Greece - Thessaloniki
Cluster Sofia Knowledge City took take part in the 10th cluster mission in Thessaloniki, Greece on September 13-14, 2017. A few weeks ago, the Cluster became a member of the European Cluster Cooperation Platform (ECCP) www.clustercollaboration.eu . The cluster was represented by Dimitar Hristov, Vice Chairman of the Management Board. The overall objective of this event was to provide the clusters, which are active in the cultural and creative industries, circular economy, mobility, smart cities, green technologies, energy efficiency and Agro-technology with better opportunities for international partnership. The cluster wanted to stimulate better access of products of its members to new markets (internationalization). It was aimed also to facilitate the members to easier access to new distribution networks, channels and human resources in their priority areas by creating networks for cooperation with other clusters in the Balkan's and European's countries. During this meeting the cluster signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Cluster House of City of Nis, Serbia and became member of the initiative The Balkan & Black Sea Cluster Network.
Cluster Sofia Knowledge City took part in the European Cluster Matchmaking Event 2018, a meeting organized by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP). The meeting was held in Brussels within the framework of the EU Industry Day on 21-23 February 2018. The event brought together high-level politicians and cluster managers to discuss actions to further development of industrial competitiveness in Europe. The cluster representative in the forum was Adelina Hristova, the internal communications expert at the cluster. She held useful meetings with more than 22 cluster representatives from 10 countries from a total of 130 cluster managers and representatives. At the meetings, clusters had the opportunity to exchange know-how, good practices and lay the foundations for potential cooperation. Adelina participated actively in two of the parallel panels:
- Clusters and partnerships for stronger EU value-added chains;
- Role of the skills in future employment.
By participating in this event Cluster Sofia city of knowledge has achieved the following:
- Found potential partners for participating in European and international programs.
- Exchange of experience and knowledge in the field of cluster management
- Provide prospects for future internationalization and access to new markets for cluster members
- Collect information about upcoming events and forums that are appropriate for the cluster.
At the end of July and the beginning of August (30.07-03.08) Deyan Pushkarov - Marketing and PR Expert and Adelina Hristova - Internal Communications Expert on the cluster visited the United Kingdom and participated in a number of meetings with organizations from the city of London and the city of Peterborough.
The meeting with Future Cities Catapult was very beneficial and interesting in terms of an organization that not only supports the process of transforming cities into smart cities through state-of-the-art information technologies and the Internet of Things, but rather uses the concept of managing knowledge and its impact on the economic development of the cities with an extraordinary focus on citizens. Possible joint activities in the smart cities area and infrastructure innovation projects were discussed.
The representatives of the cluster visited two of the most successful business accelerators - Collider Accelerator, which is one of the five top seed accelerators in Europe and The Bakery. During the meetings, a few pieces of evidence were presented regarding the inclusion of large companies in the process of setting up new businesses and attracting a wide range of stakeholders to create a successful entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem. Collider Accelerator presented information about their experience in the commercialization of innovation in marketing and advertising, and The Bakery explained how they were attracting big companies and their approach to establishing a good reputation for the accelerator.
Of great importance for the cluster was the meeting with London & Partners, an agency directly involved in promoting the work of the Mayor of London. Its main objective is to create an international reputation for attracting foreign investors to the city. The agency presented the methods and marketing tools it uses to attract investors and talents for the implementation of smart city projects. The London Tech Week event, which attracts over 55,000 attendees and high-tech businesses, is a good example.
Later that day a discussion visit was made to NESTA, a foundation for research and innovation promotion across a wide range of economic sectors. The Foundation presented its experience in exploring the smart technology market. The organization's initiatives and activities to support smart cities, social causes and innovations in public benefit were discussed.
The meeting with Opportunity Peterborough, an organization supporting business development in the area, focused on the marketing and the engagement of local companies to support Peterborough's smart growth as well as exploring approaches to attracting and retaining talent in the city. Also, during the meeting the opportunities of the organization for establishing a partnership with the municipality to work on future & smart cities projects, the circular economy, tackling urban challenges and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, were discussed.
Within the last day, the cluster representatives visited two technology companies, Living PlanIT - the world's first UOS system, which together with the products it supports and combines, unlocks the full potential of data to make cities better, safer and more social living places and Universal TrustMe Engine with its product TrustMe ™ - blockchain engine technology allows for the deployment of a trusted 3rd party platform where transactions are conducted and recorded on blockchains using pre-configured and automated blockchain contracts ('smart contracts'). Detailed information on the meetings, conclusions, and recommendations that were covered during the meetings was presented to the members of the cluster in September 2018.
A series of working visits were organized by the cluster in leading cluster organizations in Italy. These visits are aligned with the aim to build organizational capacity, internationalization, and successful partnerships. In July (16-20.07.) Milena Koleva - strategy and development expert at the cluster, visited Italy and participated in several working meetings with cluster managers of Emilia-Romana Associazione Clust-ER, Greentech, Agrofood, ICT, Building and Construction, Health and Wellbeing, Mechanics and Mechatronics in Bologna, EURAC Research institute and NOI Tech park in Bolzano as well as innovation centre Verona 311 in Verona.
Emilia-Romana is one of the most developed regions in Italy and the visited clusters are created under the innovation strategy for smart specialization. According to the cluster managers in order for a cluster to be successful research centers and scientific institutes should be actively involved. During the meeting with a team from the Institute for renewable energy at EURAC Milena was informed about the best practices of the cities of Bolzano and Trento and the region South Tyrol for solving the challenges of the use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. There was a discussion about particular ideas for cooperation within the programme Horizon 2020.
The meeting with the team of one of the most developed technology parks in Italy - NOI Tech Park was very insightful and useful for the cluster. Some of the leading research institutes are located in the park (Fraunhofer Italia, EURAC Research, Climate House Agency, etc.) together with NGOs, companies and other organizations. The park is aiming to become a leading innovation hub in the region with the main goal to support the development and transformation of Bolzano into a smart city. In alignment with one of the goals of the cluster to support the human resources development in the city, Milena visited also one of the successful innovation centers in Italy – 311 Verona. In addition to being a business accelerator, the center develops partnerships with big companies like Sharp for training young people and the preparation of human resources in digital and smart city technologies. The representatives of the center expressed willingness and readiness to provide technical assistance and support to create and develop such an innovation accelerator at the cluster in Sofia as well.
Dimitar Hristov, CEO of the Cluster held a meeting and discussion with Dr. Sara Cummings and Dr. Andreas Brandner in Vienna June 2018 to study the good practices of the Global Knowledge for Development Partnership (www.k4dp.org ). The issues discussed were the management of the process of transforming cities into knowledge cities and guidance on institutional building the cluster as a platform for transforming Bulgaria's capital into a city of knowledge. Later Dimitar participated in a training organized by Vienna City of Knowledge on the Concept of Development of the City of Vienna as a City of Knowledge. During the training, he became acquainted with Vienna's vision and strategy of managing the knowledge process, the roadmap, the role of the municipality and the approach of positioning the strategy among the other stakeholders. The main topic was the identifying and preparing key programs and projects on which a city of knowledge is developed and how Sofia, based on the experience of Vienna, can act on cooperation with other Sofia clusters, people, organizations, companies, public bodies that join the vision - all those who are the ingredients of the triple helix in the city.
On June 12, 2018, Dimitar held a meeting with Bernhard Puttinger, Cluster Manager of Green Tech Cluster Styria, Gratz. During the meeting, he explored the experience of the cluster management, the form of partnership (ownership and funding), the management system, how to develop and implement the cluster strategy, good practices and cases of successfully completed internal cluster initiatives, the generation and management approach the innovation process, the gold labelling procedure for excellent cluster management, and the other awards the cluster has received as the most innovative growth project in the EU (European Commission) and the class Environmental Technologies №1 worldwide (ranking in the US).
Ljubljana - Slovenia
On 12.06.2018 Dimitar participated in training with lecturer Igor Matjasic - Executive Director of DSE Group for studying cloudy cluster management technologies. During the training, important information was provided on how to improve the administration of an in-house cloud management platform, how to link the documents to the project management process and cluster tasks. The training process addressed specific areas of concern that cluster management requires, namely database management for the needs of the internal payment system, strategic plan approaches KPIs monitoring system, business plan development next year.
On June 13, 2018, Dimitar visited Technology park in Ljubljana and met the Technology Development Director Jernej Pintar. He explored at the meeting the management system of the park and the role of the park is turning Ljubljana into a smart and innovative ecosystem in partnership with other stakeholders. He received information and opinion on the work of clusters in Slovenia. Interesting information about the history and lessons learned from the development of the park, the governance structure, the business model used, the park's impact and results, good practices, case.
Sofia - China
At the last day of the Seventh annual Central Eastern Europe-China Summit, better known as “16 + 1” Summit, which took place in Sofia on 6 and 7 July, the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City was visited by Mr. Stanley Wei, Chairman & Managing Director, and Ian Jiang - Director International Cooperation from the Shanghai-based company Oneness International Group Limited. The company represents the interests of high-level investors and fund managers from Hong Kong and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Prior to this meeting the guests from China and the cluster representatives prof. Dr Rumen Nikolov – Vice Chairmen of the Management Board and Dimitar Hristov - Managing Director were invited by prof. Dr K. Kostadinov, special adviser at the Minister, to take a part in a meeting at the Ministry of Science and Education.
All the participants in these two consecutive meetings were deeply inspired during the discussions. They were excited about the knowledge city concept and the smart city initiatives of the cluster and expressed their beliefs that many synergies to work together exist. During the meeting Mr. Stanley Wei stated that they believed in the three key pillars of values shaping the core foundations for sustainable economic growth:
- Industry Integration - Integration and optimization of industrial resources, driven by innovation, to accelerate the growth and development of the regional economy;
- Urban Management - Integrating the essence of Chinese and Western cultures, combined with innovation to optimize the sustainability of urban ecosystems;
- Financial Innovation - Transferring advanced financial experiences and capital resources from the world, adapting it to the local economy, to create mutually beneficial collaborations.
Mr. Stanley Wei remarked: “Our visions and values are in line with the 7th Summit of Heads of Government of CEEC and China, we believe that together we are deepening open and pragmatic cooperation for inclusive prosperity”. Both parties agreed with Mr. Wei’s concept that although Bulgaria’s economy is small, Bulgaria could create a suitable Eastern Hub for cooperation with China in this part of Europe and in Europe as a whole. Dimitar Hristov also outlined that there is a serious market for smart technologies, innovation spaces, and infrastructure, which can accelerate the transformation process of Sofia into a knowledge city. At the heart of this are education, science, and culture, and this is the reason for creating the Cluster Sofia Knowledge City. There was stated common understanding that the infrastructure investments are most successful in places where smart people live because they create a climate for attracting talent, increase the regional potential to generate innovations, and in result create new needs that have to be met with more and more investments. Following this meeting, the next step was a visit of prof. Rumen Nikolov in China, where he met Mr. Ian and both confirmed their expectation to start working on a concrete project, connected with the idea of the Sofia Knowledge park Development.