed.
The Sofia-based manufacturer and provider of IoT and smart home solutions Allterco announced the acquisition of 60% of the Slovenian IoT company GOAP. The price of the transaction for this 1st stage of the deal amounts to EUR 2 million. The remaining 40% are subject to an Option Agreement that was signed.
With the deal, Allterco aims to expand its home automation product portfolio for end customers and enterprises. Among the company’s products are Shelly smart relays for remote control of lights, electrical appliances, sensors and home energy consumption monitoring, as well as the child GPS-GSM watch MyKi and MyKi Auto and MyKi Spot smart truckers created to track automobiles, cargo, and pets.
To further accelerate its growth, Allterco has selected Dublin, Ireland, as the base for its latest R&D hub.
The software company Luxoft to open a tech hub in Sofia, where a new team of 200 developers will work on the company’s joint project with Mercedes-Benz Group. The new department will develop in-vehicle infotainment systems (IVI) for autonomous vehicles. These are installed in the latest Mercedes A-class models. The office will also be responsible for software testing and validation activities.
Luxoft started operations in Sofia in 2014. The office is responsible for the development of solutions for the fintech sector and the automotive industry.
The Sofia-based health-tech startup FindMeCure received new funding from angel investors and its previous investor – the international fund TechStars. The amount of the deal remains undisclosed, but the company announced its intention to invest in strengthening its position in the US market and expanding its team of experts in sales, marketing and software engineering.
The company develops two clinical research platforms – FindMeCure, which helps patients access and apply for clinical trials, and TrialHub, a B2B clinical trial planning software. Both platforms are on a mission to bring research closer to patients and bring innovative treatments to market faster, avoiding the delays that clinical trials typically cause. The startup’s long-term vision is to become a B2B2C platform that enables better decisions in life sciences while helping patients around the world gain faster access to appropriate treatment.
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure management leader Ampeco has raised $16 million in venture capital in a Series A investment round led by BMW i Ventures. The company to invest the funds to strengthen its market position in North America and enlarge its engineering
Sofia’s economy is doing well amid global crises and uncertainty in recent years with GDP growth of 7%, mainly influenced by leading sectors such as services, energy and ICT. This was said in an interview with Bulgarian National Radio by the Executive director of Invest Sofia, PhD Maria Hristova.
The city’s gross domestic product is over 51 billion, and the IT and outsourcing sectors continue to develop most dynamically. The hubs of multinational companies that manage processes all over the world operate from Sofia. This is a stable prerequisite for the rapid development in these sectors, Maria Hristova commented.
She emphasized that Sofia concentrated an increasingly large share of the exported goods and services – BGN 42 billion out of a total of BGN 103 billion for the country. The city generates half of the foreign investments in the country – 14.7 out of 28.2 billion euros. Not only digital services drive investments, but also foreign industrial leaders with high-tech production facilities. This positively affects the labor market in the city. Salaries already exceed BGN 2,000, and BGN 4,000 in the IT sector – a trend that attracts talent and young people. The labor market is expected to be favorably influenced by the newly adopted law on the “Blue Card of the European Union”. For ten years now, unemployment in Sofia has maintained enviably low levels. Thus, according to a number of indicators, Sofia keeps its leading position not only in Bulgaria but also in the region.
“We continue to focus our efforts towards improving the interaction between business and the city administration. We deliver services that represent a “fast track” for administrative assistance not only to big investors in the city but also for startup companies,” Maria Hristova said. She added that tourism in the city has recovered and is at higher levels than in 2019, which proves that Sofia is doing well not only in terms of the business environment but also in terms of the quality of the urban environment, leisure, sport, and entertainment.
To find out more about the economy of Sofia and what trends will affect life in the city follow the link and listen to the interview on BNR here.
The economy of Sofia remains the biggest regional economy in the country with 42.8% of Bulgaria’s GDP or over 51 billion. This is five times more than the economy of the second-largest region in our country, Plovdiv, and seven times more than
the economy of Varna region, shows our latest report titled “Sofia: Economic and Investment Profile 2022”, prepared by the Institute for Market Economics. The document is now available for download from our site here.
According to the analysis, the city’s economy is quickly overcoming the effects of the pandemic and is keeping the trend of population influx and attracting talent and workforce from the rest of the country providing much better opportunities for education and career development. The gross domestic product per capita reaches BGN 38.9 thousand, which is more than 2.2 times higher than the average for the country. Between 2017-2020, the gross domestic product per capita in Sofia recorded a growth of nearly 26% compared to a growth of 19% for the country.
Sofia gets ahead of all other economic centers in Bulgaria dominating the sector of Services, whose gross added value is over BGN 38 billion or over 86% of the added value in the city’s economy. The gross added value in the Industry sector reaches over BGN 6 billion and brings the remaining nearly 14% of the added value to the economy. Thus, the capital contributes to ¼ of the added value of Industry and more than ½ of the added value of Services in Bulgaria.
The economic profile of Sofia is strongly influenced by the dynamic development of the wide periphery of the Capital. Many industrial enterprises and logistics sites are located on the territory of neighboring and/or nearby municipalities. The added value of Industry in Sofia (region) reaches nearly BGN 2 billion, which is mainly formed by the operations of mining and processing enterprises in Sredna Gora and enterprises in industrial zones such as Bozhurishte, Kostinbrod, etc. The strong industry in the periphery of Sofia, as well as the daily labor migration to the Capital, support the thesis that the economy of Sofia should be considered as an investment destination that covers a wider territory than that of the Sofia Municipality itself.
By this summer, 29 new trams will be successively delivered in Sofia. The renewal of the fleet is funded under Operational Program Environment. The new trains are supplied by a Polish company and have low-floor, air conditioning, boarding platforms, places for mothers with strollers and disabled people, and video surveillance. Four new fast-charging electric buses will also be delivered. Thus Sofia Municipality finalizes the renovation of the city’s trolleybus park by removing all old Ikarus vehicles.
About 11,000 tons of compost were produced in 2022 at the Sofia Municipality’s green waste treatment plant. The Han Bogrov center receives green waste from the parks and the Christmas trees after the New Year holidays. The managing team of the facility explains that the natural waste decomposition process takes 10 years, while the controlled biological decomposition takes 2-3 months, and the compost is a highly soil-enriching product. The Sofia Municipality continues its initiative to provide for free 10 kg. high-quality compost. Citizens can take compost from the Khan Bogrov installation by providing paid waste collection tax certificate.
Sofia ranks third among 29 European cities for the number of 4* and 5* luxury and spa hotels per 1 million tourists in a survey of the international property rental platform OVO Network. Thus, our city ranks right after Barcelona and Zurich. Sofia scores fifth for the number of 5-star hotels, and in the general ranking, it is in 12th position. Europe’s best luxury destinations Ranking considers the number of 5-star hotels, Michelin-star restaurants, top-rated spas, ‘luxury’ search trends (number of keyword searches for ‘luxury’ followed by the name of the city), and how safe the city is, to reveal the best European cities for a high-end getaway. Results are per 1,000,000 tourists.
Starting from April, direct flights from Sofia to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia will be launched. The country is a strategic partner for Bulgaria in the Middle East. The flights will be operated by “Bulgaria Air”. The direct line was agreed upon during the official meetings between the Ministry of Innovation and Growth (MIG) and the Saudi Ministry of Economy. It aims to facilitate business cooperation between the two countries in the field of information and communication technology, automotive industry, logistics, etc. According to MIG data, bilateral trade in 2021 increased by more than 30% compared to 2020 and amounted to USD 313.2 million.
At an official ceremony in Sofia, the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce presented its annual German Economy Awards which highlights companies with a significant contribution to the development of Bulgarian-German economic relations for the previous year.
According to the data presented during the event, trade between Sofia and Berlin reached a record of 11 billion euros in 2022. Despite the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Germany remains the main trade partner of our country with exported goods and services for 6,195 billion euros and imports for 4,932 billion euros. The Chamber believes that both countries should encourage projects and investments in areas such as energy, decarbonization, and sustainability.
AHK Bulgarien hands out statuettes in four categories – “Large Enterprise”, “Small and Medium Enterprise”, “Social Responsibility” and “Startup Company”. Among the evaluation criteria are: investments in Bulgaria, the number of created new jobs, increase in trade with Germany (import or export), initiatives towards increasing the qualifications of employees, environment and climate action projects, social impact, innovations, energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies, etc.
We are glad that again Sofia-based companies have been awarded. Bosch Bulgaria received recognition for their activities in the “Large enterprise” category, Dronamics for “Small and medium-sized enterprise”, again Bosch Bulgaria in the “Social responsibility” category, and Varna’s Kinetik Automotive was awarded for a start-up company.
At the invitation of the Chamber, our CEO Dr. Maria Hristova joined the ceremony. Among the official guests were also the Minister of Innovation and Growth Stefan Savov, the ambassadors in both countries – H.E. Irene Plank and HE Elena Shekerletova, as well as representatives of AHK member companies.