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On the stage in 2020

On the stage in 2020

Dimitar Hristov

This strange but memorable pandemic year is coming to an end! Like any organization that has set clear goals and priorities, Cluster Sofia Knowledge City (CSKC) still reports to its members, supporters, and partners another successful year. After the Cluster was awarded the Label Bronze of Excellence in Cluster Management in 2019 by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA), in 2020 we focused our efforts on three main challenges that seemed possible to address in the context of COVID-19:

  • Achieving financial independence by securing funding from institutional donors;
  • Gaining international recognition through participation in partnerships and networks;
  • Building internal capacity to provide services to members and the innovation ecosystem of the cluster.

Although these three challenges, which are in fact the long-term goals of the cluster, are interrelated and usually result from the implementation of various initiatives and projects, they can be summarized as follows:

1) Regarding the first challenge, we managed to launch the following three projects with European funding:

  • Media Motor Europe (MME) - Horizon 2020;
  • European Technology for Sustainability (eT4S) - COSME-GA;
  • Smart Skills for Smarter Cities (Skills4Cities) - Erasmus+.

At the moment, two project proposals have been submitted under the already closed calls and the results are expected. At the same time, a new project proposal under the Inosub-8 open call is being prepared, which addresses the challenges of Industry4.0. The prepared proposal has the abbreviation TRAIN4.0 and the application will be submitted by the end of 2020. So, for this first purpose, we and our project teams made every effort to meet the challenges of survival and development of the organization in difficult times.

2) Regarding the second challenge, given the implementation of the mentioned projects and the preparation of new project proposals, the cluster expanded its direct international cooperation with over 20 new partners from Europe, enriched its knowledge, experience, and good practices, which will be shared with members and its ecosystem. In 2020, the cluster became a member of the international partnership SmartCityTech. This partnership unites 10 partners from 7 EU countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, and Portugal. Its mission is to increase the competitiveness of EU companies by supporting the development of digital technology solutions for sustainable urban areas through the implementation of a joint cooperation program. It was as a result of its membership in this partnership that the cluster was included as a partner in the eT4S project, mentioned above.

3) Regarding the third challenge, the cluster can report the following three main results:

  • We created an Innovation Hub in Sofia. The main task of the hub is to manage an intensive mentoring program for deep-tech start-ups and scale-ups, selected through open calls under the Media Motor Europe (MME) project. Subsequently, the task of the hub will be to provide specialized services and support to members and target groups of the ecosystem of the cluster in Sofia. As the cluster is able to perform such tasks with the help of stable partners, with experience in supporting business and developing the innovation ecosystem in Sofia, the cluster has signed cooperation agreements with Sofia Tech ParkBICA, and the BCCI Investment Council. The innovation hub and the partnership on this initiative were presented at an open innovation inspiration journey, which was held in Sofia Tech Park on 21.10.2020.
  • We put on the stage an Accelerator for start-ups and scale-ups within the Innovation Hub in Sofia, based initially on the three mentoring programs set in the MME project. At the moment, 10 start-up companies are included in the accelerator, and at the beginning of 2021 five more will be added to them. We have created a network of Bulgarian and international mentors, most of whom are members of the cluster, on whom the Innovation Hub will be able to rely on its future work as a service provider. We have developed and coordinated with our partners a program of events and training, which the cluster will organize in 2021 in a partnership with Sofia Tech Park.
  • Together with the International Business School, we have taken an initiative to establish a Center for competencies and vocational training in the field of smart cities. Initially, this center will be a result of the Skills4Cities project implementation process, and then it will start operating as a training center, providing a certification scheme for professions related to the development, management, and implementation of smart city projects.

So, despite the challenges of the 2020 year, all these activities carried out within the mentioned projects and initiatives will have a positive impact on the future ability of the cluster to manage projects, create an environment for knowledge transfer and generate new initiatives in favor of our ecosystem. In such a way with the participation of the business will be supported in achieving our ideal goals for transforming Sofia into a smart & knowledge city.

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