With over 1 million BGN INSAIT launches EXPLORER, an excellence fellowship program for top Bulgarian undergraduates

Top tech companies, asset managers and VCs are providing four-year fellowships of BGN 72,000 for INSAIT’s new AI excellence program enabling the country’s most talented high-schoolers in mathematics and computer science to stay in Bulgaria and achieve world-class education in science and technology.

Sofia, 19.02.2024 The Institute for Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Technology – INSAIT at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” – announced today the launch of its new excellence program EXPLORER (EXcellence Program in technoLOgy and REseaRch) for talented high school students specialising in the area of computer science and AI. The program was announced at a government-hosted event, with the participation of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria Acad. Nikolay Denkov, the Minister of Education and Science prof. Galin Tsokov, the Rector of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Prof. Georgi Valchev, the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics (FMI) of Sofia University Prof. Maya Stoyanova, Prof. Martin Vechev, Scientific Director of INSAIT, and the Executive Director of INSAIT Borislav Petrov, as well as representatives of leading Bulgarian and global technology, asset management and VC companies supporting the program.

Currently, promising Bulgarian undergraduates often work full-time during their studies, significantly impeding their career development when it comes to world-class research, science and deep-tech innovation. On the contrary, in countries such as Switzerland, USA, Israel, and others, the goal is to ensure that undergraduates receive both fundamental knowledge through university education as well as experience through research and advanced engineering projects. This process is critical to developing technological leaders, which later go on to have successful careers in academia, industry or the startup world.

“For the first time, INSAIT transfers this successful model to Bulgaria and to Eastern Europe as a whole. The INSAIT excellence program EXPLORER combines a strong four-year Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics (FMI) of Sofia University with the world-class research and engineering opportunities found at INSAIT and the deep-tech ecosystem forming around it. Students will have the opportunity to complement their studies with research on important projects in areas such as large language models, computer vision, robotics, machine learning, algorithms, quantum computing, and others.” – said prof. Martin Vechev, scientific director and founder of INSAIT.

Another precedent here is that EXPLORER is financed only with donations by INSAIT’s industry partners: the “Lead by Example” foundation, founded by SiteGround, INSAIT’s largest industry partner with a total investment of more than 6M EUR so far; Amazon Web Services which also supported INSAIT with 3.75M USD; the global technology-empowered asset management firm Man Group, which has over 200 years of history and more than $160bn in AuM; the Lachezar Tsotzorkov Foundation; LAUNCHub Ventures as well as LatticeFlow AI, ranked twice a top 100 AI company in the world. Combined, these organisations are donating over BGN 1 million. 

“The development and retention of talented children in Bulgaria is a top priority for the “Lead by example” foundation and its founders. INSAIT’s bachelor degree program is a great example of how world class best practices can be applied effectively – combining academic and research pathways to create successful talents in AI and technology. Supporting future bachelor graduates is a natural extension of our efforts to develop top quality education in Bulgaria.” said Tenko Nikolov, CEO of Bulgaria’s most successful IT company SiteGround.

Gary Collier, Chief Technology Officer at Man Group, said: “We are incredibly proud to support the program. A significant proportion of our employees globally are technologists and quantitative researchers, and with our strong and growing presence in Sofia we have witnessed first-hand the depth of local talent. We believe deeply in the power of technology to make us better at what we do and by supporting this initiative we hope to help foster the next generation of technology talent in Bulgaria.”

“We are happy to support INSAIT in developing and boosting the local and regional science ecosystems by working and attracting the brightest students.” – Todor Breshkov, Co-founder & Managing Partner at LAUNCHub Ventures

“LatticeFlow AI’s expansion to Sofia aims to demonstrate how world-class research is fundamental to creating deep-tech products that win global markets. This know-how is a critical step in transforming the region from a development destination into a region where the next-generation world-leading products are both invented and created. We are therefore excited to support the EXPLORER program, allowing the region’s most talented students to focus on fundamental knowledge and science, while also providing exposure to this emerging deep-tech ecosystem,” remarked Dr. Petar Tsankov, CEO and Co-founder of LatticeFlow AI.

More information about the program and how to apply can be found here at https://insait.ai/explorer