With the new year, there will also be new ways for public support for SMEs

The blog was written by  Paula Makkonen from Inse Oy, a member of the Enterprise Espoo expert network.

The year 2022 will once again bring new impetus to public financial instruments for SMEs. The new EU funding period 2021-2027, as well as the new funding guidelines and new search portals for donors, will bring changes. So I am constantly asked what different instruments are available, what the criteria are for getting them and what they could be used for. Here is a brief update on the specifics of the most common instruments as a source of inspiration:

In the future, Business Finland ‘s subsidies will be even more focused on new innovations and innovative services with internationalization potential. The company must have the form of a limited company. One-person-enterprises are not funded.

  • An innovation voucher can be used to develop a completely new product or service, but not an internal function. The change from the previous one is that its deductible has disappeared since the beginning of the year. The difference with the former is that the support (€ 5,000) is paid to the company and not to the service provider, and only after the company has accepted and paid the service provider’s invoice. In addition, a slightly older reform is that in order to use the Innovation Voucher, a company has had to employ either the entrepreneur himself or at least 1 employee for 3 months.
  • The support products of the Explorer family ( Talent, Market and Exhibition ) are aimed at companies with at least 2 full-time employees in Finland. The calculated total work contribution of 200% may also consist of the part-time contribution of several persons.

Talent Explorer enables the recruitment of a person who supports internationalization to bring new knowledge and expertise from the target market (maximum project size € 40,000, 50% support afterwards).

Market Explorer is focused on the procurement of purchasing services for studies and surveys that support internationalization (maximum project size € 20,000, 50% support afterwards).

The Exhibition Explorer (formerly a trade fair grant) is suitable for companies participating in an international B2B trade fair abroad or virtually and incurs a standstill cost (maximum € 30,000 / event, equally afterwards. It should be noted that at least 3 other companies must take part in the trade fair).

 

  • Tempo instrumentsuitable for companies looking to grow in the international market. Thus, a company must already have a (finished) product or service for which to start seeking growth in a certain market area or segment. The funding is not really for product development. Funding can be used to improve capabilities for international growth, test the functionality of a business concept through, for example, piloting and collecting customer feedback, obtain feedback from potential customers and map demand in new international markets. The maximum size of the entire project is € 66,667, of which Business Finland’s financial contribution is € 50,000, which is conveniently paid in two installments: € 35,000 for the decision and the remaining € 15,000 for reporting. The company is also required to have 200% human resources,
  • A significantly more challenging, but even more interesting instrument is NIY (Young Innovative Companies) funding for companies under the age of 5 , targeted at promising companies capable of rapid international scaling. Financing is three-tiered, after which the company’s ability to achieve the planned goals is assessed. The company must have strong international expertise, as well as external investors in general. Companies typically employ several people and have hundreds of thousands of euros in turnover and investment rounds behind them. The instrument consists of grants and a loan.
  • R&D funding is suitable for a company that wants to innovate or develop completely new products, services, production methods or business models. Funding can only be allocated to research and development activities, and not to scaling, for example. Typical projects are € 200,000 or larger. Funding is increasingly provided in the form of loans and, less frequently, grants.

 

With regard to grants channeled through the Ely centers , one of the biggest changes is the change of the project support portal during the spring and the transition to Eura2021.to the portal. At the same time, the cost patterns of the development and investment measures of the Business Development Grant are changing. However, it must be borne in mind that the regional Ely will continue to define their regional strategies, specifying the types of companies to be supported, the purposes and the costs. Not all national strategies have yet been published. Ely also supports forms of companies other than a limited company if the other conditions for financing are met. As a change from the previous one, the emphasized responsibility of the applicant company and the understanding of what funding is being applied for and from which ‘program line’ should also be taken into account. If you happen to choose wrong at the beginning, the application will be returned and will have to be filled in again.

In the case of investment aid in particular , aid levels vary from 0 to 35%, depending on the region and the size of the company. A novelty is the so-called overhead surcharge, which is a calculated 1.5% of all direct investment costs. Investments refer to both intangible and tangible investments. A tangible investment is easy to understand, but intangible means, for example, the development of software or a preliminary solution or service on which the company’s customers carry out their own business.

Development aidIn this respect, the change is a move closer to the cost model used by Business Finland: in the future, ancillary costs will be accepted for salaries at a fixed standard cost of 26.44%, in addition to a deferred overhead surcharge of 7% on all direct costs. With regard to salaries, the so-called hourly accounting obligation will be removed under certain conditions. The aid is still 50% of the eligible costs, generally in retrospect. Of course, there may be more payments during the project, as before. Another novelty is that a part of the project may be eligible for advance payment according to certain criteria. Subsidies can be targeted at product development as well as the development and internationalization of internal processes. Both salaries and purchasing services can be accepted for the project in accordance with each regional Ely funding strategy.

And then a new modular type of lump sum project that is interesting on the bottom of sugar, with a support rate of 60% and can consist of both a salary and a purchasing service.

The idea has been to produce an instrument based on the evaluation of the results of the project , which no longer requires an accountant to report. The aid is paid against verified outputs (report, image or other reliable statement). The instrument contains 4 modules, which are:

  1. Feasibility study of a new product or service (proto / demo);
  2. Internationalization study, incl. fair;
  3. Preparation of a major EU funding application; and
  4. Piloting a new product or service.

According to current information, the maximum cost of each module is € 20,000, of which € 12,000 is supported.

EAFRD support is still channeled through both the Leader network and the Elys as investment support and Business Start-up Support , which can be up to € 10,000 for an experiment or € 35,000 for starting a new business. Support is usually targeted at purchasing services and verified through reports. Each region has its own policy and strategy for granting them. However, a possible Start-up Decision will normally preclude the award of a Start-up Grant, even if the conditions for location or entrepreneurship are otherwise met.

However, what is common to all forms of aid for all financiers is that the company must not be a company in difficulty and that it must have a viable business. The company must also have an understanding of its goals and objectives, as well as a concrete project plan for carrying out the project that supports the company’s strategy, which must therefore also be able to be defined. In addition, there is always a long list of different things to remember and consider.

Finally, the analysis and consulting services of Business Development Services , which is channeled through my favorite child, Ely . I have been Ely’s nationwide ‘Kehpa consultant’ for 4 years, specializing in business strategies (growth and development) and commercializing innovations. An expert in digital solutions can also be found in related parties. In addition to the mentioned themes, the list includes service provider consultants related to marketing and management development, who provide services to all Finnish SMEs that have at least 1 financial year behind them or a new innovation in their back pocket for the commercialization of innovations. The price of one consultation day for the company is 325 € + VAT.

My own habit is usually to act on the basis of need, not on the basis of financial instruments. I listen and try to understand my client’s needs and dreams. As part of my own consulting assignments, we often plan various measures to support the client company’s strategy, which can easily form a concrete project plan. Often, one or more of the above instruments also enable and facilitate their concrete implementation. Behind me are hundreds of different projects and business stories for very different companies from different industries that I have been able to take forward on my part. Kehpa consulting can serve as a stepping stone to the development of your company! Don’t ask for advice and tips!

And then there’s the taillight guarantee: the terms and financial models of financial instruments can and do change from time to time. You should be careful what the current conditions are before you roll up your sleeves! In addition, the so-called de minimis rule must be borne in mind: a maximum of € 200,000 in non-repayable aid can be granted to a company over a period of 3 years. Thus, subsidies granted between 2020 and 2022 are now taken into account, which typically consist of guarantees provided by Business Finland and Ely, Finnvera’s guarantees and possible employment subsidies. They also include the so-called corona subsidies, excl. cost subsidies.

Happy spring everyone!

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