Among the first over 15 members of the Bulgarian Urban Data Space are various organizations such as the National Statistical Institute, Sofia Development Association and Sofiaplan, business representatives such as Overgas, CNSys, Kontrax, Rila Solutions, Telelink Business Services and Senstate, and the non-governmental organizations For the Earth, One Tree, and Data for Good. This was an initiative of the GATE Institute at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and it aims to promote innovation by using the opportunities offered by the development of the data-based economy.

The event was organized in Sofia in partnership with the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA), of which GATE is also a member, and has attracted many experts in data management from all over Europe.

“I am glad that here today we see such great interest in the business and social benefits that data spaces can offer,” noted Prof. Silvia Ilieva, Director of GATE, at the opening of the Data Spaces Discovery Day conference, which gathered over 200 experts for the launch of the Bulgarian Urban Data Space. “We will work to expand this ecosystem, which already serves as an incubator for innovative business models and solutions for smart cities. The goal is to show in practice how big data and artificial intelligence improve the lives of citizens.”

In a congratulatory address to the forum participants, the Minister of Innovation and Growth, Alexander Pulev, expressed support for the initiative and readiness for future cooperation with scientific circles and technology companies. He also noted the programmes proposed by the government with a total value of over BGN 5 billion for the period 2022-2023, which are intended for scientific research and development and aim at stimulating excellence and innovation and their implementation in the economy.

“Data spaces are the kind of magic that makes businesses, economies and lives incomparably better,” said Lars Nagel, CEO of IDSA. “Their introduction requires a holistic change – of technologies, the legal framework and some business processes. But the fact that the Bulgarian ecosystem is so mature for this event today shows huge potential and we expect business solutions with global impact to be created right here.”

“Municipalities have huge information arrays that we accumulate daily in the performance of our routine activities,” said Tanya Hristova, Mayor of Gabrovo Municipality. “We need partners to help us use this data to make management decisions. We have developed many data-driven tools, such as a school’s first-grade ranking tool, and we are working on a remote parking monitoring system. But for the big problems, such as achieving climate neutrality, we need to work in an ecosystem of shared resources to find innovative and effective long-term solutions.”

The participants of the event got acquainted with successful examples from the creators of a number of innovative data spaces from all over Europe. Among them were Michael Schäfer, CEO of Mobility Data Space in Germany with a presentation on multi-modal mobility and infrastructure; Ulrich Ahle with a presentation of Wolfsburg’s FIWARE open source platform for smart city solutions; Tuomo Tuika from the Helsinki Energy Efficiency and Carbon Footprint Data Space; Matthijs Punter of TNO on the Dutch Healthcare Data Space; and Dandan Wang with a presentation of the urban lighting data space in Barcelona.

The program of the event also included a special Data Space Discovery area with demonstrations of data spaces from the network of the International Association of Data Spaces, where the Bulgarian experts exchanged experiences and were closely acquainted with examples from Europe. The main highlight of the program were the discussions between Bulgarian and international experts on the business and social benefits of trusted data sharing and the importance of using data to solve the problems and challenges facing the cities of the future. Maria Barros, vice president of IONOS and Gerard van der Hoeven from the iShare Foundation, as well as representatives of the Bulgarian companies TaxiMe, Astea Solutions and Telelink, took part in the discussion about the business value of data spaces.

In a special online interview on the topic “Sovereign data sharing – the way forward in Europe”, Edward Curry, vice president of the Big Data Value Association and Chairman of the GATE Supervisory board summarized the topics discussed during the day and set the direction for the future development of the data spaces.

The launch of the Urban Data Space, initiated in our country by GATE, offers Bulgarian businesses the opportunity to share data between trusted parties, without the need to physically move the data. GATE’s nearly 40-member research team, in turn, also offers training on data-sharing principles and IDS architecture and develops analytical algorithms. GATE provides a testbed where the benefits of sharing data in a secure environment can be evaluated before investment, and by joining the Urban Data Space, new products and services can be developed and monetized. The team’s next goal is to work on expanding the data space with a focus on healthcare and energy efficiency. Membership in the Urban Data Space can also support the global promotion of local business innovation, as noted by foreign experts during the conference.

The full record of the Data Spaces Discovery Day could be seen here: