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MediaMotor Europe Innovation Hub in Sofia

MediaMotor Europe Innovation Hub in Sofia

Dimitar Hristov, Executive Director, Cluster Sofia Knowledge City

Introduction

At the beginning of 2020 started the implementation of MediaMotorEurope, an international project, funded under Horizon 2020. Bulgaria participates in it through the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City. MediaMotor Europe aims to nurture high-potential European deep-tech innovators, solving today’s most prominent media industry challenges and support them in building media solutions for tomorrow.

The project plans to build a strong and vibrant European media-tech and deep-tech ecosystem targeting the media and the creative industries. It will assist high-potential startups and scaleups to get to the market and to connect with Investor Networks. To this end, four innovative hubs will be created in Bulgaria, Greece, Belgium, and Norway. Leading players from the media industry ecosystem in Bulgaria will be involved in close cooperation, including media companies, universities, R&D organizations, deep-tech companies and experts, business accelerators and incubators, business mentors, and consultants. Support and assistance will receive a group of deep-tech and innovative companies with significant R&D and market potential from Bulgaria.

What is the MediaMotor Europe innovation hub in Sofia?

The concept of innovation hubs is increasingly being adopted by different sectors as a means to accelerate innovation. In this case, our innovation hub will concern the wider defined media industry and the fast-growing impact of emerging technologies on the way this industry will be developing in the future. But let us define what is the similarity and differences between one innovation cluster, what is the qualification of the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City (SCKC), and a media industry innovation hub.

Innovation cluster usually means a grouping of independent undertakings - innovative start-ups, small, medium and large undertakings as well as research organizations - operating in a particular sector and region and designed to stimulate innovative activity by promoting intensive interactions, sharing of facilities and exchange of knowledge and expertise and by contributing effectively to technology transfer, networking and information dissemination among the undertakings in the cluster. (Official Journal of the European Union, (2006/C 323/01), Community framework for state aid for R&D and innovation).

The Cluster Sofia Knowledge City ideally tries to combine the classic concept of a business cluster, enriched with new findings and analytical tools to better understand the level of dynamism of the most successful clusters, above all Silicon Valley, the continued emergence of start-ups, the continued generation of ideas and solutions and the "blooming" of more industrial fields within the cluster. So, defining the vision of our cluster as an innovation cluster we need to achieve the level of a "special ecosystem hinges on the interrelation between a number of factors, like

  • synergy with educational and research institutions
  • support from public institutions
  • access to financing
  • the presence of multinational companies
  • shared values and alignment of interests
  • mobility of people
  • being global.

To our understanding, the difference between this definition of the innovation cluster and an innovation hub is only the level of the formalization of the network between the stakeholders. That is why the answer to this question is that our MediaMotor Europe Innovation hub in Sofia is a model of well-defined interconnections and relations that our innovation cluster, as an already internally organized and structured system will establish with its ecosystem, that is closely related with the media industry. In such a way, the MediaMotor Europe innovation hub in Sofia is to be a one-stop-shop that helps companies from the industries focused on deep-techs & media-techs to become more competitive with regard to their business/ production processes, products/services using newest technologies and business models. It will be a regional (Sofia based) open co-working physical and virtual space with an explicit mission to foster innovation by promoting learning and the sharing of ideas. The hub bets on collaborative innovation and community, as well as on openness and diversity.

The MediaMotor Europe innovation hub in Sofia is to be offering a combination of services and following a variety of business and sustainability models. As a physical space, the cluster will use the laboratories and premises of the cluster members and the Living Lab of the city of Sofia. As a virtual space, the hub is to be complemented by an active online community of the members of the cluster, the ecosystem stakeholders, and the social networking platforms. As proximity is considered crucial, the hub will act as a first regional point of contact, a doorway, and strengthen the innovation ecosystem.

Mapping the innovation ecosystem

The process of the creation of the Sofia innovation hub starts with mapping. The mapping is a structured process, focused on a topic or construct of interest, involving input from many participants, that produces an interpretable pictorial view (concept map) of their ideas and concepts and how these are interrelated. The mapping helps the project group to manage the complexity of the vision on the media-tech disruptive technologies without trivializing them or losing detail. The mapping process is one of the portfolios of many other similar methods that management and social scientists have developed like brainstorming, brainwriting, nominal group techniques, focus groups, affinity mapping, Delphi techniques, facet theory, and qualitative text analysis. In the case of the MediaMotor Europe project, the mapping process is to study and identify the key elements of the innovation ecosystem in Sofia that will make it possible to involve and engage stakeholders for the MediaMotor Europe innovation hub to achieve the project mission, as defined before. More than 200 members (organizations and individuals) of the cluster ecosystem were selected as potential stakeholders in the MME innovation hub, including from

  • corporations
  • public organizations
  • investors & funding institutions
  • accelerators & incubators
  • start-ups &scaleups
  • universities and R&D organizations
  • media companies
  • press agencies.

More importantly, as an element of the ecosystem of the Innovation hub in Sofia is to be included a newly created database for deep-tech and media-tech experts, mentors, consultants, trainers, and coaches. Based on such a large and diverse expert database of the cluster will be able to provide to the project target groups competent services, training, and mentoring.

What services and assistance the innovation hub will organize for the target groups?

At the first stage of the hub development under the Project MediaMotorEurope the services and assistance that will be offered to the deep-tech & media-tech start-ups and scale-ups after they are selected are:

  • Dedicated coaching to support upscaling the business and soft-landing to new markets
  • Tailored support and guidance to the start-ups’ needs and challenges, improving skills in areas such as product-market fit, legal aspects, pitching readiness, fundraising, product development, strategic management, internationalization, UX, and Design, etc.
  • Matchmaking with media & creative corporations and public procurement support
  • Meetings and networking opportunities with investors
  • Pitching and showcasing at “Deeptech on stage” events
  • The chance to win tickets to relevant international conferences of high impact
  • Vouchers to support travel costs.

The intensive mentoring program aims to bring deep tech Innovators from an MVP to signing contracts with clients and getting investors on board.

Through the Innovation hub in Sofia the project will foster the development of creative and unique deep-tech solutions targeting some of the biggest challenges and needs that the media sector in Bulgaria faces, such as the fight against misinformation and fake news; improved accessibility and inclusion of media services for people with disabilities; more advanced human-machine interaction; better protection of personal data through new technologies; and transition towards a data-driven media 4.0 market.


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