Its aim is to build a Centre of Excellence in Big Data and Artificial Intelligence at the newly established research institute at Sofia University. The project is implemented in cooperation between Sofia University and Chalmers University of Technology and Chalmers Industriteknik, Sweden. It receives funding from Horizon 2020 WIDESPREAD-2018-2020 TEAMING Phase 2 and will be co-funded by the Bulgarian government through the Operational programme “Science and Education for Smart Growth“, from the European Regional Development Fund.

The event attracted over 120 attendees and great media interest. Among the official guests were Maria Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Magda de Carli, Head of Unit DG RTD, European Commission, Ales Fiala, Head of Unit, Research Executive Agency (REA), Oana Radu Project adviser and GATE project officer, REA, Denitsa Sacheva, Deputy Minister of Science and Education, Prof. Anastas Gerdjikov, Rector of Sofia University.

There were also representatives of the GATE partners from Sweden – Ivica Crnkovic, Director of ICT Area of Advance, Chalmers University of Technology, Director of Chalmers AI Research Centre (CHAIR) and Golaleh Ebrahimpur, CEO of Chalmers Industriteknik (CIT). The Bulgaria industry was represented by Atanas Kiryakov, CEO of Ontotext.

The Bulgarian EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel could not hide her excitement about the occasion: “For the first time in Eastern Europe a Centre of Excellence with a participant Bulgaria! This shows that the young people, our young talents have their future here in the country, and in Europe.”

Speaking about the Centre of Excellence she added: “Centre of Excellence means that we do not only have a tradition in the field of Information and Communication Technologies but also that we have a potential, a very strong research community able to demonstrate more specific benefits in the field of Big Data analyses and artificial intelligence. These benefits concern both services for citizens and what happens in our own city – from safety to reduction of the traffic jams and making citizens aware where they happen. These are all things this centre is able to show us”.

The project coordinator, Prof. Silvia Ilieva from the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics of Sofia University presented the objectives of GATE – to develop research capacity and innovative potential and to grow a new generation of young scientists who are able to apply science to the benefit of society. The work package leaders then introduced the audience to the main project activities and invited attendees to the “GATE market place”, where each work package was presented with its own stand, and the team provided information to those interested in working at the Big data for Smart Society Institute.

Prof. Anastas Gerdjikov, Rector of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” demonstrated strong support for the project: “At Sofia University, this centre will help us to improve our scientific performance and to increase the research capacity. This will be a strong research institute with more than 100 people.” He emphasized on the great number of expected benefits “because everything you hear about smart homes, smart cities, development of economy on the basis of digitalization – all this is impossible if we do not know well enough how to process and use Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.”