Digital Cities Challenge (DCC)
Digital Cities Challenge is an initiative of the European Commission with the main purpose to support the cities in their path to digital transformation. DCC offers policy advice and support to speed up the digital transformation and the industrial modernisation of cities.
In January 2018, Sofia Investment Agency, on behalf of Sofia Municipality, won a place in the Digital Cities Challenge Project of the DG Grow of the European Commission, along with 40 EU cities. The goal of the Challenge was to support the city into building a Digital Transformation Strategy via the provision of expert assistance and help from mentor cities. Sofia and 14 other European Challenge cities won the opportunity to participate in the programme for free.
The selected Digital Cities received support in the form of field advisory services provided by a group of high-level experts and peer reviewers, and offered the possibility for city representatives to participate in a series of capacity building and networking seminars.
Challenge cities selected from 92 applications.
Sofia was a Challenge city.
Fellow cities took part in the initiative
using their own resources.
Mentor cities volunteered to inspire and mentor:
Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, Lisbon, Nice, Espoo.
- Establishing long-term collaboration network with other cities that will facilitate digital transformation and shared knowledge.
- Create cooperation mechanisms between innovation centres, clusters, labs, incubators, accelerators, VCs and municipal institutions.
- Help introduce new business models that enhance local entrepreneurship and know-how.
- Work for stable investment in the local digital transformation.
The cities followed a methodology, specifically-created for the programme by the European Commission. The main steps were:
- – Assessment of Sofia’s digital maturity
- – Development of the Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia
- – Development of models for governance, monitoring and evaluation of the Strategy.
In Sofia over 100 local stakeholders were involved by taking part in interviews and workshops. Sofia Investment Agency took part in 5 academy seminars together with the other cities participating in the project.
Sofia’s Digital Transformation Strategy
The Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia was developed by Sofia Investment Agency, together with expert-consultants, over 100 local stakeholders and the consultants managing the programme. The Strategy is based on the main finding of the initial digital maturity assessment of Sofia: the local ICT sector is very advanced but the companies in it are export-oriented.
The mission of the Strategy is to define an action plan and actions that strengthen the business ecosystem of the ICT sector located in Sofia, in order to:
- – Develop and offer solutions supporting the digital transformation of the city
- – Identify or create markets for digital services at local, national or global levels, and facilitate the access to these markets
- – Support the system of innovation enabling the development and absorption of new digital services and smart solutions
The ambitions of the Strategy are to:
- – Enable most companies in the ICT business ecosystem of Sofia to engage in the digital transformation of the city by developing and offering innovative products and e-services
- – Open markets or create new markets for e-services at local and national levels, by supporting and facilitating the provision of e-services to industries, the public administration, and utility organisations
- – Enhance the local innovation ecosystem by funding mechanisms, investor networks and brokerage events, facilitating the digital transformation of the local economy
- – Enhance the skills of the local ICT labour market and the start-up ecosystem for the creation of e-services and datasets by public and private organisations.
- – The Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia focuses on four focus areas: e-government, utilities, transport, and ICT startup ecosystem. The creation of local demand for e-services in the first three areas (blue area on the graph) is the core driver for smart growth and the ability of the local ICT ecosystem (green and orange areas on the graph) to supply those e-services is the facilitator of smart growth.
- – Тhe city and the local stakeholders have identified 18 operational goals and 10+ activities in the 4 focus areas in order to create a specific action plan for digitalisation. The list of activities may be modified with time and is expected to be continually updated and expanded after the end of the DCC.
What we have achieved so far
Assessment report for the digital maturity of Sofia (in English only)
Sofia was often praised as one of the most active members of the initiative. Several cities saw Sofia Investment Agency as a reliable partner and invited us to cooperate on other digital projects.
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Invest Sofia, presented Sofia’s experience of the DCC at the DCC Final Conference held in Brussels in June 2019. The event gathered 450 city administrators, industrial and business experts, “smart city” companies, international organisations, politicians from European countries and the European Commission. Watch the video from the “Cities as Market Creators” panel (with Bulgarian subtitles).
We will start work on detailed assessment and project development of the 10+ identified activities with the Support of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Coordination Unit of the Fund of Funds.
Sofia will take part in “100 Intelligent Cities Challenge” – a new project that will take over from Digital Cities Challenge in early 2020. The project will expand the existing network of DCC cities to 100 and will include new technologies, notably AI.
An application for advisory support for the development of Data Strategy, Data Policies and Data Management Systems for Sofia Municipality was submitted.
Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization 2014-2020
In 2015, a multilateral team of stakeholders and consultants created the “Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization 2014-2020” (ISSS) of Sofia. It outlines the sectoral specialization of the capital city’s economy. The Strategy aims at enhancing the added value and competitiveness of the city’s economy on the international markets.
The ISSS of Sofia set the framework for smart specialisation of the city through the establishment of Sofia as a Smart City. It creates an environment of high quality of life for its citizens and good governance. Furthermore, it stimulates the synergy and partnership in the innovation ecosystem and the effective use of ICT.
The ISSS of Sofia contains specialisation areas at the horizontal and vertical level. The horizontal policy strengthens the innovation ecosystem in the city and the region, whereas the emphasis in Sofia is placed on the development of two thematic areas for smart specialisation, which are specified by the national ISSS, namely: Informatics and ICT and new technologies in the creative and recreative industries.
The Digital Transformation Strategy for Sofia (2019), created as part of the Digital Cities Challenge, is a natural next step in this vision.