University of Economics – Varna

Start for Future: Varna Summit 2023 at University of Economics – Varna brought together innovators and trendsetters from all over Europe

The two-day international event Start for Future: Varna Summit 2023 took place at University of Economics – Varna on 23 and 24 June 2023. It was hosted by Varna Deep Tech Innovation Port, and it was organized by Junior Achievement Bulgaria, its subsidiary The Edge: R&BD, University of Economics – Varna, Varna Municipality, with the support of EIT Urban Mobility and EIT HEI Initiative.

The event brought together innovators and trendsetters from over 20 European countries, determined to establish synergies, foster collaboration, and create innovation. The forum was attended by academia, business people, central government officials, local authorities representatives, politicians, start-up founders, researchers and innovators.

The official opening was attended by Mr Ivan Portnih, Mayor of Varna; Ms Milena Stoycheva, Minister of Innovation and Growth; Prof. Dr. Genka Petrova-Tashkova, Deputy Minister of Education and Science; Prof. Dr. Evgeni Stanimirov, Rector of University of Economics – Varna and many others.

Prof. Dr. Evgeni Stanimirov addressed the participants, pointing out that though building bridges made perfect sense, carefully choosing the people crossing them was also a priority. ‘Start-up culture tends to defy the laws of business physics, but ideas alone are not enough,’ Prof. Stanimirov added. ‘When we discuss entrepreneurial ecosystems, we shouldn’t forget that specific steps are needed. When we talk entrepreneurship, we often prioritise competitiveness and new ideas since we are often told that we need to build resilience and we must fight to compete. We are told that this is what the real world is all about. But this seems to be just an excuse. When we look at the world as a hostile place, we will always find people to fight against. But it is much better to look for ‘dancing’ partners rather than competitors. We’d better dance than fight,’ said Prof. Stanimirov.

The Rector further explained that businesses should seek symbiosis within each ecosystem, and between ecosystems as this was the only approach conducive to generating value towards developing the business model of the ecosystem. ‘People are likely to naively worship innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, forgetting that many prominent inventors have failed thousand a time, ultimately making a random discovery. I believe we should strive for innovation without being naive about it. Undoubtedly innovation valleys such as the one in Varna provide us with plenty of opportunities, but the important message is that there are things we can and we want to achieve and achieve we must’, the Rector of University of Economics – Varna added.

Milena Stoycheva, Minister of Innovation and Growth, said in her speech at the opening of Start for Future: Varna Summit 2023, ‘This forum is an example that Bulgaria not only keeps abreast with new European initiatives, but it also creates innovation. Events like this one are likely to favourably change statistics, for example the 2022 one, which classified our country as a budding innovator.

As there is still regional imbalance and underperformance, the creation and development of a network of well-connected regional innovation valleys on the Old Continent will have a lasting impact on achieving excellence. I certainly welcome Varna Municipality’s decision to include the concept of regional innovation valleys in its development planning as a tool for support using European Union programmes and, in particular, the approach for integrated territorial investments. This certainly shows the commitment of all stakeholders in developing the local innovation ecosystem, which guarantees success.

I’d also like to draw attention to the Research, Innovation and Digitization Programme for Smart Transformation 2021 – 2027, run by the Ministry of Innovation and Growth. It is aligned with the objectives of the European Research Area and the European Innovation Agenda to create a single European market for research, innovation, deep tech innovation and investment in research and innovation, and increase interaction between universities, businesses and other participants in the innovation process. This programme is also related to the European Pact for Research and Innovation. It also takes into account European priorities on the ‘green transition’ and the key role of innovation in achieving a transition to a climate-neutral and digital economy.’

Ivan Portnih, Mayor of Varna, pointed out: ‘Varna showcases a successful model of bringing together businesses, education and science. We are convinced that young educated people are our city’s real capital and we are proud of our six universities and over 35,000 students.’ Ivan Portnih further gave credit for the establishment of the first Deep Tech Valley/Port in Varna to Prof. Evgeni Stanimirov, Rector of University of Economics – Varna, and Ms Milena Stoycheva, as former Junior Achievement Director, and current Minister of Innovation and Growth. ‘They both played a pivotal role in establishing good practices.’ Mr Portnih further emphasized that this forum was a great platform to exchange ideas with representatives from all over Europe. ‘We are all looking in the same direction and our main goal is to provide young people with an environment of employability and growth so that cities can develop using innovative, green and sustainable solutions.’

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29 Jun 2023