The “Investment in Smart Cities” Forum was held in Sofia on 21 February, as part of the two-day Conference of the Cities of Vienna and Sofia, organized on the initiative of the Municipality of Vienna, in partnership with Sofia Municipality. Experts from the two capitals exchanged good practices and new ideas, as well as discussed ongoing municipal projects.
Presentations on “Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with a Focus on Smart Urban Solutions” were delivered by Botyo Botev, Municipal Councilor, Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee on Economics and Property at Sofia Municipal Council, and Elisabeth Miksch-Fuchs, head of the Public-Private Partnership Unit in the Construction and Mechanization Department of the Municipality of Vienna. The Municipality of Vienna transfers specific tasks to the private business after detailed negotiations on work mechanisms and remuneration, and Mrs. Miksch-Fuchs gave examples of public-private partnership benefits, both for the public and the private sector.
Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, and Gabriele Tatzberger, Startup Services at Vienna Business Agency, gave presentations on the topic “Encouragement and Funding of Startups and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises on a Municipal Level ”.
The subsequent discussions were focused on the issues related to the growth of shared economies and the development of innovations in smart cities. Presentations on these topics were delivered by Mr. Petko Anchev, “Green Sofia” Project, Sofia Municipality; Arch. Lyubo Georgiev, Director of OP “Sofproekt – Master Plan”, Sofia Municipality; Dominic Weiss, Head of the Intelligent Cities Agency – Urban Innovation, Municipality of Vienna; and Klemens Himpele, Head of the Economics, Labor and Statistics Department of the Municipality of Vienna.
Klemens Himpele pointed out that the sharing economy must become an economy of justice. The phenomenon of shared use of public libraries, swimming pools or ski rentals is not new neither in Vienna nor in Sofia. A relatively new phenomenon is the use of the Airbnb platform. The problem is that twelve platforms are currently renting out flats in Vienna, and it is not clear whether tourist fees have been collected and paid to the municipality. Himpele is convinced that the benefit of sharing should not be for tourists only but for citizens too.
The huge potential of digitisation in all areas of life was also highlighted. However, the main focus of this digitalisation processes should not be on the replacement of people with technology, but above all on supporting and easing people’s work through new technologies. An obligatory prerequisite for the use of modern technology is the accessibility of high-quality education for everyone, as well as the implementation of projects targeting the elderly population in the cities so that this age group could enter the digital world as well.
Creative industries and their importance for the growth and development of urban economies was the focus of the second day of the Conference of the Cities of Vienna and Sofia. You can learn more about the creative companies that presented the development of the sector in Sofia and shared their success stories, as well as the examples of Vienna’s policies supporting the creative industries in our article dedicated to the Create&Grow: Creative Sofia Meets Creative Vienna Conference.
Photo gallery of the first day of the conference can be found here*.