European Study Research Spring Sofia


This year’s destination of ESR Spring will be Sofia! From the 8th to the 16th of May, a group of 25 bachelor and master students, 2 professors, 6 committee members and a board member will join together for a week to visit this amazing Bulgarian city and conduct research. The trip will consist of cultural activities, company visits with the aim of finalizing our research, and chances to experience the amazing nightlife that the city has to offer.

Unfortunately, we still live in uncertain times and we don’t know for sure if we will be able to go to Sofia. Therefore, if our trip to Sofia can’t continue because of Corona we will bring Sofia to us and continue the research together here in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, you will have the opportunity to enjoy multiple weeks of (online) lectures, dinners and socials with a group of 25 students. Perfect to meet new people and to improve your research skills! 

ESR is an amazing experience for students. It’s an opportunity to bring something unique to your university experience, a chance to broaden and diversify your skill set, a way to improve your research skills and an amazing way to create memories and new friendships. All of this in the exciting city Sofia!

Being Bulgaria’s primate city, Sofia is home of many of the major local universities, cultural institutions and commercial companies. Sofia has also been named one of the top ten best placed for start-up businesses in the world, especially in information technologies. This year, the research theme will be ‘The economic uprising of Bulgaria: Sofia at center stage'. This theme is divided into five subthemes: Innovation and entrepreneurship, International Business and FDI, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Climate, and Human Resource Management.’ You will be split up into teams of 5 students, each with a specific sub theme to focus the research on. More information about the sub themes can be found under the theme tab.

The ESR experience consists of 7 weeks of lectures, dinners and socials every Monday night. A variety of different topics, lecturers and points of view will be discussed each week. After we return, there will be another 2 weeks of lectures before the final dinner in order to put the finishing touches on our work.

The total cost of joining will be €200,- , which includes plane tickets, accommodation and transportation during our stay, as well as various other activities to take part in. Of course the price of the trip will depend on if we can go to Sofia or not.

This ESR experience is one that is unique and should not be missed! In order to take part in this amazing project, click on the register button! Applications open on the 15th of February and close on the 28th of February, 23:59! The applications are open to bachelor students with at least 45 ECTS and master students.

For any other questions about the trip, feel free to contact us at  


Application deadline

Sunday 28 February 23:59

Interviews and selection 

Monday 1 March till Friday 12 March

Weekly dinners, lectures and socials (7 times)

Every Monday at 17:00 from 15 March till 11 May (with exception from 2nd Easterday)

Theme party 

Wednesday 29 April

Research trip to Sofia

Saturday 8 May till Sunday 16 May

Lecture, dinner and social after trip (2 times)

Monday 17 May and 31 May (2e pinksterdag)

Closing dinner 

Monday 7 June 


In the 7 weeks prior to the trip there will be a lecture (5-7pm), dinner (7-9pm) and a social (9pm onwards) every Monday which you will be expected to attend. In the lectures we will discuss how to conduct research, there will be presentations by the various subgroups and guest lectures about Bulgarian culture and conducting qualitative research. The dinners and socials are a great way to get to know everyone. Next to these activities you are expected to actually prepare your specific research together with your subgroup, which will mostly be done during the preparatory phase of the trip. In total ESR will cost you about 6-10 hours per week.



For the past few years, Bulgaria’s economy has been recovering from several events, where the growing economy of Sofia has been an important influence. The Bulgarian economy was hit by a liquidity crisis, a corrupt election and many protests. However, the recovery of this has been slow but increasing. After the liquidity crisis in 2014, the economy has since then been growing due to competitive tax rates and an open trade regime. The protests against the recent elections broke out due to low living standards, high costs and corruption. The Bulgarian people did not agree with the outcome of the elections and it forced the president to dissolve the parliament. 

The importance of Sofia’s contribution to the growth and recovery in the Bulgarian economy is large. The level of debts in Bulgaria is the lowest in the entire Balkan region, and as a result the budget deficit has been declining. Sofia contributes to more than 40% of the Bulgarian GDP, and is experiencing a continuing concentration of economic activity in the city. Also, the level of FDI in Sofia is nearly 3 times the size than in the rest of the country. Sofia is an important trading and air hub within Bulgaria and the Balkan region, and is also seen as a gateway to the market of the Middle East and Russia, while it is still an EU member. Also, Sofia is often described as the European Silicon Valley, with Bulgaria being number 8 on the world ranking for most ICT companies in the country. Within Sofia this sector has been growing rapidly, together with the retail industry and the service sector. 

We can say that Sofia is an important economic influence on the recovery of Bulgaria’s economy, but how can this recovery be improved? What could be done better and to increase economic growth, and how can Sofia contribute to this even more? In order to research our theme, the economic uprising of Bulgaria: Sofia at center stage, we will focus on five subthemes, where every theme is linked to the main theme. You will be divided in one of those groups. During the lectures and the preparations, you will get the chance to acquire the necessary skills to conduct business research and to come up with a theoretical framework and conceptual model. Together with your subgroup you will discuss your findings during the lectures and get the chance to get feedback from either the committee or the professors. The final product will include advice from every group to the companies. All the companies we will work with, will receive your report. With the main research theme in mind, we have established five sub themes by which we want to investigate our main research theme in a more detailed manner. The five subthemes are Innovation and Entrepreneurship, International Business and FDI, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Climate, and Human Resource Management. 

Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Any organization needs to keep reinventing themselves to maintain their possible success. It is easy for a company to come up with a successful business plan, but if it does not adapt with time, its success will likely be lost. Innovation gives companies the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In today’s competitive society it is of great importance that a company can stand out from the rest. Innovation is the creation, development and implementation of a new product, process or service, with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage. This is crucial to the continuing success of any organization. Sofia is growing into an important trading hub in the Balkan region, but to what extent did innovation and entrepreneurship, and startups contribute to this? To what extent does innovation and entrepreneurship contribute to economic growth?

International business and FDI 

Some companies might have the desire to operate locally or domestically only, whereas others have incentives to exploit international markets as well. The expansion of an organization into an international market gives this organization numerous new opportunities and challenges. Globally, there has been a continuous expansion of global FDI. Also, international trade can stimulate economic growth.  Nowadays, businesses are more internationally focused than ever, but how does that influence a country’s economy? Sofia has a FDI level which is three times larger than in the rest of the country, and the economic activity in the city has only been concentrating more. How do businesses in Sofia operate, locally or domestically? And how does the high level of FDI in Sofia influence the economic growth in Bulgaria? 

Corporate Social Responsibility

The importance of sustainability is growing every day, and companies are experiencing this as well. Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Large firms can influence these resources and therefore it is of great importance to take the planet and the people on it into account. Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. Sofia is one of the lowest cities on the sustainable cities ranking list. How is a large city like Sofia taking Corporate Social Responsibility into account? How do businesses in Sofia deal with the pressure of sustainability, and how can it be improved? 

Business Climate

Several factors determine whether a business climate is advantageous or disadvantageous for a company. For example, certain laws and regulations can stimulate or prevent a company from settling in Sofia. Moreover, taxes and other costs are great examples of indicators for a business climate. Policies, taxes, and rules influence the ease of doing business in a country. Business climate involves ease of doing business, rules and regulations, but also the level of competitiveness in a country. In 2017, Bulgaria is in 50th place in the World Bank’s ranking of ease of doing business in 190 economies, a drop from 38th place in 2016. The business climate for a company in Sofia has been decreasing in quality. How is the business climate for businesses in Sofia, and what are the limitations or opportunities companies experience in Sofia? 

Human Resource Management

Human resources can be seen as one of the most valuable resources of a company. Good employees are crucial to the success of a business. People have unique skills and knowledge that contribute to the success of an organization. Human resources can be described as a part of the intangible assets of an organization. However, these unique skills come at a price. Labor costs can be a reason for companies to seek other places to run their production. However, it can also be one of the reasons why a company decides on a specific location. Also, the management of the human resources is important, since employees need to be energized and productive. The Human Resource Management department ensures full potential is reached and leads the way in career paths. Moreover, HRM is responsible for the recruitment of new, talented people that add something new to an organization. How do businesses in Sofia manage their human resources?