A national level funding program for SMEs to hire ICT professionals to encourage digital innovation in the companies.
Digiboosti is a funding program administered by the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation of Finland (TEKES/Business Finland). The program is targeted at SMEs regardless of age, sector or the size of the company. The funding is targeted at hiring digitalisation specialists to the companies that could benefit from digital solutions in products or services.
The problem addressed by the program is two-fold. During the 2010s many engineers from ICT sector were laid off from large entreprises as the result of decline of the large employers in the sector. On the otherside SMEs needed to start investing in digital solutions in their products and services to improve their competitiveness in the market. Whilst the whilst the level of digitalisation is quite high in Finland, the step for SMEs to digitalise their products and services can be high. Digiboosti funding was created to address these issues by connecting SMEs with industry-proven experts.
The funding covers 50% of the costs of hiring a digitalisation expert(s) up to 100 000 € and maximum of 11 months of salaries. In the application the company must describe the change that will be achieved by the recruitment and how the change can be achieved. The description does not have to be a separate project in the R&D but rather describe how the company reaches a “new level”, how the competitiveness is improved and how it supports the internationalisation goals of the company.
Administration of the funding program was done by the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. 390 companies were funded with a limit of 100 000 € per company.
Evidence of success
390 companies were funded through the program between 2015-2017 and 450 experts were employed with the funding. 2/3 of those had their contracts extended after the funding period in the companies. 96% of the companies claimed that the results of the work were useful for the business. The Digiboosti funding was more evenly spread throughout the country geographically than other TEKES funded programs. The funding is continued with minor alterations in the more general KIITO growth program.
Potential for learning or transfer
The Digiboosti funding itself is highly transferable as it is innovation funding for SMEs. It can be implemented nationally or regionally depending on the support structures in different countries. In Finland, the National Agency for Technology and Innovation was a logical administrator as they are running many funding programs for SMEs in growth and innovation. The key learning aspect from the good practice is how one solution can deal with two problems; in this case available skilled workforce and need for digitalisation skills in SMEs.
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