Due to a special invitation from the organisers of The Next Web festival (TNW Conference 2019) a team from the Invest Sofia took part in the annual StartupCity Summit during the conference on May 9-10 in Amsterdam.
Together with representatives of more than 150 of the world’s most active startup cities from around the world, Invest Sofia team participated in the work groups during the 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.
More than 250 representatives from the participating cities discussed how to overcome the tech challenges we face today, how to promote female entrepreneurship and women in tech, explore new ways to help startups go global, create international partnerships, and much more.
During the round tables, we shared good practices from Sofia, how many of the startup founders are women entrepreneurs and what percentage of the employees in the IT sector are women. In the panel Round Table 2: Creating a clear ecosystem identity and branding on a global scale, we discussed the experience of Sofia with representatives from cities such as Seoul, Rome, Helsinki, Madrid, Zurich, and others.
The invitation to our team and Sofia as a city, to join the meetings on May 9-10 in Amsterdam is considered to be a huge acknowledgment.
All the valuable insights, key learnings, and takeaways that were shared during the StartupCity Summit roundtables are available here.
For the second year in a row Total Chaos gathered the worldwide computer graphics and VFX elite. Hundreds of 3D artists, designers and developers joined the global gathering in Sofia. The event was held in the Innovation Forum of Sofia Tech Park and hosted inspiring talks by world-class artists, hands-on masterclasses and certification opportunities. Again, Total Chaos 2019 turned into a truly unforgettable experience.
The conference began with a full day of Masterclasses. Delivered by top 3D professionals, the classes provided in-depth training on topics like parametric design for architecture, product and automotive design, visual effects for large-scale production pipelines, and cinematic approaches to architectural visualization. Total Chaos followed on May 17-18 with three parallel tracks covering the latest projects, technology, and R&D guiding 3D workflows.
Hundreds of tweets and other social media posts demonstrated the true appreciation of the global crowd to the perfect fusion of art and technology the event offered to the community. Sofia Investment Agency was honored to attend the conference as a partner of this great event in Sofia. Looking forward to a third, even bigger Total Chaos in 2020!
Total Chaos is organised by the Sofia-based Bulgarian software company Chaos Group – a worldwide leader in computer graphics technology, helping artists and designers create photorealistic imagery and animation for architecture, design, and visual effects. Chaos Group’s award-winning physically-based rendering and simulation software is used daily by top design studios, architectural firms, advertising agencies, and visual effects companies around the globe. Today, the company’s research and development in ray-traced rendering, cloud computing, and real-time ray tracing are shaping the future of creative storytelling and digital design. Founded in 1997, Chaos Group is privately owned with offices in Sofia, Los Angeles, Prague, Seoul, and Tokyo. For more information, visit: chaosgroup.com.
Find galleries and day-by-day recaps:
Meet Arianna Codemo – our wonderful Erasmus exchange student from Italy.
Arianna Codemo is 22, student at ITS Tourism Academy in Jesolo, specializing in hospitality and management. She has been a valuable part of our team for the last 3 months and we do believe we have managed to attract one more keen ambassador of Sofia.
How did you end up at Sofia Investment Agency?
This year, during my studies, I learned that the students of my school would be given the great chance to apply for the Erasmus + project for the second compulsory academy internship we must do. And so, I decided to apply for it. I thought: “The Commission would never choose me, but I would really like to have an experience abroad! If they only choose me…”. To cut the long story short, a number of students were selected, me among them. I suppose I should have been more positive and self-confident (traits that I’m currently working on). The Commission must have noticed my motivation for self-improvement and my thirst for knowledge, especially when it comes to my favourite sector – tourism in general and tourism promotion and marketing in specific.
I could choose from a list of different destinations, but I decided to have this brand new experience here, in Sofia – a city that really fascinates me for its rich culture and beautiful landscapes. The Erasmus + project staff and my Bulgarian tutor in Sofia suggested that I do my internship at Sofia Investment Agency, as it promotes and encourages city development from a business perspective, and supports many different industries such as tourism, education and urban development among others.
What projects did you work on during the stay at the Agency?
– During my stay at the Agency I worked on various interesting projects and had to deal with diverse tasks. Every year the Agency publishes a new edition of the “Tourism and Air Transport Market” report and the “Sofia Business Guide“. I helped my colleague Ana, who is the person in the team who is in charge of collecting and updating the information about the development of the tourism sector in Sofia, to collect new data and statistics. I learned a lot about Sofia’s economic development and its various priority industries. Finding relevant data and analysing it is not a simple task. However, if we want to promote and
Sofia Municipality, Cleantech Bulgaria and InnoEnergy have signed a tripartite cooperation agreement to stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation in areas such as energy and air quality improvement in Sofia. One of the main goals of the agreement is to enable sustainable economic development in Sofia with a focus on environmental protection.
During the meeting for signing of the agreement, Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia, presented the pilot project for bicycle rental as a means of transport to Vitosha Mountain. The service is highly demanded and the municipality has commissioned Green Sofia to expand the project by providing more bicycles.
We will rely on InnoEnergy’s experience and expertise to develop the innovation ecosystem and support startups in the field of mobility, digitization, air quality improvement, and sustainable urban environment, Yordanka Fandakova said when signing the cooperation agreement.
We will also rely on them in the assessment of innovative projects in the field of ecology. The partnership of Sofia with Cleantech Bulgaria and InnoEnergy will help Sofia create a more favorable environment for the development of clean energy innovations. Startups will have an even more active role in the development of Sofia as a sustainable and green city, the mayor also said, and expressed her gratitude to the organizations for their readiness to support Sofia’s bid in the European Green Capital contest.
Cleantech Bulgaria is an official partner of the European organization EIT InnoEnergy – the largest public-private partnership with the EU in the field of sustainable energy.
Since 2015, Cleantech Bulgaria, in partnership with InnoEnergy, provides support and investment for the development of innovative products and services to stimulate the upgrading of professional qualifications and support the sustainable development of cities and regions. The cooperation agreement with Sofia Municipality comes as a result of the efforts in this direction.
Mariana Hamanova, executive director of Cleantech Bulgaria, said about the cooperation: We have been working actively with Sofia Municipality for years and we can already boast about a number of accomplishments and favorable results. The signing of this memorandum is a logical step towards laying solid foundations for cooperation in the long run, not just on paper, but in practice.
Marcin Levenstein of EIT InnoEnergy added: Sofia succeeds very well in improving its quality of life and sustainability. We in InnoEnergy see this transformation as an exciting opportunity for common development of European energy innovations.
The international conference SofAir – a high-level forum on air quality in cities – was held in Sofia. The initiative for the conference came by Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia. The event was held for the second time and was organized by Sofia Municipality in partnership with the Joint Research Center at the European Commission (JRC), as well as with the support of the European cities network EUROCITIES and the Green Sofia team.
SofAir was attended by local government representatives of cities from Germany, France, Turkey, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Scotland and others. The main moderators of the event were Charlina Vicheva, deputy director general of the Joint Research Center at the European Commission, and Julian Popov, member of the European Climate Foundation.
The event was opened by Markku Markkula, vice-president of the European Committee of the Regions. We need more cities like Sofia, which is among the most active in a number of pilot projects, Mr. Markula said before the conference attendees.
During the conference, participants presented statistics on their cities and shared good practices in improving air quality in cities.
According to the preliminary data for the last heating season, Sofia has a 15% reduction of days with increased level of fine particulate matter. The city has the greatest progress in terms of measures to improve air quality in the renovation of public transport. With the supply of new buses this year, 90% of the buses have been replaced. Moreover, the city had not bought diesel vehicles for years. Over the next three years, domestic heating systems will be replaced by one-third of households in Sofia, according to Mayor Fandakova. She believes that namely cities can be the engine for major government decisions.
Cologne also works to replace solid fuels for heating in households, Harold Rau, deputy mayor, said. The municipality of the German city considers domestic heating as one of the main reasons for air pollution. As a further measure, Cologne plans to replace all public transport vehicles. Our main challenge is to motivate people to change their behavior, Harold Rau said.
As a successful program of the city of Cologne, he pointed out the support that citizens have to buy bicycles at half price. The bikes have to be equipped with luggage baskets so that the citizens do not have to use cars when carrying a lot of things with them.
Academy of Innovation 2019
Innovation Starter, in partnership with the leading universities in Bulgaria and with the institutional support of the European Commission in Bulgaria, is organising an Academy of Innovation – Sofia Innovation Hackathon for students.
Again, the event will be organised as a 24-hour Innovation Hackathon with a prize pool of $ 10,000 for the student team with the most creative and feasible idea, and a visit to Brussels for the winners provided by the European Commission in Bulgaria.
Within the Academy of Innovation 2019, students will have the opportunity to develop and present their own ideas on the following topics:
“Depopulation of regions, care for the elderly”
“Health and Technology”
“Cleanliness, Green Ideas and Ecology”
“Communication projects with a social mission”
Presentations start on 11 May, at 14:00.
WEBIT.FESTIVAL EUROPE 2019
Save the date for Europe’s innovation, tech & digital policy event – Webit.Festival Europe 13-15 May 2019.
Webit.Festival is one of the most influential forums in Europe dedicated to business, technologies, and innovations. Sofia is one of the annual locations of the prestigious festival together with Istanbul, Dubai, Singapore, and New Delhi.
Webit.Festival Europe 2018 in numbers:
– 10’000+ ATTENDEES (7200 Webit.Festival participants and 3000 Webit.X visitors)
– 231 EXHIBITORS
– 422 SPEAKERS
– 110 HOURS of conference agenda & amazing content
– 75% C-level (executive) ATTENDANCE
– 111 VISITING COUNTRIES
– 150 of THE BEST EUROPEAN STARTUPS AND SCALEUPS
– 1000+ POLICYMAKERS
Programme, keynote speakers, attendees from 2018 and registration link for 2019 are available here.
Buldental is one of the most prestigious exhibitions in the field of dentistry in South-East Europe. It covers all aspects concerning equipment, materials, and consumables. It provides a professional platform for the demonstration of the latest innovations in the field of dental medicine from Bulgarian and foreign producers, representatives, distributors, and traders. Buldental is traditionally held under the auspices of the Health Ministry and with the support of the branch organisation Bulgarian Dental Association.
The Buldental will take place on 3 days from Wednesday, 15 May to Friday, 17 May 2019 in Sofia.
10th Credit Risk Management Conference
ICAP Bulgaria is organizing the 10th Credit Risk Management Conference in Bulgaria.
How the Bulgarian companies managed credit risk during the last ten years and what is the current economic situation, in the context of automation and digitization of products
The 10th free charging station for electric cars is already available in Sofia. The 7.5 kilowatt station is located at the corner of Moskovska Str. and August 11 Str. At the opening of the station, Deputy Mayor Doncho Barbalov announced that Sofia Municipality is preparing a procedure for another 25 locations for charging stations for electric vehicles.
The new station is a joint initiative of the Green Systems and Transport Directorates and with the support of KIA Motors Bulgaria and aims to promote the city’s electric mobility as an environmentally friendly and safe transport for less dust and noise pollution of the urban environment.
According to the latest data there are 350 electric cars in the capital and the newly registered electric cars for half a year are about 100, which is a 40% increase compared to last year.
Sofia Municipality reminded that electric cars in Sofia can park in blue and green parking zones free of charge.
A total of 22 natural gas buses will carry passengers along the public transport lines, Sofia Municipality announced. By the end of May 22 new trams will be operational on the streets of Sofia.
Furthermore, metro trains tests start on the new metro line. Given good test results, the first section of the third metro line of Sofia metro will be put into operation as of the autumn.
Hotel chain Orbis Hotel Group will open a new hotel in Sofia in 2021. The move is part of the group’s network expansion in Bulgaria.
The new hotel will be called ibis Styles Sofia City. It will have 116 rooms and will offer a unique combination of modern concept, modern technology and the best international practices in the hotel business.
Ibis Styles Sofia City will be located on Tsarigradsko shosse Blvd, close to Sofia Tech Park, The Mall, Sofia Airport and a few minutes from the city center. In addition to the hotel, the building will also offer office space and a conference area for events with a capacity of more than 300 people.
Ibis Styles is a world-famous hotel brand of Orbis Hotel Group, which has another two hotels in Sofia – Novotel Sofia and ibis Sofia.
The spring afforestation season for Sofia commenced with the planting of more trees in the New Forest – one of the largest projects that Sofia Municipality has implemented for the
For the fifth time, Sofia received the “Business Town of Bulgaria” award in the ranking of Darik Radio “Best City to Live in Bulgaria 2018”. The capital was named the best place in the country to develop business, which offers the best conditions for attracting foreign investment.
The economic criteria include, among others, new jobs, public and private investments, use of European funds, financial situation, etc.
The official ceremony was also attended by Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia. At the national level, Sofia is the city that attracts more than 50% of foreign investment and produces some 40% of the country’s GDP, the mayor said at the award ceremony.
Sofia attracts more than half of the foreign investment in Bulgaria. In recent years, most of them have been focused on high-tech production and industries and activities with high added value. Our goal was to attract as high volume of public investment in infrastructure development as possible – this helped the business and contributed to the development of the city as well. The GDP of the capital is 40% of the total GDP for Bulgaria.
The mayor thanked everyone engaged in working for their city. According to her, the capital is a technological city with the most and the best universities that contribute to the training of experts. Sofia Municipality has its own policy of stimulating and encouraging talents. With the help of Sofia Investment Agency, we have created several support instruments (including for financial support) for the development of startups, Fandakova added.
Sofia is developing as an innovative and technological city. Today we have two specific examples of the opportunities that Sofia offers – the opening of the Financial Times Development Center in Sofia and the approval of the Council of Ministers of an agreement with the World Bank to open an office of the financial institution again in Sofia, the mayor also said.
The Darik Radio awards have been presented for the 12th consecutive year. This year they were bestowed in 6 categories: business, knowledge, security, culture, tourism and leisure, as well as ecology. Burgas was named the city of knowledge, – Dobrich – the green city, Varna – the most vital city, and Stara Zagora – the safest city. A special award was also given to the city of Yambol for road safety. Ruse was chosen to be the best city to
Emerging 3D Visualization Conference Returns May 16-18; Google, Zaha Hadid Architects and Porsche Among Presenters
This May, Total Chaos returns to Bulgaria with over 60 new ways to inspire the creative community. Created as a way to snapshot the current state of computer graphics, Total Chaos has broadened its scope with new speakers and masterclasses, targeting every industry that uses 3D.
Now in its second year, Total Chaos provides a shared space for 3D artists and developers to connect and grow, as they explore how topics like AI, real-time ray tracing, light fields and collaborative VR will continue to change professional workflows. Using the three tracks (Art, Craft, Code), attendees can build schedules based on their interests or industry, as they take in the cutting edge of visualization design.
The conference begins with a full day of Masterclasses on May 16. Delivered by top 3D professionals, the classes will provide in-depth training on topics like parametric design for architecture, product and automotive design, visual effects for large-scale production pipelines, and cinematic approaches to architectural visualization. Total Chaos follows on May 17-18 with the three parallel tracks covering the latest projects, technology, and R&D guiding 3D workflows.
For architecture fans, Total Chaos will be a deep dive into the complementary worlds of design and visualization. World-renowned architecture firms like Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster + Partners, KPF, Kengo Kuma & Associates, WeWork, Woods Bagot and Gensler will be on hand to share their approaches to 3D visualization and its importance throughout the design process. While visualization houses like Beauty and The Bit, Factory Fifteen, and Slashcube will explain why V-Ray and Corona are the engines behind their work.
The blockbuster visual effects behind Captain Marvel, Avengers: Infinity War and more will be discussed by a who’s who of VFX studios including Industrial Light & Magic, Ingenuity Studios and Digital Domain. Attendees can also get one of the first behind-the-scenes looks at Hellboy, whose opening shots and various creature designs were brought to life by local Bulgarian studios Nu Boyana FX and Worldwide FX.
Method Studios has been taking the film-centric work of digital doubles into advertising. Method Studios’ CG Supervisor Lee Carlton will share how his team worked around the inherent difficulties of 3D scanning and capturing a toddler on set, achieving a new milestone in the creation of digital humans with one of the youngest real-world
The National Tourism Board announced its intention to work on the nomination of Sofia for European Capital of Intelligent Tourism 2020. The idea was reported at the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Board, organised with the assistance of the Ministry of Tourism and the Sofia Municipality. Sofia Investment Agency was a partner of the event.
Vladimir Danailov, Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, participated in the panel “Promoting Tourism Investments and Providing Access to Financing”. Part of the topics discussed at the forum were the opportunities for additional funding of tourism, the relation between a “smart city” and the successful development of the urban tourism, the promotion of investments in the sector, etc.
The initiative gathered more than 150 representatives from the tourism industry, non-governmental organisations, representatives of the legislative, executive and local authorities. They presented their vision for the tourism development of the capital by 2030.
According to the data which was provided during the meeting, in 2018 the revenues from the tourism sector reached BGN 8.4 billion. This is 6% more than in the previous year, said the Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova.
During the period 2008 – 2018, the number of foreign tourists in Sofia has increased by 82%. In 2008, they were 422 008 and in 2018 – 767 103. This was announced by the mayor of the city – Yordanka Fandakova. The trend for a growing interest in Sofia as a tourist destination remains stable over the past few years.
The countries that generate the most visits to their capital cities are Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Israel, and France.
Until June 21, Bulgarian companies with innovative solutions in the fintech sector can apply for the Elevator Lab Challenge program of Raiffeisen Bank International. Proven innovative products and technologies in the field of finance are sought in 8 categories: Analysis of data and AI; Technologies related to the regulations; Large corporate and institutional clients; Banking for SMEs; Retail Banking; Cybersecurity; Forex solutions; Payment and processing of transactions via mobile devices.
Companies that register in Elevator Lab Challenge will receive feedback from experts of the bank and guidelines for improving the product or project. Five finalists will be selected for the Regional Challenge and one of them will be on the final of the global competition for start-ups from around the world. Applications should be submitted here: http://www.elevator-lab.com/bg/
Scientists with proven experience can apply in the second round of funding at the European Research Council (ERC). The Council is a structure of the European Commission and provides EUR 540 million grants for excellence in science. The application process will start on May 21 and has a deadline until August 29. You can start a preliminary preparation for participation by looking at the sample projects from the previous application time periods published by the ERC here.
In general, the applicants should be scientists with 10 years of experience. They should have worked on original projects with proven value in their respective fields. Their scientific research could be part of areas such as climate change, circular and blue economy, food of the future, cities of the future, energy projects, etc. The funding could reach up to EUR 2.5 million per project or EUR 3.5 million if there is a need for some kind of special equipment.
The conditions for application and link for submitting the documents: erc.europa.eu/funding/advanced-grants
More than 200 companies will be funded with another BGN 30.5 million by the Fund of funds: 37.5 million from the common budget of the Innovations and Competitiveness 2014-2020 (OPIC), and the others will be provided by private investors. The funds will target the entrepreneurs during the next five years through the chosen financial intermediary Innovation Accelerator Bulgaria.
The fund manager will provide not only the funding but also mentorship, strategic support and business contacts. It will be invested in startup companies with innovative business ideas in healthcare, education, elderly care, transport and logistics, light industry, digitalization, etc.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Economy published an online guide for small and medium-sized enterprises for dealing with the basic business situations that the entrepreneurs face in managing their companies – from the start-up phase until the end of their business operations. The handbook contains clarifications on 120 different regulations and what the concrete steps for the implementation of the procedures.
Clarifications about the four major stages of the business cycle are included in four sections: starting up a business, business operations, change in the business structure and terminations of the operations. As a result, different business situations are ordered as follows:
The guide is prepared after a survey among the entrepreneurs about the procedures with which they most often have difficulties. The goals are to encourage the entrepreneurship and to help the SME to better understand and apply the legal framework.
The online guide could be accessed in Bulgarian here.
And in English here.