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Sofia becomes a sandbox city for the co-creation of sustainable urban solutions

Resonator Co-innovation hub
Image credit: Resonator co-innovation hub
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According to unofficial data, around 25% of the total housing capacity of Sofia is taken up by vacant homes or homes without permanent inhabitants. Yet the new buildings are constantly emerging and being constructed at a high pace. Here is another statistic – 29% of the water that comes from the water supply system is wasted because of leaks in the plumbing system. Complex issues require multidisciplinary solutions and especially ones that are developed through co-creation in an environment that fosters innovation. 

In order to tackle urban challenges and make cities more sustainable, the Sofia-based Resonator co-innovation hub is organizing a series of open calls City Connect in partnership with the Digitalisation, Innovation, and Economic Development department of Sofia Municipality, Innovative Sofia. The Resonator City Connect will be looking for startups that can pitch solutions aimed at enhancing city performance and citizen wellbeing. These can be demo projects which can be tested in the context of Sofia and have the potential to be deployed internationally or solutions that have already been validated but need support to get implemented.

“Sofia is suitable for a pilot project because of its small scale as compared to other capitals and that is why very often startups choose such markets before international expansion. On the other hand, the priority areas of the City of Sofia need solutions that have been developed elsewhere but can be adapted for our local needs. And last, but not least, the validation from our partners from Innovative Sofia is also crucial – their support can further speed up the projects’ growth,” shares Bozhana Ivanova, the Deputy Manager at Resonator Co-innovation hub Bulgaria. 

Citizen wellbeing and environment protection

The program focuses on four key priority areas – people, infrastructure, movement, and environment. Each area is further broken down into subcategories and challenges which outline in more detail the city issue that needs to be tackled, the current problems, and the available data which the startups can use to develop their solutions. For example, the startups which tackle citizen wellbeing can focus on solving the problem of population mapping, empty homes, making more information about diseases available, lack of effective measures of economic activities, and more. 

Co-creation and pilot testing

The selected projects will receive individual support from Resonator and its partners including, Microsoft, Analog Devices, Silicon Labs. They will be able to use Sofia as a pilot city for their projects and will get access to valuable city data. Moreover, they will receive help in building prototypes with electro components and modules and will be offered advice on technology, engineering, UX, and cloud architecture. And finally, besides getting free developer access to software platforms, the startups will also receive opportunities for co-development and funding from Resonator’s partners. Bozhana Ivanova explains that the public sector can add value to the development of urban challenge solutions by giving the participants access to available data, expertise, network and the long-term strategic point of view that could either validate a certain project or it can trigger its pivot. 

Interested startups and scaleups with no geographic limitation can apply for the open calls until the 30th of June. 

The co-innovation hub provides individuals and companies of all sizes with the opportunity to do their full-cycle product development – from design thinking to engineering and manufacturing. The R&D facility of Resonator, which hosts a number of labs with tools and equipment in the areas of Electronics, Fabrication, XR, Sound engineering, Device & Software, allows for rapid prototyping and encourages further learning through workshops, STEM education, and training.

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.