Automotive and Mobility Forum: Southern and Eastern Europe 2022 provided a look into the future of the industry

MachinesBusinessSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 2/2022 • 06.07.2022

Automotive and Mobility Forum: Southern and Eastern Europe 2022 provided a look into the future of the industry

The international conference Automotive & Mobility Forum: Southern and Eastern Europe 2022, organized by Automotive Cluster Bulgaria, was held between 1 and 3 June in Sofia. During the first day, participants, including a representative of the editorial team of South-East European Industrial Market, had the opportunity to visit some of the facilities of suppliers specializing in automotive electronics – Visteon Electronics Bulgaria, Sensata Technologies Bulgaria and Melexis Bulgaria. At its technology center, Visteon demonstrated automated testing of sensor displays with MATT – a robot designed to physically interact with devices through replicating human input, developed by Adapta Robotics. 

With a fast-moving effector, MATT interacts with the device through 3 capacitive fingers, made to accommodate any materials and capacitive requirements. Tapping, pinching, swiping, rotating, and pressing buttons located on the front or side of device, MATT executes any multi-touch gestures. Using computer vision to recognize icons and text fields MATT performs fully automated test cycles, relieving manual testers of repetitive tasks and increasing productivity. In Visteon’s laboratory, forum participants had a look at the new semi-anechoic chamber for measuring radiated emissions and immunity, as well as state-of-the-art equipment for ESD, mechanical and thermal testing of products. Sensata also impressed the visitors with its high-tech prototype testing equipment in its laboratory in Sofia, spread out on a total area of over 14 000 square meters.

The main part of the conference, hosted by Inter Expo Center, started on 2 June with welcoming speeches from the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rumen Radev, the Minister of Innovation and Growth Daniel Lorer and the CEO of Automotive Cluster Bulgaria arch. Lubomir Stanislavov. In his address to the participants, arch. Stanislavov stressed that despite the difficulties to prove the necessity for the automotive industry in Bulgaria, today it is clear that it definitely has ground in the country and has a platform for development. He pointed out that over the past 10 years the number of companies in the sector in Bulgaria has increased from 30 to over 350, and the turnover has risen from EUR 0,5 to 6,5 billion. “The automotive industry is among those that are the most innovative and bring the greatest added value. Our country can become a center of innovation for the sector, especially for electric vehicles,” said Minister Lorer, adding that recently the government has been actively working on 7 new potential projects in the industry with an approximate value of over BGN 2 billion, which are expected to create over 4 thousand new jobs. “The quality of the production in Bulgaria is the reason why representatives of leading automotive companies from all over the world invest here. The automotive sector is the fastest growing industry in Bulgaria and accounts for 10 – 12% of the country’s GDP, with this share expected to reach about 20% in 5 years. The automotive sector creates 70 thousand jobs in the country, and 9 out of 10 cars manufactured in Europe have built-in components produced in Bulgaria. In addition, 80% of the automotive sensors for vehicles sold in Europe are manufactured in facilities based in Bulgaria,” President Rumen Radev stressed in his speech.

The event continued with extremely interesting panels, which included representatives of the Volkswagen Group’s automotive software division – CARIAD, Automotive Cluster Bulgaria, Melexis, Visteon, Sensata, Veolia, Bosch Engineering Center Sofia, Next.e.Go, etc. The discussions focused on the transformation of the automotive industry in Southern and Eastern Europe, innovation trends and technologies for a new automotive era, automotive software solutions and the digitalization of manufacturing processes in the sector. There was also a special panel dedicated to start-ups as a driving force for innovation and growth, as well as a session focused on the possibilities for improving the level of sustainability in the automotive industry. The day ended with a series of short, organized B2B meetings, hosted by OEMs and suppliers.

The final day of the conference, 3 June, began with a session focused on the supply chain and logistics trends in the SEE automotive sector. It was followed by a regulatory roundtable on the present and future of the Bulgarian car fleet. The discussion was organized in partnership with the Association of Car Manufacturers. After a presentation of the current state of the mobility and fleet process management, topics were centered on the creation of mobility policy for a sustainable car fleet. Among the discussed opportunities for achieving this were: the electrification and digitalization of fleet management; creating a car register containing information about each newly registered car for the period of its operation; digitization of the processes related to the use and servicing of vehicles in Bulgaria; state support for renewal and decarbonization of the fleet; creating an environmental fund to stimulate the renewal of the fleet; possible change in the annual car tax according to the environmental impact of vehicles; development and construction of the charging infrastructure for electric cars in big cities and on the national road network. The event ended with the official opening of Sofia Motor Show 2022.