The European Investment Bank (EIB) granted two new loans in Bulgaria:
The loan agreement with Raiffeisen Leasing Bulgaria will support projects by some 300 Bulgarian SMEs and at least 8,000 jobs in the country. According to Raiffeisen, the new credit line will provide financing for a wide scope of companies in the agriculture, manufacturing, transport and logistics sectors and will help them increase their competitiveness.
The €18m loan to Software Group will facilitate the execution of the company’s R&D strategy and strengthen its global reach. Software Group is a global technology company helping financial service providers digitalise their business and successfully go through the process of digital transformation. According to the official statement of the company, in the next three years, Software Group will focus on developing new technologies, platforms and products in the fields of insurance, factoring and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, presented the work of the Agency on the Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia at the “Towards a Competitive and Prosperous Bulgarian Economy” round table organised by the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA) and the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). The forum was held under the patronage of President Rumen Radev and with the participation of ministers, chairpersons of parliamentary committees, branch organizations and owners and managers of companies from different sectors of the economy. The meeting aimed at identifying measures to eliminate the factors that underpin Bulgaria’s economic growth.
The Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia was developed with the help of consultancy experts from the European Commission within the framework of the EC Digital Cities Challenge programme, where Sofia participates alongside 40 other European cities. At the round table Vladimir Danailov presented the work of the Agency on the project as an example of a regional instrument for economic development of the country.
The guidelines of the Strategy draw attention to Bulgarian local IT solutions and developments as a basis for the digitization of the city. The document focuses on intelligent growth supported by digital systems – both in the ICT-based ecosystems of Sofia (on the supply side), and in other industries and services that use digital services for the needs of their business (on the demand side).
The Strategy for Sofia was prepared with the participation of more than 100 representatives of the local ecosystem. Its draft was presented to EC experts and the other cities in the Digital Cities Challenge programme at an academic meeting in February this year. The strategy is based on the Assessment of Sofia’s Digital State report and the online inquiry, dozens of personal interviews and three working meetings with key local stakeholders – institutions, academic circles, the IT sector, utilities and the start-up community – conducted in 2018.
The strategy is currently awaiting completion.
Video from the event.
Pictures from the event.
Financial Tech Forum ‘The Metamorphosis of a Sector – the Digital World of Finance”
For 21st consecutive year, the Financial Tech Forum ‘The Metamorphosis of a Sector – the Digital World of Finance” will gather financial institutions and technology companies to look into the metamorphosis of the industry and to highlight the topics that will shape the evolution of the next-generation financial institutions.
The Financial Tech Forum targets banks, insurance companies, pension insurance companies, regulators, payment operators, financial brokers, microcredit financial companies, including online consulting firms, leasing houses, associations, the Government and FinTech companies.
Website of the event: events.ictmedia.bg/en/event/118
The 4th Annual Conference ‘Strategies for E-commerce Success‘
The Fourth Annual Strategies for E-commerce Success Conference is a regional event that focuses on the most important trends and developments in the e-commerce and digital retail sector. The event covers the rapid evolution of how consumers discover, shop, buy and reveal what shapes the Future of retail. An increasing number of established retailers are turning online looking for new customers and new ways to innovate and grow.
The conference also provides business opportunities for the entire e-commerce ecosystem: from merchants to platforms, hosting providers, logistics providers, payment processing and other online businesses solutions.
For more information, please visit events.economedia.bg/en/event/94
NEXT BLOCK Sofia 2.0
After the successful launch of NEXT BLOCK in Sofia in 2018, the conference is back with its second edition – NEXT BLOCK Sofia 2.0 on April 12 of 2019.
Blockchain executives, opinion leaders, top-tier investors will gather for fruitful discussions and in-depth networking.
The latest iteration of NEXT BLOCK Sofia 2.0 will address critical questions around the expected rise of security tokens, hurdles towards crypto’s mass adoption and the future of blockchain technology as we head into 2019. For more details, please check: NEXT-BLOCK.ORG
MachTech & InnoTech Expo
MachTech & InnoTech Expo is an international trade fair for machinery, technology and industrial equipment, which takes place once a year in Sofia. It is a B2B forum for the engineering industry in Bulgaria and other European countries. International exhibitors represent the latest products, equipments and technologies in the fields of engineering, metal processing, surface technology, laser technology, welding, hydraulics, pneumatics and tools.
MachTech & InnoTech Expo is aimed at professionals only and it offers its visitors, including engineers, technicians and other decision-makers from manufacturing companies, the opportunity to socialize and exchange information about the trends and
More than 80% of the Swedish companies in Bulgaria plan to invest in their business during the current year. This information is based on a survey made by Business Sweden and is conducted in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy. The companies plan to invest the majority of their capital in staff, digital technologies, production and office facilities.
The data was presented by H.Е. Louise Bergholm, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to Bulgaria, during the Opportunities and challenges for the business in Bulgaria meeting, organised by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), the Swedish Embassy in Bulgaria and the Swedish-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce.
Thirty-two Swedish subsidiaries in Bulgaria participated in the survey. Almost one third of them operate in the industry, while the others operate in the sectors of services, telecommunications, healthcare, transportation, constructions, etc. The majority of the companies offer B2B services for other companies.
In general, the Swedish business in Bulgaria has a positive attitude: 76% of the participants in the survey expect growth in their sector, and 84% are optimistic for 2020 as well. The report points out that the strong advantages of our country are the EU membership, the low income tax, the well-prepared employees and the competitive labour costs.
According to the Swedish companies (47%), the biggest challenge for growth in Bulgaria is the process of recruiting suitable employees. The analysis notes that the lack of people and the continuous growth of the economy could increase the remunerations in mid-term plan.
Almost half of the participants in the survey point that competition is also a challenge. At the same time, 40% consider the need for additional measures for relief of the administrative burden as another challenge.
Sofia is placed 90th amongst 133 countries around the world in this year edition of Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living 2019. In fact, our capital rises up by 29 positions compared to 2018 and is placed among the cities that made the biggest change in ranking compared to the previous year.
According to the report: “Bulgaria is an economically stable east European country, which pegs its currency, the Bulgarian lev, to the euro but is yet to join the Eurozone. Like many cities in the region, Sofia continues to offer good value for money. Nevertheless, prices for groceries in the capital city are beginning to converge with west European destinations in anticipation of the country adopting the euro currency in the coming years. Growth in food prices (one of the main drivers of the 3% inflation in the country for 2018) averaged 2.6% year on year in December 2018. Utility prices (electricity, gas, district heating and water) as well as recreation and culture prices, continued to rise at the slightly higher pace of around 4% over the last 12 months.”
When making the ranking, Economist Intelligence Unit compares prices of more than 150 goods and services as commodities, home appliances, house rents, monthly public services, transportation, cosmetics, clothes, private school taxes, restaurant prices, as well as the price of theatre, concert or cinema tickets.
For the first time in the history of the ranking, the top spot is occupied by three cities at the same time: Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong. The top three positions are completed by Zurich and Geneva. At the bottom of the ranking are the cheapest cities in the world: Caracas (Venezuela), Damascus (Syria) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan).
Bulgaria is placed 35th in terms of opportunities for women around the world according to the Women’s Liveability Index 2019 survey. The survey includes hundred countries and ranks them according to 20 different indicators such as gender equality, opportunities for professional career, representation of women in science, politics and on management positions, traffic and violence protection, access to education, number of women entrepreneurs, etc.
Bulgaria has a leading position in the number of women managers (10th place with 49%), it is 13th in the percentage of women on ministry positions and 16th in number of women in the National Assembly (25.4%). However, Bulgaria is placed 48th in the category for women entrepreneurs.
Sofia Tech Park starts its new program for support of innovators and start-up companies from Sofia and Bulgaria. The goals and instruments of the program were presented at the first Investum Supersonic conference organised by the science and technology park.
The Sofia Tech Park program will focus on the applied science and the commercialisation of the research activities from Sofia and Bulgaria. It will be implemented in partnership with Source Institute, an international organisation for entrepreneurship education. Sofia Tech Park will offer mentorship, trainings, thematic events and special events to help the teams of innovators and entrepreneurs to present their ideas on stage.
For more information, Sofia entrepreneurs with R&D projects can send their requests at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Investum Supersonic conference leading investors from around the country reviewed the current investment climate in Bulgaria and what are the projects that raise the local business interest for investments. The programme included a demo-day of the pre-acceleration program Gargarage, while international lectors presented their experience on how entrepreneurs could overcome the funding and scaling barriers. All of the conference details as well as pictures can be found here.
Photos are also featured on Sofia Tech Park’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/SofiaTechPark/?ref=bookmarks
The application process is now open for INNOWWIDE – the new European programme for seed funding of projects assessing the competitiveness and the potential for entering the USA market of innovations, services and products. At least 120 innovative SMEs and start-ups from the EU will be supported with up to €60,000 of funding per project. The funds will cover the costs of market surveys, fees of consultants in the EU and/or in the USA, expenses for local and American contractors, subcontractors and others. Organisations interested in markets such as Russia, Brazil, Mexico, China, India and other markets outside Europe can also apply for the programme.
The deadline for the applications and the proposals is from April 1 until May 31, 2019. The required documents are available here: Call Text and Guidelines.
Sofia-based companies with projects, new products and commercial ideas can refer for assistance to Mr. Ivo Konstantinov from the Economic and Commercial Section at the Bulgarian Embassy of the United States in Washington, D.C. The applying organisation will receive recommendations and contacts with various potential American partners, part of the INNOWWIDE program. According to the type of their project, the participants can rely on receiving contacts with research laboratories in more than 20 universities, Bulgarians in the US who consult startups in the US, innovation and commerce centres, etc.
For contacts and support:
Tel.+1 202 332 6609
Tel. +1 202 387 5770
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BGEconOfficeUSA/
Commercial Counselor and Trade Attache
Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria
Sofia Municipal Council has approved the plan for two subway extensions. The third line planned to be 6 km long will link the Military Academy with Arena Armeec Hall and Poligona residential district. Another stretch of 2 km. to the first metro diameter will connect the Business Park with the Simeonovo lift. There will be two stops along the route that aim to provide an underground transport to Sofia Ring Mall and to make a connection between the metro and the lift.
The construction of the new routes is scheduled to start in 2021.
Five metro stations along the stretch from Patriarch Evtimii Blvd. to Krasno Selo district are expected to be put into operation this fall. By the end of the year, three new stations should be operational towards Vladimir Vazov Blvd., and in 2020 another 4 km, stretching from Ovcha Kupel residential district to the ring road near Gorna Bania.
The construction of a new settlement situated 20 km. away from the capital in the region of Plana mountain, between Sofia and Samokov, is planned to start as of this spring. The town, with a capacity to accommodate some 3 000 people, will be named Plana Heights. It is scheduled to be completed within 5 to 7 years.
Kindergartens, elementary school, retail space, sports facilities, etc. are planned to be built on an area of over 2 000 decares. The costs of laying on electricity and water to the area, as well as repairing the surrounding roads, will be at the expense of the landowner.
Residents of Plana Heights will be able to invest both in finished construction and the purchase of land they will be able to build on. According to preliminary estimates, the prices of most houses in the town will be close to those of a three-room apartment in the outskirts of Sofia.
The project for the new settlement is owned by the Israeli businessman Avinoam Kartieli, president of the “Bulgaria – Israel Binational Chamber of Commerce”. You can find additional information about the idea of building the new settlement here.
The municipal initiative Vision Sofia published a survey on Sofia’s morphology with combined databases on the buildings and the demography of the capital. The survey provides information on the construction of individual areas, population density by neighborhood and demography (age, education, etc.), concentration of certain types
The Council of Ministers plans major amendments in the model of administrative service. The move aims at reducing the administrative burden and improving the administrative services to citizens and businesses. Public consultations have already been conducted and amendments to a total of 142 different acts are foreseen. These changes are expected to affect the entire Administrative Procedure Code.
The changes are about to considerably reduce the need for citizens and businesses to submit paper documents to different governmental and municipal authorities. The departments will exchange all the necessary data, documents and information available electronically in the public state and municipal registers. Citizens and businesses will only need to submit personal or business information required by administrators to officially request the data.
Тhe documents that will be subject to official check include commercial registration, registration of non-profit legal entities, registration of BULSTAT, documents entered into the Commercial Register such as annual financial statements, announced company acts and articles of association, tax, insurance and customs liabilities, registration of certain education and qualification, data on ownership and established rights entered in the Property Register, data on personnel under labor contracts, available building permits, building use permits, cadastral data, certificates of criminal record, etc.
The new requirements for official obtaining of information in the provision of services will apply not only to state and municipal administrations but also to private organizations providing public services in such spheres as education, health, water and sewerage, heat supply, electric power transmission, electric power supply, electric power distribution, gas supply, telecommunication, post, transport, banking, insurance, pension, social organizations, etc. Official checks will also be carried out by the so called “persons performing public functions”, such as notaries, bailiffs, registration organizations, etc. They all will be able to check the tax, legal, insurance and other statuses by themselves, and their customers won’t be required to provide paper copies.
The planned amendments will be made in a move to digitalise a large number of services to citizens and companies and their to transform them into internal administrative inquiries.
All views and opinions expressed on the proposed legal amendments are published on the Public Consultation Portal.
Ten Bulgarian startups will receive preferential access to the Next Web Conference (TNW Conference 2019) – the technology festival in Amsterdam, considered as the heart of the startup environment in Europe, which this year will take place on May 9-10.
Thanks to the team of Sofia Tech Park, more Bulgarian startups will be able to attend TNW, as they have negotiated with the organizers a 50% discount from the standard price of the pass for the first ten registered Bulgarian companies (EUR 149 instead of EUR 299) and 20% for all the other startups. Furthermore, an opportunity to present business ideas to potential investors will also be available.
In order to apply for registration with a discount, please follow the link to the registration form.
For questions and additional information, please contact the team of Sofia Tech Park: Mrs. Tanya Tsigularova, Business Development department, phone: (+359) 889 900 609, e-mail: email@example.com.
The passes enable full access to all the events in the two-day conference programme, including lectures, panel discussions, workshops, meetings with investors and mentors, parties and other social events. Festival participants will have access to an online platform at TNW’s website, where they will be able to organize in advance their programme by selecting from a variety of initiatives and appointing attendance or B2B meetings.
The Next Web Conference is the largest conference dedicated to innovation, startups and technologies in Europe. The event brings together 17 500 visitors a day, 7 000 companies from over 100 countries, 72% of the visitors are the decision makers in the organisation they represent.
This is the 14th edition of the festival and this year it will take place at a new, bigger venue – a former shipyard in the Amsterdam Noord residential district, which today is a creative center for artists and entrepreneurs. There is a convenient free of charge ferry to the festival area.
Applications are now open for Strategy+Business Lab prEXCELerator 2019. This year the pre-accelerator will cover fifteen different industries and provide access to more than a hundred experts in different areas.
What distinguishes the prEXCELerator is that participation is not mandatorily linked to the establishment of a legal entity during or following the validation stage. Participation in the prEXCELerator and the access to the resources provided is not connected to a requirement for equity in the newly-established entities in exchange for the service. The participants will have access not only to mentors but also to the expertise and professional network of more than a hundred experts in fifteen Advisory boards, categorised by industries. The start-ups that will be approved at the end of the prEXCELerator by the Advisory boards as successfully validated or pivoted will have access to not just one but various sources of funding, both local or external with direct access to markets outside Bulgaria.
There are no age restrictions for individual candidates, or specific requirements for the companies. However, projects for products or services will be accepted if they provide industry solution applying at least one of the thirteen digital technologies in the focus of the prEXCELerator. Hybrid ideas could be in a stage of validation or looking for funding, new markets expansion, or shifting to a new strategy (pivoting). The programme in 2019 aims to attract not only IT engineers but also specialists from the entire engineer sphere and all industries.
Projects are required to fulfil two eligible criteria in order to apply as ideas with a hybrid application:
The applicants will go through two selection stages. The first one is an interview and the successful candidates will be admitted to the three-week preparatory phase of the prEXCELerator. The teams will be prepared for the first event when they will be allowed to present their ideas in front of the expert Advisory boards. After this second stage, ten startups from
Sustainable Cities Fund, a company incorporated under the Obligations and Contracts Act, announces a funding procedure for projects that contribute to sustainable regional, economic and social development on the territory of Sofia and southern Bulgaria. The loans are long-term and with low interests. They are part of the Urban Development Fund financial instrument, funded under the Operational Program “Regions in Growth” 2014-2020.
The total financial resource of the Fund amounts to BGN 342,37 million. BGN 134,3 million of them are allocated for Sofia. Support will be provided to projects in the fields of urban environment, sports and cultural infrastructure, energy efficiency in single-family residential buildings and student dormitories, areas with economic development potential, integrated urban transport, as well as cultural and religious heritage sites of national and global importance.
Own contribution should be at least 15% of the project cost, with 15-20 year repayment term and a grace period of 18 to 36 months.
The criteria and application procedure are described in details here.
Individuals and organizations providing solutions for climate change can now apply for Climate-KIC’s expert exchange program called Pioneers into Practice. Bulgaria is part of the program for second year in a row. Locally, the initiative is managed by the non-governmental organization Cleantech Bulgaria.
Pioneers into Practice is open for professionals, companies, NGOs, research institutes and organizations in the fields of water, soil and waste management, production processes, climate change, sustainable practices, energy and green business. Both hosts and guests of the exchange program are eligible to apply.
The program is divided in two stages. From April to June, participants will be trained on innovations and sustainable solutions, and at the expert exchange in September and October, the specialists will be assigned to different organizations in one of the other 21 EU member states included in the program. Companies and organizations will be able to work with an external expert on a preliminary set project.
The application deadline is April 11 on the website of the initiative.