The first Sofia Innovation Camp – part of the series of the Joint Research Center (JRC) initiative Science Meets Regions - took place on March 29 – 31, 2018 with the broader theme of cleaner air. It brought together close to 100 participants, ranging from academia and politicians to civil society and business representatives, from secondary school students to trade unions, from media to community organizations. Four generations worked together for three days in Sofia City Art Gallery to innovate, network and produce the first ideas and rough solutions developed jointly in response to challenges put forward by Sofia Municipality.
Lorita Radeva, Chairperson of the Environmental Committee of Sofia Municipal Council, proposed the challenge of combating energy poverty. The citizen response were two prototypes. The first envisions more efficient support to energy poor households by introducing an energy contract between the recipients and the municipality and establishing the figure of energy mediator (based on the model of health mediators). The second proposes to establish an Innovation and Demo Center for Smart Energy with real life demonstrations of different technologies and solutions, plus educational and consultancy activities for better energy efficiency.
Hristian Petrov, Director of the Urban Mobility Center, put forward the challenge of better urban transport. Participants who worked on this challenge, proposed to introduce school buses instead of parents driving kids to school. They also believe the public transport 365-day pass needs better promotion. Another solution proposed was to introduce mini-traffic modeling based on the city transport scheme, at the level of a crossroads, or parallel road repair works, allowing more efficient traffic regulation.
Doncho Barbalov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia, proposed the challenge of balancing technological innovations and their societal effects. The bottom-up citizen co-creating resulted in ideas for a new type of public cloud data connectivity; Solar City photovoltaic installations engaging disenfranchised citizens; career counselling center assisting young people to design a career path suitable for the future.
The challenge owners welcomed citizens to co-own the policy solutions and enhance the accountability of policy interventions. Sofia Innovation Camp, conducted as a partnership between Sofia Municipality, Sofia Development Association, Green Sofia and Sofia University, managed to establish platforms for on-going discussion on the evolution of proposed challenges, and the identification of new ones. To facilitate this process, Yordanka Fandakova, Sofia Mayor, and Charlina Vitcheva, Deputy Director General at JRC, signed a Memorandum for cooperation between Sofia and JRC in the areas of clean air, climate change, transport, digital transformation, cybersecurity.