Digitisation can be the next big engine for sustainable growth for Bulgaria, adding 1% extra growth per year to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country by 2025. This is stated in McKinsey consulting company’s report The rise of Digital Challengers: How digitalisation can become the new growth engine for Bulgaria and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), published at the end of January.
The report examines the size and growth rate of the digital economies in ten Central and Eastern European countries: Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. According to the survey, overcoming the digital backwardness of Bulgaria compared to Western and Northern Europe would provide the country’s digital economy a growth of 10.8% in the next five years, from the present 5.2% to 16% of GDP. As a result, Bulgaria would be able to add up to 8 billion euro of GDP by 2025.
According to McKinsey’s analysts, the digital economy in Bulgaria represents a comparable share in the GDP (6.7%), and it is close to that of the large markets (6.9%). Still, the country is way behind the digital leaders such as Sweden, where this share reaches 9%.
However, the digital economy in Bulgaria has grown two and a half times faster compared to the five major markets of Europe – by 8.2% compared to 3.1%. As a result, Bulgaria can claim the title of a digital competitor, says the report.
Between 1996 and 2017, the ten countries report an average increase of 114% in GDP per capita. But in recent years, traditional engines of economic growth have begun to slow down and CEE economies have a capital that is 80% lower compared to the largest EU countries. Labour costs in the whole region rise at a very low rate (average of 5.2% in 2018 in Bulgaria) and labour productivity is lagging behind the rates in Western European countries. For example, the one-hour productivity in Bulgaria reaches 22 euros, while for digital leaders in Europe it reaches 64 euros.
However, Bulgaria is in a good position to use the increased levels of digitisation. Its economy is relatively small and opened, and relies on trade. Thus, it is similar to the other digital competitors, as well as to the digital leaders (and is different from the large Western economies in the European Union and their huge
The green tram rails in the area of Ruski Pametnik Square will be extended to Macedonia Square and a new small city park will be constructed along the stretch. The alley will be enriched with 467 new trees and 3720 square meters of green areas, recreation areas and cross-connections for crossings of the tramway. A convenient pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be provided and the currently available 163 parking spaces, as well as the local lanes will be preserved. Sofia Municipality is working on the project in cooperation with the French studio “Wilmotte Architects“.
Sofia Municipality has renewed the fleet of the social transport service for people with disabilities with 13 new Renault buses. Seven of them are already operational, and gradually the Municipality with put another 8 into operation. The vehicles meet the Euro 6 standard and are equipped with wheelchair lifts, assistant seats and air-conditioners. The working hours for the service are extended from 6 am to 11 pm, as the transport should be requested 12 hours in advance. The Social Services Directorate of Sofia Municipality serves between 600-700 requests a month for transportation of people with disabilities to workplaces, health facilities, etc.
A new buffer parking lot with 193 parking spaces will be opened in August this year at Vasil Levski Stadium metro station, the Sofia Urban Mobility Center announced. The “Park and Travel” service will also offer a parking lot. The service is a combination of the use of a private vehicle to the buffer parking lot with free parking when using the metro.
Another two parking lots are scheduled to be repaired this year – the underground parking lot to the Central Railway Station, which has 73 parking spaces, and an above-ground parking lot in Nadezhda district.
As of May 2019 another airline will operate flights from Sofia to Tel Aviv. Ryanair will launch round trip flights twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Currently, Wizz Air also offers flights to the Israeli city. Furthermore, it carries passengers to another popular destination in Israel, the resort town of Eilat. By November 2018 Bulgaria was visited by some 236 000 Israeli tourists and Bulgarians who traveled to Israel totaled 19 000, according to preliminary NSI data.
Payhawk is among the five finalists in the international Pitch and Power Competition of Visa and Wirecard. Being among the Top 5 Best Quests gives the Bulgarian company the right to present its product to the start-up competition at the Paris Fintech Forum 2019.
Payhawk creates a new generation of virtual and physical Mastercard and Visa corporate cards with automated cost management. The technology monitors, analyzes and retrieves information from payment documents, thus saving time for the employees and the accountants to administer business payments. Among the key features of the product are: automatic accounting, budgeting, forecasting and cost reporting, digitalisation of payment documents and data collection from invoices and notes. The service also provides a mobile application and a web portal for cost control and optimisation.
The company works with a small team and was established only a year ago, but managed to open an office in London in addition to the one in Sofia. The inclusion of Payhawk among the companies admitted to the Paris Fintech Forum conference is a chance for the start-up to promote its product and to get additional funding for further growing and development.
The specialized two-day Financial Technology Forum in Paris will be held for a third consecutive year. More than 2,600 attendees from 60 countries around the world are expected to gather for the keynote speeches of 240 executives from banks, insurance companies, telecoms, regulatory authorities, and fintech organizations. Together they will outline the trends in this rapidly growing industry.
The Swedish-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce (SweCham Bulgaria) was established in Sofia. The official opening ceremony was held on January 17 with the presence of the Swedish Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E Louise Bergholm and the Bulgarian Deputy Economy Minister Liliya Ivanova.
SweCham Bulgaria will focus on the Swedish-related business in Bulgaria and the culture of Sweden.
Sweden’s ambassador to Bulgaria, Louise Bergholm, emphasised the strong presence of Swedish firms, with close to 40 subsidiaries of Swedish companies present in Bulgaria, with an increasing number of Swedish investments in the digital economy.
🇸🇪🇧🇬Swedish Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce now up and running. Thanks to founding members @AstraZeneca @TrelleborgSeals @Saab Join the chamber: https://t.co/Z4QLMkb12s @TeamSwedenSE @BulChamber @MoEBulgaria @SweMFA pic.twitter.com/ylWthdWZ18
— Amb Bergholm (@SwedeninBG) January 18, 2019
“In the past 13 years, Swedish investment in Bulgaria reached nearly 300 million euro, with an 11.3% growth in volume of trade by October 2018, to a value of nearly 343 million euro. Bulgaria’s Economy Ministry would make every effort to make Bulgaria an even more attractive investment destination for Swedish capital,” Deputy Economy Minister Liliya Ivanova said at the opening ceremony.
According to data announced at the launching event, 87% of the Swedish companies in Bulgaria expect to expand in the mid-term, while 90% expect to grow their turnover in the next three years. Half of the enterprises expect to increase staff levels in 2019, while more than 50% expect to do so in the next three years.
The purpose of the newly established Swedish-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce will be to contribute to the development of business relations and business-related initiatives between Sweden and the Republic of Bulgaria.
According to the official announcement, the Chamber will do the following to attain its goals:
To join SweCham Bulgaria, please register on the website: https://www.swechambulgaria.org/membership/
This year, the first co-studying space might open in Sofia. It will be named StudyHub and is initiated by the Students in Action Association, which is currently looking for partners and investors for the realisation of the project.
StudyHub will be a co-studying space following the model of the co-working spaces. It will be equipped with rooms for individual studying as well as a common space where students from different universities and specialties can interact with each other and attend events and open lectures. StudyHub will be located in Studentski grad, near urban transport stations, and will offer a twenty-four-hour access, seven days a week. It will also be adapted for people with disabilities, while constant video surveillance will ensure its security. The access will be granted via subscription cards, which will be available for students from every university.
The project leaders from Students in Action are a team of young people from two Sofia universities – Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and New Bulgarian University. The idea was influenced by the social environment of Studentski grad – it’s congested with over 200 places of entertainment and clubs, but has only one library. Those surroundings provoked the marketing student Martina Georgieva to look for a quieter place to study, like the coffee house of a gas-station. Which, as it appeared, was a study place for a lot of students.
That was the beginning of the StudyHub project – a place with twenty-four-hour access, where the young people of Sofia can study, prepare for lectures, collaborate and evolve together on their journey from the university to professional realisation.
Before gaining the initial resources for realising the project, the team of StudyHub made a survey among over 1000 students in order to ascertain the need and expectations of a co-studying space for the student community. 75% of the respondents were positive that a co-studying space is needed.
In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, etc. such places are integrated within the university campuses. It’s also not rare to find a library working in a similar way, providing twenty-four-hour access, with the user fees being included in the university tuition. Such co-studying spaces facilitate the educational process and help the students to form out-of-class communities.
Currently no such co-studying spaces are available in Bulgaria. The team’s viewpoint is that the creation of such a space could build an active student community, enhance
Bulgaria’s largest IT community DEV.BG launched its new project – the HireHeroes platform, which helps IT specialists to choose the most suitable company for their career development. Following direct recommendations from sector professionals, candidates can connect with the organizations that suit best their profile and career goals.
The search for information, advice and recommendation from experienced IT specialists is turning into more and more preferred way for specialists in the sector to find their next job. The team behind the new platform believes that an instrument that organizes this trend in a simple and quick process will lead to more adequate appointments given the shortage of specialists and fluctuation of labor force in the industry, which are the main barriers to growth in the sector.
Advantages of the platform
The referees (Hire Heroes) in the network are active IT professionals, proven experts and public opinion leaders. Their role as recommenders with industry expertise and knowledge is a core value of the platform. Their participation as consultants and referees shortens the long process of research, selection and numerous interviews both for candidates and companies.
‘The shortage of specialists and the frequent change of the workplace are the main problems that hamper the growth in the industry’, says Svetoslav Dimov, manager of DEV.BG. ‘If you are a good specialist but you change your job all the time, it leads to the loss of personal satisfaction. For companies, the constant staff fluctuations are an additional resource that reduces productivity and slows down their growth. With the HireHeroes model, the right people will go to the right companies that will keep them longer.’
How does the platform work?
The Fund of Funds is preparing a procedure for the implementation of a new financial instrument – the Technology Transfer Fund (TTF), funded by the “Innovation and Competitiveness” 2014-2020 Operational Program (OPIC).
The instrument targets investments in the development of innovation potential in the fields of mechatronics and clean technologies, informatics and information and communication technologies, industry for healthy life and biotechnology, new technologies in creative and recreational industries. The resource amounts EUR 30 million, but additional co-financing from private investors is expected as well.
The structure of the instrument is highly flexible and will vary in a wide range, from EUR 25 thousand to EUR 5 million. TTF will invest primarily in early-stage development projects developed by universities, technology parks, research laboratories, etc.
Currently, there are ongoing market consultations with potential financial intermediaries and key players. The results will be available on the website of the Fund of Funds after February 8.
The Fund for Sustainable Cities announced a procedure for funding projects under the Urban Development Fund financial instrument through long-term, low-interest loans for projects that contribute to the sustainable regional, economic and social development on the territory of Sofia and Southern Bulgaria. The total amount of the fund’s resource is BGN 342.37 million.
Eligible end recipients are municipalities, municipal companies, universities, private companies, public-private partnerships and others, for the implementation of urban projects, sports and cultural infrastructure, ecological and sustainable urban transport, energy efficiency of residential buildings and student dormitories, business and industrial areas, tourism and cultural heritage.
The funding requirements and the application documents are published on the official website of the Fund for Sustainable Cities: http://www.citiesfund.bg/
The European Funds for Competitiveness Directorate General – Managing Authority of the ‘‘Innovation and Competitiveness’ 2014-2020 Operational Programme – opened a selection procedure for projects on ‘Improving Production Capacity in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises’ (9BG16RFOP002-2.040).
The procedure aims to improve the production capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises in order to increase their competitiveness and enhance their export potential.
The grant is implemented with the financial support of the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund. The total amount of funds under the procedure is BGN 146 687 250.
Applications are submitted electronically to the following Internet address: https://eumis2020.government.bg.
The deadline for submitting project proposals is May 21, 2019.
Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detailed information, all the conditions and
In October 2018, the EU signed the long awaited trade and investment agreements with Singapore. The new regulations will help companies benefit from easier exchange of goods and services, enhanced investment and facilitatеd labour market between Singapore and the countries from the EU. The EU-Singapore trade and investment agreements led to increased interest from Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania etc. to work hard over exploring the opportunities of doing business with Singapore.
This article aims to help Bulgarian companies interested in market opportunities in Singapore by providing key facts on the agreements and useful links to more detailed information about the regulations in the different sectors and types of activities. You will also find a list of organisations providing consultancy and trade support services to facilitate the bilateral partnerships between Bulgaria and Singapore.
A snapshot of the EU-Singapore trade
Singapore is the 20th smallest country in the world with a population of 5.6 million people, but it is the EU’s 14th largest trade partner in goods, as well as the biggest partner for the Union in the region of Southeast Asia. In 2017, bilateral trade in goods amounted €53.3 billion, with the EU exporting €33.16 billion, mainly cars and machinery, while importing €20.14 billion, in particular chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
The country is a gateway to Southeast Asia and a major transport hub. It has an extensive network of trade agreements with over 30 trading partners and trades more than €550 billion with the rest of the world every year. Over 10 000 European companies have set up their offices or regional hubs in Singapore. With a very service-oriented economy, Singapore is also the EU’s 5th largest worldwide trade partner in services and the EU’s 6th destination for foreign direct investment measured in stock.
Benefits under the EU-Singapore agreements
The EU and Singapore negotiated and signed two agreements: the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Investment Protection Agreement (IPA).
On behalf of the organising team, we would like to invite you to take part in the forthcoming 15th South-East European Exhibitions & Conferences on Smart Cities, EE&RES and Save the Planet to be held on 16 – 18 April 2019 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The event is organised by Via Expo, and Sofia Investment Agency will partner the events.
Smart Cities, EE & RES and Save the Planet will present intelligent solutions for buildings, infrastructure, transport and mobility, public services; sustainable alternatives for energy production, distribution, storage and saving; waste utilization and recycling. The event is one of the most important B2B initiatives in South-East Europe that brings novelties to the market, meets buyers and suppliers. The synergy of the good business environment during the show and the numerous promotional services will help the exhibitors get the maximum value out of the participation and to achieve their marketing goals: to enter a new market, to launch innovations, to find local distributors and clients from SEE. For a tenth year in a row the event will include an Austrian Pavilion.
Exhibiting companies from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, the Netherlands will join the events.
Some of the exhibitors expected at the events:
iSentinel®, a smart earthquake protection system, will be presented to the Bulgarian market for the first time.
Innovambiente – a system for municipal waste collection processes management, from startup to collection monitoring. It will be presented by the Italian company Innova.
Intracom Telecom (smart lighting, parking, metering, eHealth), Comicon (building and home automation), VAiOS (video surveillance, alarm systems, access control), the National Cluster for Intelligent Transport and Energy Systems (smart systems in transport) etc. will also join Smart Cities.
EE & RES
‘In Sofia, we will present M7-A03D – one of the most efficient gas turbines in its power class with the industry’s lowest levels of NOx emissions.’ announced Mr. Cristian Athanasovici, Business Development Manager at Kawasaki Gas Turbine Europe.
Herz will draw attention to its latest developments: the first wood chip boiler Herz firematic Condensation 20/35 and the Air-to-Air heat pump with inverter technology.
The Uniconfort product range comprises: biomass boilers, cogeneration installations, remote heating systems.
Save the Planet
Lindner-Recyclingtech sees a growing potential in the SE European market and has
already realized various projects there. The focus of its participation will
Applications for the Most Innovative Company Competition and Best Innovative Project for 2018 of the Innovation Council at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) will be accepted until 22 April 2019. The sixth edition of the competition is organised by the Europe Enterprise Network at BCCI, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and with the assistance of the Bulgarian Development Bank.
The categories in which the companies can apply are two: ‘Best Innovative Project of 2018’ and ‘Most Successful Company that Introduced an Innovative Product in 2018’.
The applications for innovative ideas and developments introduced in 2018 will be reviewed with complete confidentiality by a committee of representatives of the scientific community and the business. The evaluation will proceed following the criteria approved by the Bureau of the Innovation Council. You can check them here.
The annotations for an innovative project should be up to 5 pages long and include up to five addenda – blueprints, 3D illustrations, tables, diagrams and charts, or other supporting documentation that meets the criteria.
The annotations for a company that has implemented an innovative product in 2018 should be up to 12 pages long and should include a description of the company’s production list: models, designs and drawings of the innovative products, description of the equipment required for their production, implemented patents and useful models of inventors from Bulgaria and abroad. In addition, they could include their models and blueprints, or other supporting documentation that meets the criteria.
The applications will be accepted by 17:00 on 22 April 2019 and should be submitted electronically to the Technical Secretary of the BCCI Innovation Council at email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. The awards ceremony will be held in May in the presence of representatives of the media, universities, branch organizations, ministries, banking institutions, entrepreneurs and others.
A wide public discussion about the options for amendment of the Common City Plan of the Sofia Municipality took place on January, 17th. The forum was organized by Vision Sofia 2050 and FOR Urban Development, and gathered over 300 citizens and experts.
The goal of the forum was to discuss the process and the content of a future amendment to the Common City Plan in order to address the needs of all of the groups of stakeholders and the dynamics of the life in the modern cities. The Common City Plan combines urban planning tools that determine and guide the development of the city environment. It has a significant impact on the quality of life, economic activity, mobility, environmental status, resource usage and many other aspects of urban life.
In the first part of the forum, some previously identified problems were presented as well as suggestions for their solutions. These topics were generated during a series of focus groups research with the participation of professionals from different fields, held at the end of 2018.
The open discussion that followed was focused on the following case studies, defined as major ones by the focus groups :
– How to reach a consensus on the city policies, shared by as many stakeholders as possible
– What should be the core concept and the content of the Common City Plan and how it can become more accessible, transparent and clear
– How can a public-private consensus be achieved and how could the public interest be protected
– How the process of creation, monitoring, implementing and modifying the Common City Plan should be managed
– Why is the data important and why is the data-based planning necessary
– What is the legal framework and is there a need for implementing changes into it
Here are some of the opinions and suggestions from the public discussion:
– The plan should be better suited for the opportunities and the resources of the municipality. Also, there should be a search for a better balance between the local and central government in favor of Sofia Municipality.
– The plan should have more flexible and dynamic elements for its implementation, and a Dictionary , part of the Common City Plan, should be created. It would help the people to better understand the problems as well as their own engagement with them.
– The Common City
Sofia Municipality has applied for participation in the eight edition of the BAIT Awards for significant contribution to the development of information and communication technologies in 2018. The Municipality plans to participate with its Call Sofia mobile application in the ‘Municipal Administration’ category. The application allows fast submission of alerts for any deviation from the normal urban environment directly to the relevant administrative unit.
Call Sofia is fully integrated with the web-based information system of the Call Center of Sofia Municipality, the Administrative Information Systems of the Central Administration, the District Administrations as well as Sofia Inspectorate and Sofia Municipal Companies. The built-in features allow automatic location of the problem through the location of the mobile device, visualization through images or other files, connection of the alert with other already submitted alerts for the same location.
The app provides the users with follow-up information about alerts submitted by them, status updates and other notifications. After downloading and signing up to the app, access is also possible through Google and Facebook.
The application is part of the policy of Sofia Municipality to build electronic service through continuous, systematic and purposeful improvement of the access of citizens and guests of the capital to the municipal administration in a 24/7 regime for reporting, analysis and solving of emerging cases or necessary services. The application is free of charge and will be active as of the end of January 2019.
This year, the ‘Municipal Administration’ category attracts great interest. A total of 15 applications have been submitted by 14 Bulgarian municipalities for projects implemented by them in the field of administrative service of the citizens and the business. The jury will announce the nominees in this and the other 9 categories in mid-February.