The SME e-wallet programme is a subsidy scheme delivered by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). It allows entrepreneurs to access financial support
The SME can obtain cash grant for training and advice. Every SME applying for a grant must therefore meet the following criteria:
- For foreign and domestic SMEs located in the Flemish Region
- With an “acceptable” main activity (NACE code list)
- The service purchased through “accepted” service providers
The SME e-wallet can be seen as a special online banking account. When an SME transfers the money to that account, the subsidy (in most cases 50% of the invoice) is automatically granted and money paid to the same account.
SME is responsible for and manages the account. Once the service provider sends an invoice, SME pays the invoice from this account, called an electronic wallet (e-wallet).
As mentioned before, the service (training or advice) must be purchased from a pool of accepted service providers. They are accredited by external auditors to ensure the quality of the service.
Within the eligibility requirements, the budget can be spent freely by the SME and the maximum amount of subsidy depends on the size of the SME:
• A small company that invests in training and advice can receive 40% support through the SME e-wallet. The company receive a maximum of € 10,000 support per year.
• A medium-sized company that invests in training and advice can receive 30% support through the SME portfolio. The company receives a maximum of € 15,000 per year.
The SME e-Wallet works with an annual closed budget envelope within the Hermes Fund and in 2017 a budget of 53.000.000 euro was allocated.
A team of 10 employees works on the SME e-Wallet.
Evidence of success
The SME e-wallet has a clear, easy-to-follow process and is simply accessible via the online portal. It has very low administrative burden for the SME. In fact, there is no intervention of the administration what so ever. The whole application process is paperless and the responsibility for eligibility checks lies on the service provider.
In 2017, 130.246 projects were supported with the SME e-Wallet, accounting for a total reserved subsidy of 52.633.674 euro.
It is quite a challenge to move from a paper voucher to a fully electronic subsidy measure. There must be good IT support to develop user-friendly online application system.
Potential for learning or transfer
After Design4Innovation study visit in Flanders, many project partners expressed deep interest in the SME e-Wallet programme. As part of the project, programme was discussed in detail with the Maltese government.
The SME e-Wallet is a generic tool where small and medium-sized companies can obtain advice and training. The seeking of advice and training can be used for design (concept development design, design management advice, ...), but designers can also use it for training courses or for obtaining advice for themselves.
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