The event brought together business leaders from leading technology companies and startups in Bulgaria and Southeast Europe. During the forum, new trends and forecasts for the development of the business services industry and the technology sector were discussed. The transformations that need to take place in the region for the knowledge economy in Southeast Europe to grow at an even faster pace and to be a competitive player on the world map were also set.
The business representatives united unanimously that Sofia deserves the 2022 Smart City Award. The Deputy Mayor for Digitalization, Innovation and Economic Development Gencho Kerezov accepted the award on behalf of Sofia Municipality. “It is a great honor for Sofia to receive this award, especially when it comes from business. This gives us a clear idea that our daily work with our partners at the international level is fruitful and resultful and it gives businesses even more reasons to continue to choose Sofia as a preferred place for innovations and further development. The hard work continues: now is the time to fully realize the opportunities before us and not to stop creating better conditions together.”
The award for Sofia Municipality comes after a series of international recognitions for the city since the beginning of the year. Sofia was chosen among the four cities together with Brussels, Dublin and Tirana to develop the EU Digital Rights Management Legal Framework. Sofia also ranked as a city leader in the European Mission for 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030. The initiative provides new opportunities for Bulgaria and unlocks additional mechanisms for EU funding. Only a month ago, our capital was selected as a finalist in two categories of the Future of Emerging Europe Awards 2022 – a prestigious international competition for sustainable, social, economic and democratic development in Europe.
The forum became a platform for the exchange of expertise in the field of innovation and technology transfer in the region. It was inaugurated with the special participation of Ms. Roberta Coco, Chief Adviser to the Minister of Innovation and Digital Transition of Italy and former Deputy Mayor for Digitalisation of Milan. The Deputy Mayor for Digitalization of Sofia Gencho Kerezov commented on the important role of municipalities in digitalization and providing opportunities for innovation. “It is good to note that there is a difference between the roles of governments and municipalities in the process of stimulating and integrating innovation. While the state government as a body is mainly responsible for the legal framework, the role of municipalities is to stay closer to the citizens, and to be a helping hand and accessible part of their daily lives,” Kerezov said and added that the Municipality has proactively opened its doors to the ecosystem so that startups can come up with ideas and provide solutions for an improved urban environment. `
Keynote speakers during the forum agreed that the need for funding is always there, but it is much more important to develop the right skills and attract talent. The transformations that need to take place in the region for the knowledge economy in Southeast Europe to grow at an even faster pace and be a competitive player on the world map were also discussed.
“It is very important to have a dynamic dialogue with the government on all important topics. We can no longer talk about moving forward in small steps. We need giant leaps. It is no longer enough for us as a business to understand how important the knowledge industry is – we must educate society about its crucial importance to the state,” said Iliya Krastev, chairman of AIBEST. The necessary transformations, both at the national and regional level, are taking place at the company level and then at the industry level. The state administration is also an integral part of this process.