On February 21st, Sofia Tech Park, the first science and technology park in Bulgaria, officially opened coworking and meetup facilities in its business incubator building – Groworking Space and Club House. The main stated goals for the new spaces are the creation of synergies between research institutions and entrepreneurs as well as the development and commercialization of applied science projects.
Club House will be home to a number of starting tech clubs – for people interested or involved in spacetech, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence or science-based entrepreneurship. At the same time, Groworking has 35 work stations available, which will be targeting small startup teams as well as idea-stage entrepreneurs and students. Prices range from 57 to 170 euros per month.
Sofia Tech Park shares that users of Groworking Space will have the opportunity to discuss ideas and projects with the eleven teams that work at the high-tech labs in the complex. Groworking Space also promises to provide a set of services like mentor sessions, business advisory, and incubation tech transfer program. It’s still not clear whether the teams using the space will also get access to the laboratories.
“The purpose of the Space Club is to bring together everyone who cares about the development of the space industry in Bulgaria. We want to help projects move from the idea stage to specific R&D proposals and market-ready startups. Another important goal of the club is to present the specifics of the space industry in front of a larger audience. There are not many practically-oriented events and venues covering the topic, so hopefully, we can be a focus point that will act as a catalyst for things to start happening,” explains Zdravko Dimitrov, initiator of the Space Club and business development manager at Sat-1.
Concurrently, the Bulgarian Robotics and Automation Association, PARA, is starting a club focused on sparking the youth’s interest in deep tech.
“With the opening of our robotics club, we are focusing on attracting young people to the Bulgarian manufacturing industry. To develop its full potential, we will put an emphasis on innovation in robotics and all of its aspects – business, technical, and operational. We continue to work on connecting startups, NGOs, research institutions, and established companies, so Club House gives us the physical space to organize lots of initiatives,” shares Kristiyan Mihaylov, co-founder of PARA.
Sofia Tech Park: Moving towards its initial idea
Sofia Tech Park officially opened doors around five years ago with the promise to put together entrepreneurs, science and mature businesses and facilitate the exchange of know-how and ideas. It’s the first science and technology park in Bulgaria and the only state-owned hub aiming to support the startup movement. The facilities were built by the government and operated in a pretty institutional style for some years.
The Sofia Tech Park, in which so far nearly €50M have been invested, was officially launched in 2015, and consists of three modules – a complex of 11 high-tech labs, an incubator for startup companies and an event center. During the first three years, the conference center was the only fully functional component of the technology park, where a lot of smaller and bigger international events have happened. Since 2019, however, the technology park has been developing adding more residents in its buildings, opening up more and more towards the startup community and its different initiatives.
Last year, the multinational technology company Bosch also joined Sofia Tech Park by opening a new engineering center, currently employing about 200 people. Software engineers there work on automated driving systems: for example, such that monitor and evaluate driver behavior in vehicles or process incoming data, make decisions and initiate driving actions to prevent accidents on the road.
“Our long-term goal is to become the hotspot of science-based entrepreneurship and tech transfer in South-East Europe and attract global, regional and national researchers, scientists and innovative companies”, Natanail Stefanov, Vice Chairman of The Executive Board of Sofia Tech Park, told Trending Topics in an earlier interview.
Almost since the beginning, there has been office space provided for young companies but never a fully functional co-working and community space. And, Groworking looks like the next step towards the management’s goals.