More than 2000 visitors from 50 countries, leading investors and dozens of scientists, visionaries and managers of tech companies arrived in Sofia to participate in the summer edition of the largest forum for innovative technologies Webit. The event took place in the heart of the city, in the National Palace of Culture and besides keynote speaches and panel discussion on the main stage, part of the programme were two parallel forums – the InvestX investment forum and this year’s edition of Digital Sofia, organized by the Sofia Municipality.
Webit’s core message this year was focused on the development and impact of artificial intelligence and how humanity is adapting.
In the opening panel, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova encouraged the entrepreneurs at Webit to invest in Bulgaria’s young talents – educated dreamers and the city’s biggest asset. “When more than 10 years ago we started talking about urban digital solutions, to many that sounded strange, but my mission has always been education, science, and their effective involvement in the development of both the country’s potential and in solving the city’s challenges. Technology transforms our lives, we need to use it to improve the quality of life” – the Mayor said in his welcoming remarks to the audience
She pointed out that Sofia has become not only a preferred place to live, but also an economic, educational and cultural center, thanks to the efforts of many people, and namely those of the Municipality’s investment team.
“A few years ago, I took a decision to launch the Invest Sofia unit. The Agency aims to support investors interested in Sofia with fast and flexible administrative solutions,” the Mayor added, and encouraged investors in the hall to reach out the team of Invest Sofia during the networking sessions to talk about the city’s potential.
Held alongside Webit, the InvestX Investment Forum became the first event of its kind in the country with the main aim of showcasing the business potential of Sofia and Bulgaria to global leaders in the investment community. Investors from Blackrock, European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund, Mercer, Adams Street Partners, Citi Ventures, J.P Morgan and many others were part of the event.
Our city hosted the fourth edition of the Sofia Economic Forum, a high-level meeting tha once again gathered the most influential Bulgarian and international political and corporate leaders. Organised by the Delphi Economic Forum and the Centre for Liberal Strategies, the event focused on possible solutions to the pressing challenges facing Europe and the world. Among the guests at the forum was our CEO Ph.D. Maria Hristova.
The forum was attended by the Vice President of Bulgaria Iliana Yotova, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov, the Vice President of the European Investment Bank Liliana Pavlova, ministers and deputy ministers, ambassadors, and many other institutional and economic leaders and experts.
With nearly 40 participants and keynote speaker,the event raised topics such as the impact of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine on Bulgaria’s geopolitical situation; EU enlargement; developments in the financial sector; developments in the South East Europe region: economic cooperation and future prospects; Bulgaria’s accession to Schengen; Turkey’s elections and what’s next for the region; energy transition and carbon neutrality, tourism and many more
The Sofia Economic Forum provided an opportunity to identify and assess critical challenges to the countries’ growth, discuss best policy practices from other countries, support the adoption of corporate social innovation practices in the private sector and identify specific policy actions toward more competitive and inclusive economies in South East Europe.
Joanna Dragneva, Ph.D. Chief Expert at the Investment Analysis Department of Invest Sofia, took part in the panel discussions on the development of municipal policies that support innovation, digital transition, youth employment, entrepreneurship, and sustainable urban development. The discussion was held under the Horizon 2020-funded Territorial Development through Responsible Science and Innovation Project – RRI-LEADERS. During the discussions, Dragneva, Ph.D. presented the activities of Invest Sofia in support of startup companies and young entrepreneurs, as well as the Agency’s activities that aim to help foreign citizens who want to set up in Sofia. The RRI-LEADERS project aims to support the local governments in four European territories – Sofia, Bulgaria, Talville – Switzerland, Sadabel – Spain, and West Macedonia in Greece. Joanna Dragneva Ph.D took part in the discussion at the invitation of Sofia Development Association which is leading the implementation of the project.
More than 1000 young people visited the largest career forum Bulgaria Wants You: Sofia: Career and Life- Why Bulgaria? to investigate career opportunities in Bulgaria. Invest Sofia was an official institutional partner of the event that was held on June 11 – 12 in the capital.
More than 80 companies from different business sectors took part. Our team also presented the Agency’s activities and success cases of work on various projects in Sofia Municipality, as well as projects of cooperation with other Bulgarian municipalities.
The Bulgaria Wants You event was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Gabriel. A welcome speech was also given by the Chairman of the Sofia Municipal Council Georgi Georgiev.
The idea behind the forum initiated by Ivan Hristov and Andrey Arnaudov is to motivate the attendees to start and develop their career path in Bulgaria by presenting different career opportunities that companies in Bulgaria can offer.
“My answer to the question Career and life – why in Bulgaria? has three aspects. First of all – the key role of talent in innovation in Bulgaria. Second, the type of innovation we should focus on. And third, how to make Bulgaria one of the most dynamic innovation ecosystems in South East Europe. I think it is important to make Bulgaria attractive for talent to choose and develop their careers here. No doubt, the role of education is crucial,” Gabriel said.
During the forum, the discussion Demography Has No Price was held, attended by policy-makers, businesses, state institutions, employers’ organisations, trade chambers, and experts. The participants discussed specific policies aimed at overcoming the negative demographic trends in the country.
“There is a job in Bulgaria for everyone who hesitates whether they will find a job in their homeland after obtaining a diploma abroad,” said the chairman of the Sofia Municipal Council Georgi Georgiev. He told about his personal experience after graduating in London and gave examples of career development opportunities in Sofia-based companies.
The music producer Stanislava Armutlieva, actor Kalin Sirmenov, interior designer Alex Kovachev, Stoyan Minev from Lidl Bulgaria, Nikolay Dragiev from DXC Technology, Diana Kostova from Kaufland Bulgaria, Konstantin Kirov from ProCredit bank and entrepreneur Daniel Bachovsky also attended the event. This year the forum was held under the patronage of the Vice President of the Republic of Bulgaria Iliana Iotova.
A record 14,000 attendees from 96 countries visited this year’s VIENNAUP’23 conference in Austria. Europe’s leading event for investment and entrepreneurship took place from 30 May to 7 June and focused on social entrepreneurship, sustainability, creative industries, female business leaders and responsible technology development with over 50 individual thematic events at 27 locations in the Austrian capital.
Part of the event were Invest Sofia’s experts from the Investment Analysis Department, Ioanna Dragneva and Georgi Brezin. They took part in the panels and startup pitches during the Mobility in Action event, which took place at the Open Innovation Factory – the newly created space by the Austrian Federal Railways for co-innovation in the field of urban mobility. Ioanna Dragneva and Georgi Brezin also participated in Salon Future – the platform for city representatives, startup ecosystem builders and organizations who are dedicated to building and supporting startup ecosystems in their cities. Visitors to the event had the opportunity to participate in panel discussions and networking sessions focused on topics such as building entrepreneurial communities, attracting international startups to their cities, and implementing policies that support the growth of SMEs and newly established companies.
During VIENNAUP’23, the Invest Sofia team met with representatives from the investment agencies from Austria, Poland, Hungary and Germany to talk about similarities and differences in their activities, the difficulties they encounter, and working practices. Joanna Dragneva and Georgi Brezin also talked with business representatives from Japan, Italy, Israel, Austria, Hungary and Turkey.
The ViennaUP festival is a key event for the startup community not only in Austria but also for the European ecosystem. The event traditionally hosts a vast variety of thematic individual events organized by partnering companies and organisations. Investors, technology experts, people from the creative industries, policy-makers and city experts work together on latest cases and look for the best solutions. Alongside Austrian and European startups, companies from the US, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, African countries, Australia and Malaysia were part of the festival this year.
Flanders Investment & Trade – the trade office of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Bulgaria, is organizing a trade mission to Bulgaria for multi-sectoral bilateral business meetings with Belgian companies from the Flanders region of the Kingdom of Belgium. The event will be hosted by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and will take place between May 31 and June 1, 2023, at the “Da Vinci 1&2” hall, “Grand Hotel Millennium” in Sofia.
On behalf of the organizers, we kindly invite companies based in Sofia to participate in the meetings as an opportunity for new partnerships and international business expansion.
On both days of the event, individual meetings between Flemish and Bulgarian companies are planned, with plenty of opportunities for networking and creating contacts. The profiles of registered companies that will be present from the Belgian side are published on the Flanders Investment & Trade website here.
Companies from Sofia and Bulgaria that wish to participate in the meetings should register no later than May 10, 2023, via the registration form here.
The Speed Match International Networking Event 2023 to be held on 24-25 May 2023. The event will focus on the aviation, rail and automotive sectors and all services and suppliers in the field. Large, small and medium-sized enterprises, chambers, clusters, investors, public institutions and associations will join the B2B event – a great platform to establish business and technological partnerships with pre-scheduled 1-1 meetings. Companies from nearly 30 countries have already registered. The event is free to participate. You can publish information about your products and services and schedule one-on-one meetings with partners on the event site here: https://speedmatch2023.b2match.io/
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a co-organizer of the Forward Green (FG Expo) circular economy event. The forum will take place between June 8-10 in Thessaloniki and is aimed at companies, agencies, organizations active in adopting modern practices in the use of raw materials, construction materials, technology, energy, recycling and packaging and innovative solutions with a positive impact on the environment and increasing resilience. To register for participation, see the BCCI’s announcement here.
The European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) has announced an open call to RE-CENTRE for financial support to small cross-sectoral partnerships that create or adopt new collaboration models incorporating digital and/or environmental innovations and/or technologies.
The project will support SMEs from the following three sectors: Traditional furniture and living sector, IT, and Green/Circular Economy. The vouchers for the projects that will be selected for support are worth 52,000 euros. Detailed information about the call is available on the ECCP website here. The deadline for submission of proposals is 27 June 2023.
Applications are now open for the 6-month EIT Food-funded TeamUp program at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The program aims to connect leading technologists with entrepreneurs, providing them with tools and support for joint projects in the food industry. The call is looking for experts in the food industry, as well as people with entrepreneurial skills to build a successful startup in the sector. TeamUp includes team-matching process between industry professionals and entrepreneurs, training sessions and expert support, €2000 per team to develop their idea and business model. The best projects will have the chance to raise an investment from EIT Food of up to €40,000. Check out how to apply on the initiative’s website here.
At the invitation of Policy Dialogue with Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Maria Gabriel, Invest Sofia participated in the policy dialogue “Education and Innovation – Interactions and Challenges”. The meeting took place at the European Commission Representation in Bulgaria in Sofia, under the hostage of Commissioner Gabriel, and the active participation of school directors, university rectors, business representatives, associations, and students from all over the country.
The dialogue was organized on the occasion of Europe Day, May 9th. The focus was on innovation, education, entrepreneurship and regional innovation ecosystems. Challenges and opportunities were discussed, as well as key European initiatives and programmes in these areas.
Our CEO, Maria Hristova Ph.D., joined the discussions. Speakers, along with Commissioner Maria Gabriel, were the Rector of the Technical University of Sofia – Prof. Ivan Kralov, the Mayor of Gabrovo – Tanya Hristova, and the Executive Director of JA Bulgaria – Milena Stoycheva. Students and pupils also participated in the discussions.
Invest Sofia was an institutional partner of the ‘Present to Succeed Conference 2023’. Again, the event focused on presentation skills, public speaking, creating attractive presentations, and delivering complex information in a clear and engaging way. It is one of the largest conferences in the field that gathers over 3000 participants from more than 50 countries. This year it was held in a hybrid format – both in-person at the Sofia Event Center in Sofia and online, with the mixed format of hosting events being the main topic of the conference.
Joanna Dragneva, Senior Expert in the Investment Analysis Department of Invest Sofia, took part in the Present to Succeed Conference 2023. The organizers of the event are our partners from the presentation agency 356labs, who are part of our Sofia IS initiative that offers full range of integrated free services to investors in the city.
Hybrid is already the new way of working for many organizations and industries. Companies are now facing the challenge of how to prepare and deliver effective presentations in this new mixed reality. Presenting to an online audience and in person requires a different approach, and the requirements are even more challenging in a hybrid format. Present to Succeed Conference 2023 provided many useful resources and best practices on this topic, with over 20 keynote speakers and experts from different backgrounds and representatives from various industries sharing their knowledge and experience.
The Sofia Municipal Privatization & Investment Agency was awarded the “Successful Project Management, Application of Best Practices and Investments” award by K&P Advertising. The award was presented to the CEO of the Agency, Ph.D. Maria Hristova, at an official event dedicated to the release of the “Sofia and Sofia Region – Business, Culture, Tourism” handbook.
The media company K&P Advertising is the publisher of the magazine “Destination Bulgaria”, the handbook “Sofia – Business, Culture, Nature, Tourism” and other publications. Invest Sofia is part of the latest bilingual edition of the book, featuring its mission, activities, and the services we provide to investors, including business analyses, industry-specific opportunities, local legal requirements, and assistance in legislative procedures, among others.
The addition will be distributed both as a print and web version at www.destinationbulgaria.bg and provides information about the history, culture, tourism, and attractions of Sofia and the Sofia Region, making it a detailed tourist guide. The handbook is distributed for free to companies and diplomatic representations, in municipal centers, as well as at international exhibitions and congresses.
During the official presentation of the publication, mayors of municipalities and districts, managers, and partners were also awarded in categories for their successful policies and application of good practices in the areas of business, culture, and tourism.
The Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Investment Council at BCCI hosted a business event on “Financing and Support for Business Development”. The forum was held in a hybrid format to provide an opportunity to engage companies from all over Bulgaria.
The forum showcased programmes, financial instruments and services that provide funding and support for business development. The presentations were also attended by the CEO of Invest Sofia, Ph.D. Maria Hristova. She presented the instruments applied by the Agency and the Sofia Municipality in support of companies and investors in the city, including the Green Card for administrative services, the integrated consulting services under the Sofia IS initiative, which brings together the expertise of dozens of Sofia-based companies to provide free services to investors in the city throughout the entire cycle – from market analyses to hiring a team, as well as the city’s pilot projects with local technology companies to resolve urban challenges.
The event presented the programme of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for businesses, products from the portfolio of the Bulgarian Development Bank, the Fund of Funds’ financial instruments for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the services of the Investment Council of the BCCI. The advantages of engaging professional management consultants were presented by the Bulgarian Association of Management Consulting Organizations.
“Financing and Support for Business Development” gathered business representatives – companies, bilateral chambers of commerce, regional chambers, industry organizations and other interested stakeholders, who after the presentations joined the discussion sessions of the event to seek individual guidance on the most appropriate business opportunities for them, provided by the participating institutions.
The University of National and World Economy (UNWE) hosted a student scientific conference on Contemporary Concepts for the Development of Smart Cities. The event was held on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Regional Development Department at UNWE, led by Assoc. Prof. Georgi Nikolov PhD. At the invitation of the University our CEO Maria Hristova Ph.D. took part in the discussions.
Yes, a smart city is one that “uses digital technologies to improve the quality of life of its citizens, enhance sustainability and increase the city’s economic competitiveness”. But as someone who works every day with businesses and people here and for the development of the city, I know how crucial active citizen participation is. We need ongoing discussion, awareness and public support for all the issues important to the city. Particularly important is the role of young people and their involvement in city issues. To be considered sustainable, a city must meet the needs of its current inhabitants without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Only in this way can we create cities that are not only smart and efficient, but also liveable, inclusive and sustainable., Maria Hristova said during the conference.
The scientific conference Contemporary Concepts for the Development of Smart Cities was held under the patronage of the Rector of the UNWE Dr Dimitar Dimitrov MD PhD and brought together students from different majors, university teachers, business experts and organizations whose activities contribute to the development of Sofia as a green and smart European entrepreneurial center.