The third edition of Innovation Explorer was held in a crowded hall and many questions from the audience to the keynote speakers. The forum took place on February 23 and met the expectations to give stage to the ideas of tomorrow and the ambassadors of the future to collide and unite different points of view in a common direction. This year the hall of Sofia Event Center brought together people from around the world to talk about innovations. In the article below you will find more about the top speakers and videos from the presentations.
Dex Torricke-Barton – the first lecturer in the program. Barton is a former head of the communications department of Space X, and founder of Onwards. He is one of those people who leave behind a dream job to dedicate themselves to a socially meaningful cause. He has crafted the voices of some of the world’s most influential organizations and leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Erik Schmid, and today he is a passionate defender of causes with global impact and initiates discussions on how technologies of today can serve to the largest possible number of people around the globe. His project Onwards aims to build a global society which values and encourages open doors and respect for people who belong to different communities. He believes that isolated societies will cause distortion of the meaning and the application of innovations. Video record from his lecture is published on the facebook page of Innovation Starter.
Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom – the Chief Impact Officer for Singularity University. Her talk Space Innovation in an Exponential World was about her experience with space missions and the role of the state governments in space projects. In her presentation, she mentioned two Bulgarian projects – Space Challengers which is the biggest free Educational Program in the field of space science and exponential technologies in Europe and EnduroSat – the Bulgarian company that provides innovative space communication satellite solutions for a range of missions from low Earth orbit to Solar System exploration. Why did she mention the two companies in her presentation – find out in the video from her talk.
Sheldon Brown – Director at The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the third guest on stage. Sheldon Brown is a visual artist known for creating art installations, stimulating the imagination. In his talk
The WEBIT.Festival Europe 2017 team will let a group of young and ambitious volunteers to join them behind the scenes at the prestigious festival to be held this year on April 25-26, 2017 in Sofia Tech Park. A total of 200 volunteers will be selected, and they will be required to be active, responsible and outgoing individuals with interest in the subject of the festival, namely global digital transformations. Their responsibilities will include organization during the event, reception of delegates and speakers, VIP guests’ assistants, exhibitor and startup halls assistants, media corner assistants, photography assistants.
The young people will have the exclusive opportunity to meet in person global leaders and innovators changing the world with their products, services and causes, and to draw on their experience and ideas. The volunteers will be busy either one full day or half day of each of the two days. The WEBIT.Festival Europe 2017 team will also need a few volunteers on the day before the festival. The rest of the time the volunteers will be able to enjoy the event as visitors, as they will receive a one day full access ticket. A complete description of the requirements and the application form can be found on the website of the festival.
The motto of the festival this year is re:Inventing Europe’s Future. Visitors will have the chance to choose between 12 parallel conferences. The topics are mobility, financial technology, healthcare technology, digital policy, smart cities, artificial intelligence, virtual reality.
Bulgaria is among the five destinations in the world along with Istanbul, Dubai, Singapore and Delhi, where this influential global event for the future, entrepreneurship, investment and technologies that change the world, takes place annually. Among the already confirmed speakers in Sofia are names like “Flying man” David Mayman – the first jet pack (reactive backpack) pilot in the world, Gareth Williams, Founder of the sold for GBP 1.7 bln Skyscanner, Fara Warner, Global Editorial Director of Wall Street Journal Custom Studios, Jason Jercinovic, Global Director and President of Havas Worldwide, Chris Clarke, Chief Creative Officer of DigitasLBi, Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes, Jonas Jacobi, Vice President of Cloud and Mobile Strategy at IBM, Cristian Citu, Senior Director of Group Digital Strategy at DHL and many others. We are also looking forward to the competition for entrepreneurs and startups – Founders Games, for which 2 000 startups apply to have the
In May Bulgarian companies will meet with Norwegian businesses and organisations as part of the second stage of the project “Sofia meets Oslo. Oslo meets Sofia” . The initiative aims to strengthen trade relationships between Bulgaria and Norway and to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and good practices within the green innovation, ICT, tech and other sectors, as well as to emphasize on the importance of sustainable development.
The first stage of the project was in January when companies from Norway visited Sofia.
Sofia Investment Agency partners in this project with the Sofia office of the Norwegian state agency “Innovation Norway” which offers financial support for companies focused on the integration of innovative business practices. Innovation Norway covers accommodation and most meals for one person per company.
Every day we come across new mobile applications that entertain, inform or facilitate the user’s’ everyday life. iHELP can do more than that because the app can save lives. Its software creates a network for mutual assistance and brings together families, friends, first aid personnel, medics, firefighters and most of all – ordinary people who are able to give first-aid assistance or want to gain life-saving skills and get prepared to help people in need of emergency assistance.
The project iHELP Bulgaria is managed by Hristo Hristov, who learned about the application during a startup exhibition in the UK in 2013. After six months of negotiations with the author of the idea – a Slovenian entrepreneur, Christo grabs the opportunity to develop iHELP in our country. In the case of emergency, any person with the mobile app installed on his mobile phone can instantly alarm the 112 system (or 911 and 999 in other countries), and with just a click to alert family and friends, and people in the iHELP network. All users within a radius of 500 meters receive SOS alarm that someone close to them needs help. iHELP allows also alerting for another person who is in trouble. The program can guide you with brief instructions for life-saving actions until the arrival of the medical team. It can also track the location of the closest defibrillator.
The app does not replace the functions of the state emergency systems. It just aims to cover the critical few minutes that can preserve someone’s life, until the emergency signal is processed and the ambulance arrives. “Unfortunately, the state’s’ resources are not sufficient all the time and too often we hear about cases in which ambulances are delayed more than 20 minutes. A man without a pulse and breathing starts dying after the third minute, in another 7-8 or so – he is not alive. Our goal is to respond to a critical situation up to the third minute when a volunteer-savior can reach the person in need and try to keep or save his life until the arrival of the emergency team.”, Christov says.
Since 2013 Christo has managed to create a large network of volunteers and has trained more than 900 children to provide first aid. He has a university degree in engineering but his true calling is that of an entrepreneur. At just 29 he was listed in the
Teach For Bulgaria has launched its new campaign for recruitment of teachers. The approved applicants will begin their training in July and will start teaching in September this year. For seven years now the NGO has been finding, training and using the capabilities of people, who are new to the education system but have the skills and talent to inspire and motivate students from vulnerable groups at partner schools of the organization across the country.
The deadline for applications under the program this year is May 1. The campaign is entitled “Children in search of a role model” and challenges the applicants to find the most motivating answers to the difficult questions of the children. You don’t have to be an experienced teacher or to have a professional teaching qualification in order to apply. You need to have a bachelor degree and an attitude that every child deserves equal access to quality education. Graduate students from any specialties, as well as successful professionals from different fields are also eligible. Participants in the program become teachers for two years with a monthly financial incentive of BGN 500 in addition to the salary from the school in one of the 13 regions where the organization plans to work as of September 2017.
During the current school year Teach For Bulgaria is working successfully with 88 partner schools in 10 regions of the country – Vratsa, Lovech, Montana, Pazardzhik, Pernik, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Sofia city, Sofia region and Stara Zagora. The organization also plans to include for the first time three new regions in the next school year – Veliko Tarnovo, Pleven and Sliven. Teach For Bulgaria will work with schools that are aware of their responsibility for the future success of their students and where the participants under the program can be of greatest benefit for the students and local communities. In their applications for partnership with Teach For Bulgaria the schools may fill in both the confirmed positions for which teachers will be needed in September 2017, and the positions that are yet to be confirmed at a later stage. The heads of the schools may submit an application for the program until April 10 in the special section on the website of the organization.
Kristina Tsvetanova, CEO and co-founder of the Austrian company, BLITAB Technology, which has produced the first tablet for blind users, won the EU prize for Rising Innovators Award фор Women Innovators 2017. This is the fourth edition of the contest and the Rising Innovators Award which Tsvetanova won is a new category introduced this year. It recognises excellence in female entrepreneurs aged 30 years or under. The award is at the amount of EUR 20 000, and is Horizon 2020-funded. To be eligible to compete, participants must have founded or co-founded a company before January 2015 with a turnover of at least EUR 100 000, and either they themselves or their companies must have previously benefitted from public or private funding for research and innovation, whatever the source.
All four winners of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators were announced at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Brussels on March 8, International Women’s Day. The other winners are:
1st Prize (EUR 100 000): Michela Magas, of Croatian/British nationality, founder of Stromatolite, Design Innovation Labs in Sweden and UK, building a new generation of incubation and creative technology toolkits for innovation. [Watch video]
2nd Prize (EUR 50 000): Petra Wadström from Sweden, founder of Solvatten, which produces a portable water purifier and water heater that are powered by solar energy. [Watch video]
3rd Prize (EUR 30 000): Claudia Gärtner from Germany, founder of microfluidic ChipShop, which provides “lab-on-a-chip” systems as miniaturized solutions for better diagnostics. [Watch video]
Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises – only 31% of entrepreneurs in the EU are women. The aim of the EU Prize for Women Innovators is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, to recognise the success of women in innovation and create strong role models.
After ten years of EU membership software business in Bulgaria is the best performing sector of the ICT industry in this country, Bulgarian National Radio reported. Data comes from the independent consulting company CBN Pannoff, Stoytcheff& Co. that has been analysing ICT markets and businesses in the country for 26 years.
Total incomes in 2016 reached 1 billion and 20 million euros. This is over 600% growth compared to 139.4 million euro in 2006. That means that 10 years after the entry of Bulgaria into the European Union the software industry has established a firm place in the Bulgarian economy and continues its stable development. If the pace of revenue growth remains unchanged, in 2021 it would reach 4.5% of GDP, which would have ranked the ICT industry among the largest in the country.
Almost 20 000 people occupy ICT positions today compared to 5 000 in 2016, which is 300% growth. Over 90% are young professionals up to 35 years of age, one third of all IT specialists are women. The sector employs some of the most highly-skilled and well-paid professionals in Bulgaria. The annual survey of the Bulgarian Association of Software Companies (BASCOM) shows that the average wage in the sector is four times higher than the country average. Programmers and Project Managers standard is similar to experts working in countries like the UK, for example. However, companies state shortage of ICT specialists and this is slowing down the potential growth in the sector.
(Original article: www.bnr.bg)
The positive figures for dynamic growth in the sector were also presented at the European Forum “Entrepreneurship for Growth” which was held in Sofia on February 23 and continued with a series of business meetings throughout the country. At the meeting in the capital Mayor
Yordanka Fandakova said that Sofia is developing as one of the European capitals with the highest growth of startups in the IT sector. Fandakova pointed out that Sofia ranks 10th in terms of startup companies and 3rd in terms of established companies, with 90% of them being in the ICT field.
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) published a survey among the members of the Chamber on their opinion about the level of education and the demand of the companies for personnel by specialties. The results also include proposals for improvements in the education sector.
Employers once again evaluate the quality of training of university graduates in Bulgaria as unsatisfactory. Nearly two thirds (61%) believe that students need additional knowledge. Employers consider that the main problems are related to specific professional skills and teamwork. The lack of entrepreneurial thinking and approach to work are also a problem, as well as the limited practical knowledge – it is hard for graduate students to put theoretical knowledge in practice.
The main shortage of specialists is in the field of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and economics. The survey also shows lack of medium level staff with specialized skills, such as turners, miller, grinders, fitters, etc. – activities which could not be compensated by the appointment of engineers. More than 70% of the survey respondents expect that in the next 5-10 years professionals with technical education will be needed and 35% – people with economic education.
Some 41% of employers have trained additionally the young people employed by them due to gaps in their education. When they can’t find sufficiently trained staff with proper qualification, most companies invest in training of current employees or hire new employees they additionally train. Only 4% have been looking for opportunities to appoint people from other countries, and every tenth company has invested in technologies which eliminate the need for a job position for the respective activity.
The proposals of employers to improve the qualification level of the staff in Bulgaria include:
– more practical training and correspondence between the university specialties and those demanded on the labor market
– independent external evaluation of students’ knowledge
– funding of specialties should be according to the quality of education, not according to the number of students
– state quota students should be required to work in the country a certain number of years in order to reduce the outflow of personnel
– rewriting of lecture material, so that it is in line with the modern scientific achievements
– dual form of education yields good results and should be introduced in more schools
The same issues and recommendations have also been included in another document – Volume 2
New shared workspace opened at the beginning of March in Dianabad district in Sofia. Work & Share offers more than 300 seats over an area of 5 000 sq. m. Work & Share consists of two main buildings connected by a spacious area for entertainment, relaxation and informal meetings. Each of the main buildings combines shared open space, team offices and cosy chill out areas. The place offers many additional services and amenities – docking stations for bikes, showers, two fully equipped kitchen zones for domestic food lovers. And last but not least – all pets are more than welcome if they don’t want to spend the day home alone.
For freelancers, telecommuters, remote workers and digital nomads Work & Share offers the so-called Hot Desks. Teams and companies can hire a team desk or team office. Various professional events will take place in the daily live of the place. “Work by yourself, but not alone” is the motto of the workspace.
Shared workspaces become increasingly popular both in the world and in Bulgaria. The infrastructure of such places encourages people from different fields to meet, collaborate, exchange ideas and grow – as a business and as individuals. Five years ago the so-called “office as a service” was considered a business extravagance, today Sofia has dozens of coworking places and they are not simply rent-a-desk places, but also vibrant spaces for events, training sessions and professional forums.
On February 25, 2017, Innovation Starter in cooperation with Cleantech Bulgaria started the Homemade Green Sofia – a new initiative that aims to provoke the residents of the capital to think about how we can make Sofia greener, cleaner and a more pleasant city. And not only to think but to make efforts to bring their own green ideas to live. From February 25 to June 15, 2017, all participants will have to turn their balconies, terraces, yards or nearby green areas into beautifully arranged green spaces. The closing event and the winners’ ceremony will be on June 21 at the Botanical Garden of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.
Participants can send photos of their green projects to apply for one of the following 4 categories:
BGN 15 000 is the total prize fund for all 4 categories, or BGN 3 750 for each category winner.
The organizers of the event will publish image galleries for each application on the Facebook page of the event. Green balconies, gardens and creative spaces with the highest number of likes will be shortlisted for a final evaluation by an expert jury of representatives from the Association of Landscape Architects, “Green Sofia”, National Geographic Bulgaria, the non-governmental association “For the Earth”, etc. to select the winner in each category.
Homemade Green Sofia goes with the media partnership of National Geographic Bulgaria, Capital.bg, Dnevnik.bg., the general support of IKEA, Volkswagen and in partnership with Overgas, and with the support of “Green Sofia”, “Public Initiative for safe playgrounds”, “Clever Book” Publishing house, Sofia University Botanical Garden, Nemetschek Bulgaria, SuperHosting Bulgaria, ABC Design & Communications, Bulgarian Association for People Management and more.
Bulgaria ranks higher than previous years in two 2017 index editions – The Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index and Best Countries for Business by Forbes. Bulgaria ranked 47th in Economic Freedom Index (up from 60th place) in 2016, and 38th (up from 45th) in Forbes.
Bulgaria falls into the group of moderately free economic countries in Economic Freedom Index together with Cyprus, Montenegro, Turkey, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the analysis for Bulgaria the foundation reported that competitive flat tax and the system of open trade, supported by a relatively effective regulatory frame, encourages private sector development, while the financial sector shows relatively high levels of durability. The management of public finances is also at a satisfactory level and the public debt is still among the lowest in the region, while the budget deficit continues to decline.
However, “Heritage” has made several criticisms with respect to insufficient institutional reforms which are especially necessary in judicial effectiveness and government integrity.
The index covers 10 freedoms – from property rights to entrepreneurship – in 186 countries, through 12 quantitative and qualitative factors, grouped into four broad categories: Rule of law, Government size, Regulatory efficiency and Open markets. Bulgaria ranks relatively higher in terms of the Government size category, particularly in terms of the Tax burden and Fiscal health criteria. In terms of the Regulatory efficiency category, launching a business has become less time-consuming, and licensing requirements have been eased.
In Forbes annual list of best 139 countries for business 2017, Bulgaria climbed up 7 positions higher, up to 38th in the list. Sweden topped the list this year, with New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ireland close behind. In the first 50 countries 14 countries from the CEE region are mentioned, with the first five: Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia and Poland. The first 14 CEE countries are as follows: Estonia: 13, Lithuania: 15, Slovenia: 20, Latvia: 25, Poland: 31, Czech Republic: 34, Macedonia: 35, Bulgaria: 38, Slovakia: 40, Hungary: 41, Georgia: 43, Romania: 45, Croatia: 46, Montenegro: 50.
Forbes evaluated 11 business environment factors when compiling the list such as property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), bureaucracy, investor protection and stock market performance.
The complete list is available here: http://www.forbes.com/best-countries-for-business/list/3/#tab:overall
Consulting and auditing company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) published in early March the complete results of its second survey among business leaders in Bulgaria, part of the 20th annual global survey of the company. The survey was conducted among 103 top managers of leading Bulgarian companies and the global survey comprised a total of 1 379 men and women at leadership positions from 79 countries worldwide.
Here are the main conclusions of the survey.
Bulgarian CEOs are optimistic about the development of the world economy, technology and business in 2017. Every third believes that the global economic situation will improve over the next 12 months. In general, we are more optimistic compared to the rest of the world because as many as 90% have declared confidence in their business growth in the next three years. The evaluation of the leaders worldwide also seems more optimistic than expected in view of some unexpected events in 2016. More than half of the survey respondents (51%) are very confident in the mid-term perspectives for their companies, compared to 49% last year, while 38% are very optimistic about the growth perspectives in the short run, compared to 35% last year. In Bulgaria this percentage is even higher – 41% of business leaders are very confident in the short-term growth perspectives of their companies.
Bozhidar Neychev, managing partner of PwC for Southeast Europe, said in an interview that the results do not mean that our executives are more naive than their peers abroad. They are facing some main concerns that leaders accept as existing threats. They include the unstable economic growth and global uncertainty. In Bulgaria the future of the Eurozone replaced over-regulation as a major threat and noted a significant increase compared to last year – from 42% to 78%. Therefore, a few CEOs talk about potential growth through mergers and acquisitions, as they rather rely on organic growth, which is defined as moderate realistic optimism.
In terms of human resources, 48% of Bulgarian business leaders expect the number of their employees to go up in the next 12 months. Globally, there are concerns that new technology will eliminate some jobs and will increase unemployment, but in Bulgaria this concern is not relevant yet. Bulgarian businessmen said that despite technological progress, they still need more people and appreciate more skills that cannot be performed by machines. 83% of Bulgarian CEOs admit that it is