The aim of "Grants for research and innovation" is to provide SMEs with an opportunity to receive grants for R&D in a simple SME-friendly procedure.
The development of innovative environmentally-based solutions in cooperation between knowledge institutions and SMEs together with provided EU financing may contribute to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth that lies at heart of SUPER project. However, in Poland the level of such cooperation was very low, because the access to adequate support and finances was complicated and time-consuming. SMEs often encounter obstacles such as complex application documents and extended assessment procedures, therefore they decide to hire costly consulting companies. Only few companies are experienced enough and have resources to apply for support on their own. Podlaska Fundacja Rozwoju Regionalnego (PFRR) was a grant operator selected by the Marshal’s Office of Podlaskie Voivodship, Managing Authority of the Regional Operational Program. PFRR’s project "Grants for research and innovation" aimed to stimulate the demand for innovation, promote R&D activities by financing them as they are essential for the development of new or significantly improved products, services or production technologies. The gist of this practice is a simplified procedure proposed by PFRR: a short and simple application form (only 5 pages), accelerated verification and a reduced amount of necessary documentation. This simplified procedure enabled SMEs to launch environmentally sustainable innovations (upon benefitting from specialized R&D services) that can be then exported to foreign markets.
The indispensable resource to implement the project is a fund in the amount of PLN 10m (app. EUR 2.3m). In this case the money came from the European Regional Development Fund. Another resource is the staff qualified to assess grant applications.
Evidence of success
Grants are a good practice due to their popularity and positive results. Because of wide interest in the grant fund (PLN 10.6m), almost the whole allocation was distributed half a year earlier than expected. As of 6/6/2018 over 250 applications were submitted, 127 projects were qualified to receive grants to introduce innovations. These companies have thus achieved business goals: increasing sales, profit or employment, which contributed to an increase in the competitiveness of Podlaskie SMEs.
The short assessment period may be challenging for a grant operator if many applications are submitted in one call for proposals.
Potential for learning or transfer
Grants for research and innovation included companies belonging to the regional smart specializations of the Podlaskie region, including eco-innovations and sectors connected by value chains. Thanks to grants, the competitiveness of the companies from the region (including a significant number of companies from the eco-innovation sector) has been raised. Out of 254 applications for grants - 82 concerned ecological innovations, while out of 127 recommended to receive a grant - 43 concerned the eco-innovation sector. These figures indicate a great need to implement innovations in enterprises from the environmental sector. Simple documentation and application form, an easy way to apply, quick evaluation should be a role model for different calls for proposals. Entrepreneurs want to facilitate their access to support instruments. These instruments should be adapted to the capabilities of most companies, while the procedures should take the time and resources of enterprises into account.
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