SOFIA DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION was founded as non-profit organization with the decision 348
of the Sofia Municipal Council to work for the sustainable development of the capital.

Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of SOFIA

The Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of Sofia is a document that outlines the sectoral specialization of the capital city's economy in accordance with the innovative potential and priority guidelines in the development of scientific research and innovations. The document aims to answer the following questions:

• What is the vision and what are the objectives for attaining smart specialization?
• What are the strategic fields of specialization in the capital city's economy?
• What are the stimuli that increase innovation and research in the strategic fields of specialization?
• How can synergy be achieved between different initiatives in order to increase innovations and research in the strategic fields?
• What ecosystem can nourish and maintain the innovation system of the capital city?
• How to integrate this strategy with the national ISSS and other strategic development plans of Sofia?
• What are the opportunities to establish strategic bridge relationships in the field of science and innovations with other municipalities in Bulgaria?
• What good practices from Europe can be useful?
• How can we measure success?
• What is the managing mechanism of the innovation system?
• What will the process of adaptation be?

The Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of Sofia determines the economic priorities within the framework of research and innovation activities in order to create a competitive advantage by strengthening the link between their scientific accomplishments and the needs of industry and market niches.

The aim is to respond to the new opportunities and changes in the market by concentrating investments in areas that provide increased added value to the economy and its competitiveness on the international markets.

The Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of Sofia (ISSS) is developed mainly in accordance with the:

  •  Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, as well as the implementation of thematic objective 1 of Art. 9 of Regulation (RE) 1300/2013 – "Strengthening research, technological development and innovations";
  • Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of Bulgaria;
  • National Development Plan – Bulgaria 2020;
  • Danube Strategy Action Plan on "unlocking the potential of the economy";
  • The strategic and planning documents of Sofia Municipality (Integrated Urban Regeneration and Development Plan of Sofia 2013 – 2020; Municipal Development Plan and other documents listed in the "Reference Documents").

The team developing the ISSS of Sofia has as its primary task the optimal linking of the Strategy with the aforementioned documents, which are complementary, focused and built upon to ensure optimal efficiency and synergy in the implementation of the Strategy.

According to Regulation (RE) 1300/2013 (thematic precondition of Annex XI), EU members states develop innovation strategies for smart specialization as a precondition for the start of Operational Programmes "Innovation and Competitiveness" and "Science and Education for Intelligent Growth". Considering the transformative role of information and communication technologies (ICT), for each national or regional strategy for smart specialization a separate chapter on the strategic framework for digital growth is required, in order to stimulate demand of affordable, high-quality and consistent private and public e-services, and to increase their use by citizens, including by disabled people, businessmen and public sector workers.

Regions and cities are not obliged to develop innovative strategies for smart specialization, but the Commission encourages regional specialization, which is achieved through the development of regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialization as an important factor for economic growth, job creation, effective and targeted use of financial resources in the new programming period and a strategic integrated approach for utilizing the potential for smart growth and knowledge economy in all regions of the European Union.

According to data from the Smart Specialization Platform, over 160 regions and cities in Europe have developed (perfected) and/or are in the process of developing innovation strategies for smart specialization.

The development and implementation of the ISSS of Sofia contributes to the QUALITY OF LIFE in the region. The smart specialization of Sofia has a positive impact on sectors that are directly related to the quality of life in the city, such as environment (ecology, resource efficiency, etc.); transport infrastructure and mobility; healthcare, social services and social capital. The drafting of this document and the analyses used follow the recommendations in the "Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialization", European Commission, May 2012, in order to "connect the sectors/areas of smart specialization of cities and regions with the market niches and the consumers of goods and services". Following this recommendation, all the analyses and identified objectives are tied to improving the quality of life in Sofia.

The analysis of the regional context and the potential for innovation is an attempt to systematize and evaluate the existing assets of Sofia; on the one hand, it aims to look "inside" of the region, and, on the other hand, to make strategic decision-making by taking into account the position of Sofia in comparison with other regions of Europe. This means that the RIS3 approach, used by the team, requires looking beyond regional administrative boundaries.

Furthermore, the purpose of the analysis is to assist in identifying the respective links and flows of goods, services and knowledge, revealing the possible models of integration with partner regions. This is particularly important in the case of less developed regions, which often have to use sources of know-how and technology from the rest of the world. In this regard, the position of the local companies within the frameworks of international value chains is a crucial element that must be taken into account.

Tools used: statistical information, comparative studies, analysis of the information published on the S3 Platform.

The Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization of Sofia is an integrated, place-based programme of economic transformation that:

• focuses political support and investment on key priorities, challenges and needs of knowledge-based economic and social development, including measures relating to ICT;
• builds on the strengths, competitive advantages and potential for high achievements of Sofia;
• supports technological, as well as practical and applied innovation, and aims to stimulate investments in the private sector;
• involves stakeholders and promotes innovation and experimentation;
• is based on evidence and includes reliable systems for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Strategy.

The Innovation Strategy of Sofia aims at increasing the degree of smart specialization of the capital city through the establishment of Sofia as a SMART CITY, which creates an environment of high quality of life for the citizens and better governance, which stimulates the creation of better conditions for synergy in the innovation ecosystem and the leading economic sectors through the effective use of ICT.

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