Third ESSPO Peer Review session focused on Gabrovo’s ambitious policies towards the local economy, especially SMEs.

Gabrovo is among the most industrial municipalities in Bulgaria, as manufacturing accounts for 60% of the total production of local economy. As companies in Gabrovo are export oriented – mainly to the EU, they were hit in the early days of the pandemic, when supply chains and trade were disrupted. Unemployment in Gabrovo grew from 3,2% in 2019 to 5,5% in 2020. Various surveys among local companies showed that some investments were postponed due to higher uncertainty in 2020.

The economy of Gabrovo is well recovering in 2021. Unemployment is down to 3,1% in August 2021 and is one of the lowest in the entire region. There are no health limitations to industrial companies and the digital sector seems to be in a good shape. Nevertheless, it is important to investigate the post-covid potential of local companies, as there are deep changes in supply chains in Europe.
The city plans to take-off the newly developed innovation ecosystem infrastructure: Regional Innovation Centre – a private-public initiative and Technology Park at the University of Gabrovo. The partners recommend to engage them in the in-depth interviews to understand the position of companies in the value chains as well as better understanding their needs.

Similarly as Tartu the city urging challenge is to retain the talents, especially needed for capitalizing the industrial advantages of the place. It seems that Gabrovo has a lot of elements needed for a thriving innovation place. There are already ambitious activities, infrastructure, university, knowledge, educated people and well-functioning industry. The soft activities and dialogue with young people and entrepreneurs have been recommended by the peers. As Tartu has been active in the talent retention activities the further exchanges on this topic are promising.