Setting up a SME voucher scheme in Upper Silesia

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Peer review
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On 29 and 30 March 2022, the Policy Learning Platform organised an online peer review for Upper Silesia (Poland) on the topic of setting up SME voucher scheme in Upper Silesia. The host Upper Silesian Accelerator for Commercial Enterprises Ltd. (GAPR) was looking for practical advice on how to design a new voucher scheme for SMEs.

Peers 

  • Christina Koch from Austria Wirtschaftsservice (Austria)
  • Pablo Morales from Chamber of Commerce of Seville (Spain, Andalusia)
  • Antonio Romero Navarro from Murcia Region (Spain, Murcia)
  • Joao Martins from CDC for Centro Region (Portugal)
  • Regina Santos from Technological Center for Ceramics and Glass (Portugal)

One of the main conclusions of the peer review was that as voucher schemes are very attractive for SMEs and attract a lot of applicants then a digital application system makes it much easier for the managing authority to monitor the eligibility and correctness of applications.

It was noteworthy that all the peer regions had after many voucher rounds identified that the most reasonable selection process is a randomized selection, e.g., a lottery, in the presence of a notary. This way the selection process is cost-effective and the administrative costs can be kept low. Compared to a “first-come, first-served” approach the lottery is perceived to be fairer by the SMEs.

Another recommendation was to use success stories of other companies to promote the voucher scheme as well as the innovation process in general. Stories from peers tend to work best to encourage SMEs to take the first steps in their transformation.

 

Important learning for the host

“An effective voucher programme does not only mean obtaining investment goods, but also an opportunity to establish contacts between entrepreneurs, experts, employees of business environment institutions, universities and R&D units. A voucher programme can also activate entrepreneurs from outside large urban centres.”

Other topics discussed included the suitable ticket size, cost structure, duration, application process, management tasks, and communication of the voucher scheme. All the recommendations can be found in the follow-up report.

Next steps

The Marshal's Office of the Silesia Voivodeship has planned to implement a project related to the design and implementation of vouchers for companies, which can be used according to their individual needs - for all kinds of pro-innovation and development services (pre-incubation services, incubation, advisory support, renting office space, support in financing research and development activities, etc.).

The launch of the voucher programme in Upper Silesia is strictly dependent on the outcome of ongoing negotiations with the European Commission related to the approval of the Regional Operational Programme. It is expected that the preparations for setting up the voucher will start in Autumn 2022.

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SME
Innovation