The Peer Review workshop for Sofia was dealing with the policy instrument “Sofia Public-Private Fund for Innovations” (SFI), measure “Testing models, alternative or additional to the measures supported by Structural Funds, for fostering innovation in Sofia”.

The Fund has been designed as a pilot and stand-alone instrument to act as testing platform for new support services. Therefore it seems disconnected from the national and regional funding mechanisms. Even though SFI has no strong linkages with universities, those are seen as an opportunity for the future especially in the contest formats, such as Hackathons.

The Peer Review was based on a self-assessment conducted by Sofia Development Association team that coordinated the operation of SFI, and on a stakeholder analysis during a stakeholder meeting and via online consultations.

The instrument and its support measures have been positively evaluated by the partners with scores above the average while evaluating the “transparency of the instrument to the target group”, “matching their needs” and “satisfaction with the application process”. Concerning the criteria on the “critical mass of the target group for substantial R&D commercialisation” the results are close to average due to the specifics of the main beneficiaries of the SFI – individual artists, informal groups, microenterprises.

The critical questions raised by Sofia Development Association and discussed with the InnoBridge partners, related to monitoring and evaluation, long-term vision and financial sustainability. Partners suggestions included better cooperation with the national funds for innovation, more efficient integration with universities and empowering the stakeholders to determine their own progress by setting and reporting indicators.

The conclusions of the Peer Review will be taken into consideration by Sofia Development Association and its stakeholder group and incorporated into the next stage of development of SFI Peer Review report and into the Action Plan for SFI improvement to be developed in 2017.