Over 140 guests, including representatives of the General Directorate “Regional and Urban Policy” of the European Commission, the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Innovation and Growth, the Central Coordination Unit, Governing Bodies met personally with the scientists from GATE, who talked about their research work and demonstrated how the Urban Environment Lab actually works, the Visualization Lab – an open space for collaboration and working with topological (2D), spatial (3D) and interactive (VR) data, the Digital Twin Lab.

The attendees also visited the “Clean&Circle” Competence Center, as well as the modernized infrastructure of the National Center for Mechatronics and Clean Technologies in the “Lozenets” campus.

At the opening of the event Prof. Dr. Georgi Vaisilov – head of the Governing Body of the Operational Program, defined it as a bridge between the two program periods in the construction and development of the centers and emphasized that thanks to the first independent program for science and education in Bulgaria in the period 2014- 2020 saw the largest investment in scientific infrastructure in the country in the last 30 years.

Mrs. Yordanka Chobanova – head of the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria highlighted the important role of European funding, thanks to which innovations can be created. “In a center like this one feels the future,” she shared, pointing out that the centers provide an opportunity to propose solutions to address challenges such as climate change, life expectancy, clean “smart cities.”

In her address to the participants, Mrs. Agnes Monfre from the General Directorate for Regional and Urban Policy expressed her satisfaction that she is here at one of the centers financed by the program at when a “remarkable page in the history is being closed signaling the success of the program”. Ms. Monfre emphasized that despite the difficulties at the beginning, the results are there and they are very promising.

The Deputy Minister of Education and Science Mrs. Natalia Miteva emphasized the role of the landmark investment in the Bulgarian research infrastructure made under the program, which also supports the most important participants in the research process – the scientists themselves, with special attention to young scientists.

Prof. Georgi Angelov – Deputy Minister of Innovation and Growth pointed out that the event marks the successful completion of a task of enormous effort and potential, which provides a basis for development using the tools for competitiveness, innovation and investment, concentrated in the Ministry of Innovation and Growth . He emphasized that in order to ensure the sustainability of the scientific research structures built under this Operational Program, funds are provided under the Program “Research, Innovation and Digitization for Intelligent Transformation” 2021-2027 and the centers will play a key role in the priority areas of Bulgaria’s Smart Specialization Strategy.

On behalf of the host of the event – Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, the vice-rector for research and scientific project activity, art.-cor. Prof. Dr. Toni Spasov paid special attention to the important role of the partnership between the participants in the process of building the centers of excellence and the centers of competence – the European Commission, state institutions, universities and institutes of the Bulgarian Science Academy, business. He emphasized that modern infrastructure and modern equipment are the necessary prerequisite for building the scientific capacity and attracting young people.