Sofia, Stara Zagora Finalists in Bloomberg European City Contest
Bulgaria's cities of Sofia and Stara Zagora are among the 21 final contenders in an innovation contest devised by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg Philanthropies foundation announced the 21 European cities which had been selected among 155 candidates to continue their participation in the 2013-2014 Mayors Challenge, a competition aiming to inspire cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.
The final contenders will compete for the grand prize of EUR 5 M for the most creative and transferable idea and four awards of EUR 1 M each, all of which are to be announced in the fall.
"European cities in this year's Mayors Challenge stepped up with bold and creative ideas that have the potential to improve lives across the continent and globe," said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and 108th Mayor of New York City, as cited by the Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The cities applied with projects aimed at solving great social or economic problems or streamlining governance
The finalists' proposed solutions address some of Europe's most critical issue areas: youth unemployment, aging populations, civic engagement, economic development, environment and energy concerns, public health and safety, and making government more efficient.
The 2013-2014 Mayors Challenge is Bloomberg Philanthropies' first in Europe after the inaugural competition in the United States. Cities with populations of at least 100,000 residents were invited to participate. The finalist cities have populations ranging from fewer than 250,000 residents to more than 1 million, and represent 11 countries across Europe.
The 21 finalists will have to develop their projects further and resubmit them in summer, according to reports of the BGNES news agency.
The short presentation of Sofia says that over half of its 1.3-million population lives in residential complexes with little quality public space and diminished access to arts and culture. Under the project, public spaces are to be transformed by deploying mobile art units to work side-by-side with local residents, re-envisioning and rejuvenating underused spaces and increasing civic engagement.
The project of Stara Zagora focuses on economic development. The project aims to reverse the brain-drain of "the city's best and brightest by helping young entrepreneurs turn promising ideas into local high-tech businesses." The program is to grant awards to young people seeking to develop initiatives in the sphere of science, technology and mathematics in Stara Zagora. The short presentation of the city informs that Stara Zagora will provide 70% of the initial funding of the program, as well as legal and other services to the best business concepts.