No. 129 | Year XI
The end of 2023 brings the Private Briefing edition analysing some entirely fresh programs in the support palette for MSMEs and farmers, as well as new iterations of the traditional initiatives. Among the veterans, we would highlight the EBRD Program for MSME Competitiveness, this time taking the form of “Sustainable Reboot” for SMEs in the Western Balkans, targeting “green” enhancements. We also analyze the well-known SDA program for entering the supply chains of multinationals., and the third call within the Competitive Agriculture Program. The support models for innovative teams and startup businesses in the southern region are present through the brand-new Launcher program from NTP Niš.
// The Scientific Technological Park Niš has launched a completely new LAUNCHER accelerator programme to support the early-stage development of start-ups, with financial support from the company Fazi and the Ministry of Science, Technological Development, and Innovation. This comprehensive acceleration program provides expert and financial support, strengthening the capacities of start-ups to bring their innovation to market and establish a market presence. The first cycle of the program runs until April 2024, offering selected teams the opportunity for intensive education, personalized mentoring, and financial support. The program aims to support individuals, teams, and start-ups in the early stages of development, facilitating the shaping, validation, and improvement of innovative ideas. It is open to applicants founded in the last three years, developing innovative hardware or software solutions in the early stages of development. The top five teams will have the opportunity to share a prize fund of 20.000 Euros as an initial incentive for further development.
// Participants can expect a tailored experience to enhance their skills, focusing on various aspects of business and entrepreneurship, provided through training, mentorship, and consultations with experts in relevant fields who will guide them in overcoming challenges and obstacles. Additionally, a free six-month membership in the Scientific Technological Park Niš is provided, including access to pre-incubation program resources. The program also allows free use of office space in the park during the first six months of membership, encouraging collaboration and idea exchange. Networking opportunities are one of the key elements of the program, creating an environment and conditions for connecting with other innovators, ecosystem members, and potential investors. The application and selection process is set in two phases, with the first involving lectures and challenge-solving, followed by the acceleration program with intensive workshops and mentoring. At the end of the program, each team will receive clear guidelines for further development and a well-prepared pitch deck for presentation to investors.
// Launcher provides a mix of content that addresses practically identified and confirmed challenges and obstacles for transforming idea into a sustainable business, starting from experience sharing with qualified partners, through leadership, mentoring, and counselling, to support in preparing presentations for potential investors, through a structured multi-phase process. Additionally, the opportunity to use the award for initial funding of operational and idea development costs represents a significant incentive for innovative teams. Therefore, the entire program is a significant step in supporting innovative start-ups, whose completion enables participants to receive support for transforming into successful business ventures and represents a valuable contribution to encouraging innovation and nurturing entrepreneurial spirit.
// The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched the “Sustainable Reboot Programme for SMEs in the Western Balkans” to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in investments that align with EU directives and internationally recognized standards. The support is provided for investments in high-performance standards, technologies, and services in the areas of environmental protection, occupational health and safety, and product quality and safety. At least 70% of the program funding will be allocated for investments in energy-saving and green technologies. The funds will be provided in the form of loans through partnering commercial banks, with users eligible for a grant of up to 15% of the loan amount and free technical assistance. The maximum loan amount is one million euros.
This program is part of the EBRD Small Business Competitiveness Programme, launched in late 2019 with the aim of helping small businesses achieve compliance with EU directives, especially in the areas of environmental protection, occupational health and safety, and product quality and safety. This preparation is essential for them to export to the EU market, improve the quality of services and products, and become more competitive locally. The program aligns with various EU-funded initiatives, supporting key sectors of the Serbian economy such as SMEs and agriculture, in
consideration of potential EU membership and free trade agreements. While these aspects offer significant opportunities for Serbian SMEs, they also necessitate adjustments to comply with EU regulatory and market standards, including product quality and compliance parameters, as well as productivity and efficiency, which the existing competition in the EU market already meets. To alleviate the burden on local firms, this program has been initiated, involving credit support and grants after the successful implementation of investment projects.
All financial mechanisms of the program are directed through local partners – Erste Bank, UniCredit Leasing, and Banca Intesa, which receive continuous support from program project consultants and define the lending conditions and make credit approval decisions in each individual case. On the other hand, project consultants are responsible for the technical assessment of investment projects and, together with the verification consultant, for determining and verifying the grant amounts, which partner banks disburse to successful and verified project owners. The program allows two approaches to financing improvements, with the standard approach applying to projects where the investment is intended for equipment and technologies such as boilers, compressors, solar energy systems, tractors, and other standard equipment types. The equipment used must be previously assessed and approved by the program’s consultants. The complex approach applies to projects and equipment requiring more intricate assessments.
// With direct financial support implemented through local banks and a component of consultancy services in the introduction of standards and EU directive implementation, this EBRD program is a comprehensive entity. Simultaneously, it is fully complementary to other EBRD advisory support programs formulated in ASB (Advice for Small Business). The simultaneous use of financial and expert services enabled through ASB is also feasible, in a unique blended support model that maximizes the effect through complete synergy of funding supported by compliance advice in both operational and strategically important areas such as financial management, market analysis and research, sales improvement, organizational development and strategy, as well as business development and networking opportunities, among others. From our first-hand experience working on numerous projects within the ASB, we can confirm that the impact on clients’ businesses results in tangible benefits, particularly in terms of resilience, strength, business outcomes, and market competitiveness. All of this together enables both the strengthening and internationalization of businesses from the position of a fully prepared and competitive enterprise. We are available to support bringing such efforts to life and full-fledged market roll out.
// In the palette of support offered by the Development Agency of Serbia, a significant place occupies a program supporting companies for entry into the supply chains of multinational corporations, whose new call was launched in early December. The program enables local entrepreneurs to co-finance a series of activities in the preparation and implementation of business performance improvements in line with the requirements of multinational companies, which is a necessary step for entry into their supplier chains. General conditions for applicants include business registration prior to January 1, 2020, private ownership, and no tax arrears. Specific conditions require applicants to have implemented the ISO 9001 quality management system and their predominant activity to be in manufacturing or possessing manufacturing capacities for producing direct and indirect materials, components, systems, and subsystems for products. They need to have at least 15 employees and a minimum of 35 million dinars in revenue and the value of fixed assets. The program budget is 190 million dinars, allocated for reimbursing costs in various amounts across support areas, ranging from 300.000 dinars and 80% of the project value for annual listing on interactive platforms to 15 million dinars and a maximum of 70% of the project value for autonomous robots and cobots.
The program supports a broad spectrum of activities, including investment in tangible resources such as autonomous robots and cobots, high-performance production and process equipment for controlling raw materials, as well as intermediate phase quality control and the finished products quality control. Investments in the acquisition of necessary specific tools and equipment are also supported, as well as the improvement of production facilities. Investments in intangible assets are also encouraged,
including the certification of quality systems according to standards specific to the value chains in which applicants participate, and the development and implementation of software solutions for production optimization. The program also foresees complete or partial reimbursement of costs for prototyping or trial versions of products, field insight into business performance costs, annual listing costs on reference interactive platforms, as well as compensation for insurance premiums.
In addition to intangible assets, other intangible elements of improvement can also be financed, covering costs of consultancy support for optimizing production processes, serialization of production, and the implementation of quality control, as well as the introduction or improvement of corporate governance, strategic and operational planning, HR management, and planning for the implementation of software solutions. Additionally, consultancy support includes compliance with the requirements of the green industry, which involves preparing technical documentation, studies, reports to comply with green industry, energy efficiency, and decarbonization requirements, as well as the introduction of rules, procedures, and reporting related to ESG factors.
// For SMEs, entering the supply chains of multinationals, along with predictable demand, facilitates revenue planning and therefore investment in equipment and fixed assets, as well as planning and implementation of internal business development. The cost of required investments can be significant and can relate to a wide range of very specific needs of companies, which is recognized through this program. On the other hand, expert support for the introduction or improvement of strategic and operational planning, corporate governance, human resource management are also topics and areas in which Glenfield’s consultants boast experience, track records, and best practices, especially for the SME sector, and can fully adapt them to the specificities of applicants. All of this together enables both strengthening and internationalization of businesses from the position of a fully prepared and competitive business. We are available to support the implementation of such efforts; all that is needed is to contact us for a free assessment and support in applying for this significant long-term capacity improvement program with evident benefits in terms of resilience, strength, business results, and market competitiveness.
// The Ministry of Agriculture has announced the third call within the Project for Competitive Agriculture, launched at the end of 2021 in collaboration with the World Bank, bringing a new, layered approach to supporting agriculture. From the perspective of end-users, the project provides an opportunity for farmers and MSMEs to receive grants amounting to 50% of the total investment value for a variety of improvements, with the remaining 40% financed through loans from commercial banks and only 10% as their own contribution. The implementation of support involves applying for a grant on the project portal, and only after the grant is approved, users apply for the credit support with the selected bank. The third public call facilitates investments in improving competitiveness and links within the market chain in the areas of procurement, processing, placement of agricultural products, as well as the improvement of the placement of products from old and artistic crafts and domestic artisan work. The total budget allocated for the implementation of this call is a staggering 750 million dinars, with the grant amount per project determined between 12.500 and 200.000 euros, corresponding to investments between 25.000 and 400.000 euros.
Specific purposes supported by the call include investments in the reception, manipulation, quality assessment, processing, storage and placement of other crops, processing and placement of milk and dairy products, processing and placement of meat and meat products, production and placement of
wine, processing or finishing, packaging, and placement of bee products, as well as preparation of fruits and vegetables for further sale. In addition, the call also covers support for the placement of products from old and artistic crafts, i.e., certified domestic artisan work.
// The entire Competitive Agriculture Project is conceived in three components, with the first component focused on improving productivity on family farms, in cooperatives, associations, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises through financial support and capacity development of advisory services providers, business and financial planning, and market access, thereby developing the entire sector. The second component is dedicated to enhancing the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture by establishing an information system (eAgrar), while the third component includes establishing a management team for the implementation of the project itself. This third call within the program is also the last one planned until 2024, and with the previous two calls, with similar budgets, it is clear that in terms of scope, coverage, and funding amount, it definitely aspires to take a leading position on the map of support for farmers in Serbia, especially as it combines investments in fixed assets and investments in know-how and skills, with additional support for components aimed at improving the regulatory, technological, and professional capacity of local agriculture, thus creating the foundation for a new growth cycle. It is certainly worthy of every recommendation, and when it continues, it will be a regular topic of our analyses in the coming period.
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