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ICT 2015: Speed dating your way into partnerships

From breathtaking sights and godly cuisine to tram cars travelling short distance up steep hills for no apparent reason – the city of Lisbon has a lot to offer as a tourist destination. But it’s not like it doesn’t do so for business as well. Case in point – the ICT 2015 Conference that took place there from 20 to 22 October. Aimed at facilitating cooperation in the field of ICT between companies from European Union Member States or Associated Countries in the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme, the event was attended by A Data Pro’s own business development duo of Anton Todorov and Rayna Grigorova.

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“This is a programme that supports research and helps the implementation of innovation and development of business and technology in different fields – ranging from medicine to the industry – with the ultimate goal of making the EU a world leader in terms of most innovative and highest quality services,” Rayna explains. One of the forum’s main topics was the Digital Single Market strategy, one of the EU’s ten biggest priorities – which, once realised, could contribute some EUR 415 billion a year to the continent’s economy. According to Rayna, one of the big and most talked about ICT priorities for Horizon 2020 is the analysis of multilingual big data from all types of content – text, speech and video.

The ICT Conference is the place where companies learn how to apply for funding for their innovative projects, and meet partners with whom to do so. Partnerships and teamwork are not only encouraged, but also absolutely necessary as each proposal has to be submitted by at least three partners from three different countries. The only exception is the SME Instrument, a new instrument aimed to fund single SMEs across the programme geographical area. So, parallel to the conference and thematic sessions programme addressing different aspects of Horizon 2020, its instruments and how to implement them, ICT 2015 also ran a number of networking initiatives.

“Among the most important for us was the so-called brokerage event,” continues Rayna. “It was an opportunity for potential partners to meet face to face after having seen each other’s profiles at the event website. You see a project your company can contribute to, or a potential partner, and you schedule a meeting. There were these huge halls with numbered tables with four chairs around each, where people from companies met. You have 20 minutes to introduce and ‘sell’ your company to the opposing side.”

Rayna and Anton participated in about such 50 meetings, saying that most were very useful. After they flew back to Sofia on 23 October, on 3 November A Data Pro submitted a project under the the Danube Transnational Programme, together with eight partners, two of which our team had met at the ICT 2015 brokerage event. One of them is SYNYO, an Austrian software developer, and the other – the Džemal Bijedić University of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We met, we agreed that we want to work together, and when we came back and decided to work on that project, I called two partners we found suitable,” says Rayna. “And they said yes.” So, this process of EU project speed dating really does work.