The event was organized jointly by the GATE Institute, Bulgaria and Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

Official guests of the event were Anna Panagopoulou, Director of the European Research Area and Innovation at the Research and Innovation Directorate General of the European Commission and Nikolay Denkov, Minister of Education and Science.  Prof. Anastas Gerdjikov, Rector of Sofia University, sent an official address to the forum.

On behalf of the European Commission Anna Panagopoulou highly appreciated the achievements of the GATE Institute. “The European Commission is proud to testify very good progress of the GATE project in Bulgaria. We see it as a real game-changer. The subject of the GATE project itself – Big data and Artificial intelligence – is not only relevant to the biggest societal challenges today but it is also in a field of utmost strategic relevance for the EU and for digital transformation. GATE shows that R&I investments and reforms can move the country up on the stairways to excellence. We are proud of supporting this project”, concluded Anna Panagopoulou.

The Minister of Education and Science, acad. Nikolay Denkov was delighted to attend a GATE’s event again. “I have always been impressed by the skills and ability of prof. Ilieva and her team to make the dreams come through. Starting with something that was very allusive in the beginning – really a dream, to make it something that has not only clear idea and substance but also literally takes a shape – the shape of the building, the shape of your core priorities that you define in the discussions today and tomorrow. And all that gives the promise of the very successful development of your Institute. So, from our side, I can only state that the Ministry of Education and Science will continue to support this Institute as it has been doing in the last years.”

In his greeting, the Rector of Sofia University, prof. Anastas Gerdjikov stressed the GATE’s contribution to the transformation of the university into a research hub. He has pointed that GATE is a new Institute but in the two years of its existence GATE has managed to significantly strengthen its research potential by hiring high-quality researchers and young researchers not only from Bulgaria but also from all over the world. It has elaborated and implemented an ambitious and visionary research agenda driven by the global technological trends and national, EU and world research and innovation priorities. “I would like to share my appreciation of the hard work and enthusiasm of the whole GATE team even in these hard pandemic times. We are proud that GATE is part of our University and we will continue to support its activities.”, said prof. Gerdjikov.

The Director of GATE, Prof. Silvia Ilieva, presented the achievements of the Institute for the past year. She noted that the Institute has worked hard in its four research areas: data management, analysis, visualization and engineering, and in the four strategic application areas: Future Cities, Digital Healthcare, Intelligent Government and Smart Industry.  GATE has been implementing three leading pilot projects – a pilot project for the city, for Alzheimer’s disease and for the detection of disinformation, as well as 7 joint projects. The number of researchers has increased by 25% and currently stands at 37 people from 8 countries. The published 19 new scientific articles represent an increase of 58% compared to the previous year. The construction of the infrastructure continues with the Institute’s building, the development of the GATE platform and the establishment of the City living laboratory.

As a national hub of the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA), GATE has started preparations for building a Bulgarian data space. It has been nominated nationally to apply for the European Digital Innovation Hub for Data and Artificial Intelligence. It continues to be even more active in the Big Data Value Association and the Open Geospatial Consortium, which contributes to maintaining high quality and relevance in research. New cooperation agreements have been signed with stakeholders.

The Institute’s future plans include completing the infrastructure and equipment of GATE laboratories. The institute will continue to implement the strategy for attracting Bulgarian scientists who have studied or worked abroad, as well as young researchers. Partnerships in collaborative projects and within IDSA will be developed and deepened, and new partnerships will be built within the GATE research and application domains.

The two visionary, high-level panels on the first day were dedicated to Data Spaces and Ethical, Explainable and Trustworthy AI.

The three insightful panels on the second day demonstrated how big data and artificial intelligence can help tackle societal and economic challenges in the GATE strategic application areas: Future Cities – City Digital Twin, Digital Health and Intelligent Government –  Disinformation. The panels were opened with keynotes by outstanding researchers and innovators, followed by talks of prominent international speakers, GATE research team leaders and discussions.

During the second day of the event, GATE researchers demonstrated their results through short video pitches presented between the panels.

More than 240 participants registered for the event. They were mainly from research institutions and technological companies.



The two visionary, high-level panels on the first day were dedicated to Data Spaces and Ethical, Explainable and Trustworthy AI.

The Data spaces panel made an overview of the key enablers for data spaces, outlined the challenges for building data spaces and in this context highlighted the role of trust in data sharing. It was moderated by Edward Curry, Vice president of the Big Data Value Association (BDVA). The keynote speaker, Markos Matsas, from the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) focused on the main steps to build and run data spaces. The panellists Svetlogor Kirov from the State e-Government Agency, Bulgaria, Radoslav Rizov from Telelink Business Services, Bulgaria and Sylvia Ilieva from GATE discussed the conditions for building data spaces in Bulgaria and outlined the role of government, industry and GATE in this process. The role of the industry as a data provider and the need to build strategic partnerships between stakeholders were highlighted.

Irena Pavlova, Manager of European Programmes and Projects at GATE, was the moderator of the panel on Trustworthy, Explainable and Ethical AI. The panel was focused on how policymakers, ethics experts, industry players and researchers were joining forces to realize human-centred, fair and trustful AI, as the main enabler of our Digital Future. It discussed the European framework and recommendations in the field, the main steps towards ethical AI,  state-of-the-art in responsible AI research and how the industry is implementing responsible AI solutions in their organizations.

Anna Felländer from the AI Sustainability, Centre, Sweden was the keynote speaker. The panellists were Galia Angelova from the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies, BAS, Andrea Passarella from CNR, Italy and Anderson Santana de Oliveira from SAP, France.

The three insightful panels on the second day were focused on City Digital Twin, Digital Health and Disinformation. The panels were opened with keynotes by outstanding researchers and innovators, followed by talks of prominent international speakers, GATE research team leaders and discussions.

The panel “City Digital Twins: Inclusiveness and added value chances” presented the current achievements, challenges and digital chances of city digital twins, focusing on their exploitation for building more livable, inclusive, safe, and sustainable cities. The panel was moderated by Graham Kemp, Professor in the Data Science and AI Division, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

The keynote speaker, Tuomo Tuikka, from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland demonstrated how data sharing enables future-bound smart cities solutions based on the IDSA, GAIA-X and BDVA initiatives.

Stefano De Panfilis from FIWARE Foundation presented how FIWARE domain-specific enablers and data models provide a technological base for building data spaces and facilitating the development of city digital twins. The results of the collaboration between the Digital Twin Cities Centre in Gothenburg and GATE in the Future cities application domain were shared by Anders Logg of Chalmers University, Sweden and Dessislava Petrova-Antonova of GATE. The Deputy-mayor of Sofia Municipality Gencho Kerezov provided insights on the joint initiatives of Sofia Municipality and GATE for creating a better urban environment and living conditions. The follow-up discussion focused on the main challenges in building a digital twin such as data access, the complexity of the processes and models, and sustainability.

The panel “Opportunities and Prospects in Digital Health” discussed how Big Data and Artificial Intelligence support the development of analytical models in the research of Alzheimer’s disease. Dean Palejev, Senior researcher at GATE Institute and leader of the Digital Health application area moderated the panel. The keynote speaker, Alexander Eckehart Urban, Associate Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, presented the results from a novel approach for finding complex structural variants in the human genome.

Other talks in the session described the work on a risk calculator that will be used as a pre-screening method for Alzheimer’s disease in order to avoid costly and invasive medical procedures; AI methods for fast identification of suitable antisense oligonucleotides for a given target protein implicated in disease; and applying knowledge graphs for integrating different types of data from various sources.

The panellists were Alexander Schliep from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Dr Ivan Koychev from the University of Oxford, UK and Todor Primov from Ontotext, Bulgaria.

The third insightful panel “Disinformation research and policy responses in the Balkans” was concentrated on the latest fact-checking, analysis and research on disinformation campaigns in Bulgaria and Central and Eastern Europe. It was moderated by Kalina Bontcheva, Research Leader on disinformation at GATE and Head of the Natural Language Processing (NLP) group at the University of Sheffield. The keynote talk was about tackling disinformation on Facebook among Bulgarian users. It was given by Veni Markovski, Member of the European Commission Expert Group on Tackling Disinformation and Promoting Digital Literacy Through Education and Training.

Maria Bielikova from the Kempelen Institute of Intelligent Technologies in Slovakia introduced the work of the Central European Digital Media Observatory (CEDMO) and focused on the AI-based support of fact-checking process. Katarína Klingová presented a GLOBSEC study on the vulnerability to the disinformation of eight  Central and East European countries. Ralitsa Kovacheva from Sofia University and outlined the activities of the only platform in Bulgaria dedicated solely to fact-checking. Milena Dobreva from GATE talked about the research carried out by members of the Institute on disinformation in Bulgarian Facebook groups and tweets and the work towards the creation of tools for identifying disinformation in the Bulgarian language.

The event offered a lot of interaction possibilities within the GATE Ecosystem and the broader community.

Project BG05M2OP001-1.003-0002-C01 „Big Data for Smart Society“ (GATE) of Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski is funded by the TEAMING Phase 2 of the EC Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 Programme and co-funded by the Operational Programme Science and Education for Smart Growth 2014-2020, co-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund.

The official opening could be seen here:

The panels could be seen here: