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Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GATE (BIG DATA FOR SMART SOCIETY)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

The BiG DAta for SmarT SociEty - GATE project aims to establish a Big Data Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Sofia, Bulgaria as a partnership between Sofia University (Bulgaria), Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) and Chalmers Industriteknik (Sweden). The centre is an investment in people and is needed for Bulgaria and Eastern Europe to contribute to and benefit from the Big Data revolution where it is currently struggling because of high levels of brain drain of ICT researchers and low levels of investment in research. In Bulgaria and the region, there is now a growing demand for more advanced Big Data competence and technology, driven by R&D business investments in Sofia, the quickly growing innovation ecosystem and enthusiastic local entrepreneurship activities. This represents an excellent opportunity for establishing the centre as the heart of an ecosystem of actors from academia, government and business where it can fuel the growth by Big Data excellence and innovation. The objectives for Phase 1 are.
O1 Business Plan Development - Elaboration of a detailed and robust business plan with a long-term vision for setting-up and sustaining GATE Centre of Excellence. The Business plan includes a long term research and innovation agenda and a long- term strategy to ensure operational, financial, organisational and ecosystem sustainability.
O2 Capacity Strengthening - Strengthening the research capacity and potential – by advancing the research expertise through high level specializations in Big Data and relevant areas, by integration of advanced infrastructures, by creating new opportunities in the target high-tech arena, thereby achieving a critical mass of researchers that can address challenging scientific and technological problems.
O3 Boosting Ecosystem of Researchers - Establishment of collaborative network – ecosystem of Big Data and related fields researchers, through widening the existing research network, through establishing long-term agreements with top research institutions worldwide, via the generation of a strategy IPR management and through creation of joint plans for exploitation of research results.
O4 Community Building - Mobilizing a vivid community of stakeholders around GATE CoE and fostering collaboration between government, industry, academia and public organizations in Big Data and related technology areas of high importance to Bulgaria, Balkan region and Europe.
O5 Education and Training - Increasing quality of education and training and offering measures for motivation and involvement of the next-generation Early-Stage Researchers (ESR) in the fields of GATE Big Data Value Chain and Innovation Pillars.
GATE workplan consisted of 6 work packages. WP1 and 6 were aimed to reflect management and ethical aspects of the project.
Within WP2 roadmaps were created for strengthening the research and innovation capacity and the human potential in Big Data and enhancing SofiaUni team expertise through: involvement of world class scientists and managers, integration with advanced national and EU infrastructures, advancing learning, training and skills in Data Science and creating new opportunities, especially for Early Stage Researchers.
WP3 was focused on community building starting with the establishment of a multidisciplinary Advisory Board. GATE facilitated multi-actor and public involvement and engaged wider industry, academia and government representatives in the definition of research and innovation agenda of the centre that will reflect the values, needs and expectations of society. GATE innovation and research commercialization strategy was also elaborated, aiming at achieving advanced Big Data performance and maturity to drive competitiveness and productivity and at creating Big Data talents with an entrepreneurial passion.
Within WP4 GATE research strategy, based on analysis of the research capacities of SofiaUni and Chalmers and also considering the state of the art at national, EU and world level has been elaborated. Strategic application themes have been defined with the highest societal impact. A Business plan has been developed, to ensure a long-term stability of funding and operating conditions over time that specifies the research & innovation focus, governance and intended leadership & people, organization and way of working, stakeholders and resources and the financial projections. It includes findings and conclusions from discussions with around 100 stakeholders.
Through dissemination and communication within WP5 GATE achieved high visibility and recognition at national and EU level. Many events have been organized in Bulgaria and Sweden, involving more than 200 participants. A great number of meetings with representatives of academia, government, city authorities and industry were held. The team get involved in EU Big Data initiatives, promoted GATE in different forums and events and through 20 media releases.
GATE is a timely initiative that will ensure that the current surge of growth in Big Data research, innovation and business in Bulgaria becomes self-sustaining. The world-wide demand for Big Data technology and competence will continue to grow, bringing future investments in R&D. Correspondingly, the demand for GATE and associated opportunities for funding will also increase, with excellent prospects for the CoE to take part and to develop collaboration and synergies with similar initiatives in EU. GATE will, thus, sustainably contribute to the development of EU and Bulgarian Big Data research and innovation.
A great number of leading scientists from Bulgaria, Sweden and were involved in GATE activities that strengthened the existing collaborations, led to new, prospectus ones in the Big Data area and helped to define focused, but visionary long-term research and innovation agendas. GATE integrated with EU advanced research infrastructure will become a strategic element of the Bulgarian research infrastructure.
A large set of project ideas has been generated through discussions between GATE team and stakeholders in Bulgaria to identify their needs and priorities and 10 pilot projects are ready to get started, having the highest economic and societal impact.
GATE has stakeholders not only in Bulgaria but in EU as well, including governmental bodies, the authorities of 3 of the biggest Bulgarian cities, academic institutions, industrial clusters and associations, societal organisations and companies. Business stakeholders include international IT companies, banks, pharma, energy and telecom companies, many of them having major Big Data R&D and operations in Bulgaria. Also included are local IT/Big Data companies, SMEs and start-ups. The stakeholders expressed commitment for GATE and are enthusiastic to work with the CoE to develop and improve their competence, operations and business.
GATE is now recognized in EU. SofiaUni became a member of the biggest EU initiative - BDVA and GATE was invited as a member of European Network of National Big Data Value Centres of Excellence. As the only such centre to be established in Eastern Europe, GATE will bridge the gap between the 55 centres in Western Europe and Eastern Europe and will play a strategic role for broadening the network and disseminating the best practices and innovative models to the widening countries, thus creating a great impact not only at national and regional level, but also at European.
GATE concept
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