Bulgaria is a country with very stable macroeconomic outlook and one of the countries with the highest expertise in the IT sector. We offer a wide and attractive range of measures to support investors and they are welcome. The Ministry of Innovation and Growth has a comprehensive approach and emphasizes sectors with high added value.
This was stated by the Minister of Innovation and Growth, Milena Stoycheva, in an interview with BGNES.
With her we talk about the efforts to develop a high-tech economy and Bulgaria's advantages in the competitive environment, which foreign investors can trust.
Minister Stoicheva noted that Bulgaria is a country with very stable macroeconomic outlook and the second lowest debt/GDP ratio in the EU.
"We had a deficit higher than 3% only in two years only, and it was not that much higher - 4%. We have maintained a stable credit rating for the past 25 years. In addition, there are very good mechanisms to support investors in terms of administrative and operational expenses, that are one-third less and are carried out faster than in other places," said Stoicheva.
She pointed out that Bulgaria provides a very wide and attractive set of measures to support investors, including financial and non-financial support to companies in infrastructure, both for energy projects and digital infrastructure, and for training and development of employees in the amount of up to 2 million euros, if they are done within two years within their investment. A special program has also been created that now is going to provide direct financial returns for strategic partners and investors in priority areas, as well as mechanisms to encourage those who choose to invest in the country's smart specialization.
"Most of all, I would be saying to investors is that Bulgaria is the right place to be now, because we are focused on the development of innovations, emerging technologies and investing in deep tech sectors of the economy. We realize that this is a long-term investment, but it will have the highest return for you, so you are welcome to see", said Milena Stoicheva. She noted that part of the work of the Ministry of Innovation and Growth is to present a new face to Bulgaria, whose assets include talent and people.
“We have a very vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is one of the most developed and well functioning. Bulgaria is in third place in Southeast Europe in terms of the capacity and potential of start-up enterprises. We are also second in terms of attracting investor interest and a regional player in providing various financial instruments and a portfolio of funds that support new companies and new technologies,” she added.
The minister emphasized that the automotive industry has seen significant growth in recent years precisely thanks to IT expertise, and this is "something we need to tell the rest of the world as we are already making an impact". Bulgaria is one of the countries with the highest expertise in the IT sector, it is recognized as one of the three leading countries in this direction.
"The sector moved to the development of new technologies and the development of software products that are basically runnig our cars, as we really are driving 'smart' cars. The trends in this industry allowed Bulgaria to position itself as one of the leading players in the field of electrical components, we also produce software for this sector. We are also putting an emphasize on microelectronics and mechatronics, as well as biotechnology and life sciences, which require a value added approach and investment in intellectual property, development and collaboration for closer work between industry and academia. This is our bet a country," said Stoycheva, specifying that 90% of critical components worldwide for electric vehicles are produced in Bulgaria.
Milena Stoicheva recalled that the growth of direct foreign investments in Bulgaria is very indicative. The Ministry of Innovation and Growth has also developed funding mechanisms in a way that matches the vision of developing sectors with high added-value sectors in society, also related to the assets we have as a country. Experience in the field of artificial intelligence is part of these assets, the minister said. "Through the new Law on Investment and the Framework for measuring impact for investors, we are creating favorable administrative procedures, financial and non-financial measures, as well as putting a focus on innovation as a country. This complex and comprehensive approach to the current environment will really be attractive, it will be considered good the way we develop and support investors and Bulgaria."
To a question from BGNES about examples of successful large-scale projects in Bulgaria, Stoycheva answered:
"We have one of the leading research institutes for AI - INSAIT, which is working with established international partners such as the ETH and EPFL universities in Switzerland, but also across Europe and the USA." Stoycheva also pointed to two start-up companies that are breaking ground - EnduroSat, which produces nanosatellites and sends them into space, and Dronamics, which carries out cargo transportation with drones and "disrupting" the whole logistics space.
"We also have examples of research and development centers of large companies like Bosch Engineering. Another successful company in the IT sector is SAP Labs. Infosys is the second largest technology company in India, which opened a new expanded office and 500 new jobs in Bulgaria.
“In the biotechnology sector, we are talking to a number of pharmaceutical companies and other companies that are interested in developing R&D centers in Bulgaria in colaboration with scientific institutes and also with universities. These good examples are matching the sectors that we are featuring in our smart specialization and competitiveness program", commented Minister Milena Stoicheva.
She also pointed to a new opportunity in the direction of the development of the economic sector: "Culture and creative industries could be an exciting surprise where we see a lot of potential. It is one of the sectors that we will make investments in. Bulgaria is quite well known for producing good companies in this sector. We are one of the countries that is a winner and has a Technological Oscar won by a local company behind the animation software for many of the movies we watch - Chaos Group. We have very good examples also in the gaming industry."
"We need to look to the future in a more open-minded way and think about where our strengths are, and then combine that with a vision and policy that will empower those strengths to blossom in the development of the economy, and also to be a good place to work and live," the minister added.
Stoycheva defined the accession of Bulgaria to the Artemis Accords as a historical moment and a strategic decision, because Bulgaria is becoming a part of the network of countries that join their efforts for peaceful space exploration. According to her, this opens up space for new companies, institutes, researchers and individual citizens who have ambition and work on new solutions to be part of the funding mechanisms. "We are putting Bulgaria on the map of the other countries who are open minded and introducing new technologies and ways to work together”, noted Stoycheva.
Regarding the competitive environment in the region, in view of the ambitions of countries such as Greece, Romania and Turkey, Minister Stoicheva emphasized that it is time to think "on a larger scale" regarding the partnership.
Individual organizations, companies or even countries and economies can no longer be drivers of new trends and development. My answer to how we look at competition is that we actually work with the other countries. We have started an initiative. I would like to invite and I’ve been working with the ministries responsible for innovation activities, growth, investment and technological development in other countries to bring all these partners here in Bulgaria and work together to establish South-Eastern Europe as one of the innovation hubs with the new emerging technologies and the entrepreneurial approach," she emphasized.
"My message to investors is that we are open for business. We are looking for an opportunity to work and partner with foreign investors in creating new territories and innovations which are the driving force for the economy at the moment. We will be partnering with them to get the best results out of their investment and support Bulgaria’s green, stable and sustainable economy", Minister Milena Stoicheva said in conclusion. /BGNES