The Innovative Enterprise Week Sofia 2018 conference took place in Sofia Tech Park on June 14-15.
The event was organized by the European Commission, the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of Europe and the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, in association with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Investment Fund (EIF) and representatives of the Bulgarian entrepreneurial ecosystem, supported by Tech Tour Global.
The topic of the conference was ‘Financial Instruments Fostering Research and Innovation’, and its main aim was to raise the levels of awareness regarding the role of the various European financial instruments, programmes, facilities and measures, such as Innovfin, COSME, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the European Innovation Council, as well as many other regional, national and local instruments, in fostering research and innovation in the EU and the world. The main focus of the discussion was on the potential of startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for growth and development.
More than 300 key participants from different sectors and backgrounds, such as policy-makers, financial intermediaries, entrepreneurs, representatives of the research, innovation and the business community, came together to discuss the current bottlenecks, opportunities, and the further needs of the financial instruments fostering research and innovation in Bulgaria, the EU region and the world.
Mr. Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, was invited as an expert in one of the parallel interactive workshops dedicated to the ways in which innovators can scale-up in order to compete internationally. (Co-panelists of Mr. Danailov were Mr. Christian Dubarry from BPI France, and Mr. Milen Vrabevski, owner of Comac Medical. Chair of the panel was Prof. Dr. Marco Cantamessa from the Polytechnic University of Turin, and rapporteur was Mr. Antonio Carbone from the Agency for the Promotion of European Research.)
During the panel called ‘Scale: How Can We Offer Innovators Continental Scale to Compete at a Global Level?’ Mr. Danailov shared his observations and recommendations regarding the role of financial instruments in the development of the business environment in Bulgaria. ‘Bulgarian SMEs and startups have achieved lots of progress in the last 11 years, since Bulgaria became part of the EU, especially in terms of improving their abilities, increasing their credibility, diversifying their products, making use of various financial instruments, and slowly but steadily expanding internationally. Although in the past Bulgaria was mainly known as an outsourcing destination, nowadays the focus has shifted to product development and creation… We should stimulate innovation and accelerate the efforts of SMEs and startups to go global and make the variety of financial grants and instruments more accessible to them, without making the firms dependable’.
Some of the recommendations, made by Mr. Danailov, include: diversifying financial instruments, designing new models for more linear industries and traditional businesses; supporting and stimulating SMEs and startups to prepare for the global market from their early stages; aiming for increased levels of international cooperation (e.g. Invest Sofia’s City-to-City agreement with London); supporting innovation and product creation by incentivising companies to work more closely with representatives of the academic and R&D sectors; attracting more investors and angel investors to operate in Bulgaria; and last but not least, making grants and financial instruments more accessible, by developing special centres to support and inform companies about the different options and opportunities related to financing.
Some of the other topics discussed during the Innovative Enterprise Week Sofia 2018 included the potential of the next generation financial instruments; the challenges and opportunities for growth and entrepreneurship towards world-class innovation, and ways to level-up the financing for innovators.