BESCO Business Breakfast on Innovative Sofia’s “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions”: Highlights, Useful Links, and Answers from the Q&A Session

23 February, 2021


On 18 February we presented our “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions” project during an online meeting with the Bulgarian Startup Association at BESCO Business Breakfast

We would like to thank the Association for the active attitude toward the Programme and the positive feedback and attention on the part of the startup community to work together with us on tech pilot projects improving the urban environment.

Listed below you will find highlights from the information presented at the meeting, useful links, and answers to the questions asked during the Q&A session.


What is the “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions”

The Sandbox for Innovative Solutions is a programme of Innovative Sofia – Sofia Municipality’s department for digitalization, innovation, and economic development – for pilot projects for testing innovative technological solutions related to urban challenges. The programme is part of the Action Plan for the implementation of the Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia (DTSS), adopted unanimously by the Sofia Municipal Council in October 2020, and focuses on environment, education, transport, e-government, entrepreneurship, innovations, and other important city topics.

The Action Plan for the implementation of the Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia

Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia (DTSS)

The city administration, together with the business in Sofia, will look for solutions related to environmental, educational, transport, entrepreneurial and other city challenges. Our goal is to turn Sofia into a testing ground for the innovative products or services developed locally by Sofia-based companies on problems defined by the city administration.

The pilot projects aim to:

  • generate data to support evidence-based city solutions and policies based on data;
  • test innovative technological solutions and identify scalable projects, incl. for the activities under the DTSS Action Plan;
  • improve the quality of public services through innovation;
  • improve the quality of life in Sofia by implementing smart urban solutions.

Besides the focus areas, our team is open to project proposals related to other areas of urban life and the environment, if they intend a broad social impact and benefit, improve the quality of life in the city, and work synergistically with other solutions.


How can companies submit proposals for technological urban solutions?

We encourage the companies to contact Innovative Sofia’s team directly. The submitted solutions need not be at a product development stage, and can also be at the idea stage.

As with all projects of the department, we approach the Sandbox for Innovative Solutions flexibly and purposefully, with small but practical steps. We are ready to discuss each project or idea, its particular characteristics and needs, as well as the possible involvement of other departments in the Sofia Municipality in its implementation.

Contact Innovative Sofia’s team here.


Assessment of project eligibility

The ideas proposed by the companies will be assessed according to a specially developed methodology – Methodology for assessment of projects in the field of digitalization and intelligent urban solutions. It was elaborated by an international expert team of the consulting company Deloitte and implemented with the support of the European Investment Bank and the Project Information and Finance Division of the Fund of Funds.

The Methodology aims to be a tool for assessing the potential of urban solutions in terms of their relevance, feasibility, finance potential, readiness and sustainability. It will be applied:

  • for the development of the conceptual projects identified in the DTSS and evaluation of projects related to the topics of digitalization and smart city;
  • for the implementation of the identified activities for digitalization of various areas of urban life to support the upgrade of the indicative activities set in the DTSS, which are at the initial conceptual stage and part of the first three priority areas – e-municipality, mobility, and utilities.

Innovative Sofia’s team will also apply the Methodology in the “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions” project to assess the eligibility of proposals and to scale them up.

The methodology sets out 50 criteria that pilot projects must meet. They are divided into four categories: Formal, Fit, Finance, and Feasibility, which aim to assess the project proposal in terms of its degree of readiness, relevance, feasibility, and financial sustainability. For example, the criteria include: clear definition of the goal of the project/initiative; available team with the necessary expertise for project implementation; whether or not the project meets the operational objectives set out in the DTSS; to what extent citizens will be willing to use the particular product or service; are the project results likely to be long lasting; is there a business plan for the project’s/idea’s implementation; is there are risk of vendor locking; how the project can be funded – by private or public financing, and is it expected to generate revenues or reduce costs; is the project applicable to any (or multiple) strategic goals in the smart cities filed; ;is the project aligned with strategic documents on a city, national or EU level; has the project identified partners/stakeholders, and many more. 


What are the benefits for companies from their participation in the “Sandbox for Innovative Solutions”

Our team will readily work with Bulgarian and international companies with local operations. The participation of the companies in the Sandbox will provide them with an opportunity to directly get involved with innovative urban policies; to test innovative solutions in a real environment and expand their potential for attracting investments through the acquired experience and results; to present the solutions for implementation in other cities in the country and worldwide.

In addition to scaling potential projects in Sofia, Innovative Sofia is ready to share its experience and good practices with other cities, thus carrying the scale of solutions for the benefit of citizens and the urban environment to other cities in Bulgaria and abroad.

Please contact us if you have questions or want to present your idea or development for testing in our pilot project programme! We will be happy to discuss your innovative solutions with which we can change Sofia together.