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“Why Sofia?” with Zhivko Ivanov and Dimitar Georgiev from the Institute for Medical Research


Institute-for-Medical-Research-SofiaThe Institute for Medical Research was set up in 2006 as a private scientific medical company. It started its active operation in 2015 when a physician and a financier became the Institute’s driving force and for the fourth straight year have been developing the IMR as the first fully private research institute in the field of medicine in Bulgaria. The managing partners Dr. Dimitar Georgiev and Zhivko Ivanov have managed to attract to the cause a wonderful and enthusiastic team of young scientists ready to pursue their scientific dreams and contribute to the development of modern science in Bulgaria. An investment of nearly BGN 100 000 gives the Institute the opportunity to complement its team with more young and intelligent people with a bold look at science, working in a modern way. Currently, the IMR keeps up with modern trends – it does not build its own laboratories, but rents available laboratories in Sofia after winning a scientific grant for its own research.

Though slowly, the team’s efforts begin to pay off and at the end of 2017 the IMR also won the Innovative Enterprise of the Year in the field of medicine.

Dr. Dimitar Georgiev and Zhivko Ivanov share their critical insights into the environment for successful realization in Sofia in the field of scientific research, biotechnology and medicine.

Tell us about your investment in Sofia? What kind of business does your company do here and in foreign markets?

Zhivko Ivanov: Our company is a research institute in the field of medicine. Our business model is to work on interesting scientific projects after receiving a specific assignment. Currently, we are working on projects of several international organizations and the activity is entirely conducted in Sofia.

Dr. Georgiev: We have created a private scientific medical company in order to seek funding and work on interesting scientific projects in the field of medicine and the so called Life Sciences

What was your motivation to start a business in Sofia?

Zhivko Ivanov: I believe Sofia is a good place to do business. It offers a very good ecosystem of young and knowledgeable people, as well as good transport links. The fact is that it still sounds exotic as a science destination for our partners from Western Europe, but that is the challenge we take up.

What are the advantages of the city?

Dr. Georgiev: Quality and still cheap labor force.

Zhivko Ivanov: First of all a pool of young and knowledgeable people. Good transport links with Western Europe and much more.

What obstacles have you encountered so far?

Zhivko Ivanov: The administrative burden is relatively the same regardless of the size of a company. This makes it disproportionate for start-ups.

How would you evaluate the general business climate in Sofia?

Zhivko Ivanov: As a whole the general business climate is good, but there is still a great scope for development.

Do you think local and foreign investors are getting a functioning and homogenous business environment in the capital or there are still many obstacles?

Dr. Georgiev: Investing in Sofia in the scientific field is definitely a big and serious challenge. But when you draw the line, there are quite a few market niches and opportunities here, and Sofia is far ahead of other cities in Bulgaria with respect to all parameters of the investment environment

What specific improvements could be made to the business climate in Sofia for investors who have already settled here?

Zhivko Ivanov: Relief of the administrative burden, increased digitalization of administrative services, institutional support for the business.

What should be improved in order to increase the number of investors in our country?

Dr. Georgiev: It is necessary to stimulate the ecosystem in the field of biotechnology and to support the entrepreneurial spirit of Bulgarian people in this area. We have insufficient knowledge in the field of intellectual property protection, which is crucial in the field of Life Sciences.

Zhivko Ivanov: On the one hand, there is a need for systematic efforts to improve the image of Bulgaria and Sofia in particular as an attractive destination for investors. We still sound more like an exotic destination than a first choice. Our partners are often worried about the possibilities of protecting intellectual property, the stability of the regulatory environment, the ability to defend their interests through court proceedings. On the other hand, the right economic sectors which we want to attract investors to should be selected and steps for real regulatory relief in them should be taken. Take biotechnology as an example. This is a sector with a very high added value but also a very high entry threshold. Providing regulatory regimes that lower the threshold for the first one or two years, which is the time when the investors and their teams test the idea, will create a significant competitive advantage.

How do you compare the investment climate in Bulgaria with the progress of other countries in the region?

Zhivko Ivanov: I would like us to have the confidence to compete with Europe and not with the region. The potential is real, but there is still a lot of work to do.

What are the five things you like most in Sofia?

Zhivko Ivanov:

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral,

“Moskovska” street

Vitosha Mountain

The remains of ancient Serdika,

The Doctor’s Garden

Dr. Georgiev:

Vitosha Mountain

“Ivan Assen” Street

The pavement of Dondukov blvd

The territorial proximity of the Mosque, the Synagogue, the Catholic and Orthodox Church – all within a close distance from each other – almost as in Jerusalem

3000 years of history