Striving to become the regional ICT center, Sofia is home to over 50 000 IT professionals. Every year, the ICT sector grows 10-20%.
The city has attracted global IT leaders like SAP Labs, HP, VMware, IBM, CISCO. They already operate large R&D centers in Sofia.
Over 43.000 university students in Sofia study a STEM programme. 16 private academies offer IT programmes taught by practitioners and the curriculum is set by companies from the sector.
Sofia is a preferred destination for IT and business process outsourcing, with professionals working in more than 30 different languages. There are multiple A class office buildings, well-developed IT infrastructure, political stability.
The city’s new focus, however, is to shift to smart-sourcing, building on its highly skilled and competitively priced talent pool – over 50% of the city’ population holds a university degree – that can offer attention on innovation and excellence.
Sofia has great manufacturing traditions and the main focus of the capital is the establishment of high-value added productions. Further objectives include the introduction of cyber-physical systems, automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.
Sofia has competitive real estate, energy and labor costs, as well as a business-friendly tax frame. Many Bulgarian producers are looking for partnerships with foreign companies and offering the advantages of market knowledge and established logistics networks.
With high-level of digital penetration, Sofia is using technology, information and big data to improve planning, infrastructure and services in all areas. Approx. 90% of the busiest road sections and 60% of Sofia’s intersections are smart. These include AI traffic lights, sensors, cameras and prioritization of Emergency Rescue cars.
The future areas of development are e-governance and citizen services, urban mobility, energy, waste & water management. Recently, Sofia became an active member in the EU’s Digital Cities Challenge initiative.
The sector includes advertising, architecture, crafts, design, cinema, interactive recreation, video games etc. Most of their products and services are export-oriented.
There are 7 500 creative companies or just over 6% of all enterprises in the city. According to NSI 2/3 of the Bulgarian creative sector and 3/4 of the employed are concentrated in Sofia.
Sofia is one of the greenest capitals in Europe – the ratio of trees to people is among the continent’s highest.
The city has an extensive public transit system and is surprisingly compact for its population of 1.3 million people.
In 2020 the metro is going to serve over 500 000 passengers daily. The focus has now shifted to answering specific urban issues like air pollution, energy efficiency and water & waste management.
Two trends to keep in mind are the increasing share of non-grocery retailing and the growth of e-commerce. In 2017, 25% of the population of Southwestern Bulgaria (a region that includes Sofia) made an online purchase. This amounts to nearly half a million people. Тhe e-commerce market in Bulgaria is projected to grow to 3.4 million users by 2021.
The absence of major players like Amazon and the established digital and e-commerce habits make Sofia a good test market for new business models. A study by Mastercard in 2016 showed that 67% of Bulgarian users prefer paying with an online payment service.
The sector includes the production of aircraft, drones, rockets, satellites and related software and appliances. The aerospace industry is a strong engine of technological development since it integrates high technology from multiple sectors such as mechanical engineering, computer science, electronics and materials.
The University of Sofia and the Technical University have strong traditions in training engineers for the industry, with private education initiatives already in place. After Sofia became European leader in aircraft maintenance, the city has now become a destination for its production. According to a large EC study from 2013, Bulgarians are the biggest supporters of the idea of the EU developing as a space power.
Sofia is 2nd in Europe in growth of international visitors for 2017 – 15.2%, right after Istanbul (16.8%) and followed by Lisbon (14.6%), Paris (13.1%), Munich (12.9%) and Warsaw (12.3%).
Sofia is also among the TOP 5 cities in Europe with the highest overall growth of international visitors for 2009 – 2017, with an average increase of 9% per year.
NDK, the biggest convention center in the city has undergone a major renovation in preparation for the Bulgaria’s EU Presidency in 2018. The number of 5-star rooms in the city is expected to double by 2020.
Europe’s demographic challenges are shifting the attention to innovations in biotech. Companies engaged in R&D in the medical and pharmaceutical areas are some the fastest growing in Bulgaria. The factors contributing to the growth in the clinical research are:
- relatively low operating costs
- competent and experienced medical staff
- ease of access to patient selection
- mechanisms for technology and know-how transfer