Many opportunities for targeted financial support are opening up this year
Businesses continue to face multiple challenges, both unforeseen arising from the COVID-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine (dramatic increases in electricity, gas and raw material prices, delays in supply chains and rising inflation) and structural (low degree of digitization and internationalization, resource intensity and carbon intensity, lack of skills and personnel, low levels of technology transfer, untapped innovation potential and low productivity). Some of the barriers to the development of Bulgarian companies can be overcome through targeted public financial support. Here is a summary of the long-awaited grant procedures that will start by the end of the year. They are presented by Dimitar Ganev, executive director of New I:
The National Recovery and Sustainability Plan (NRSP) and the programs financed by European Structural and Investment Funds for the period 2021-2027 envisage a combination of measures to help Bulgarian enterprises implement the principles of the circular economy and reduce their carbon intensity. NRSP will provide grants to support enterprises to introduce circular models of production and consumption, reduce the raw materials used and promote recycling technologies. The Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises Program (CIEP) will additionally finance investments in improving resource efficiency in all sectors of the economy.
NRSP will provide significant targeted support in the form of grants and financial instruments for the decarbonisation of the industry. Long-awaited among businesses is the procedure for financing RES systems for own consumption (up to 1MW) in combination with facilities for local storage of the produced energy. Investment aid is also foreseen for the construction of plants for the production of green hydrogen from renewable energy and biogas for use in the processing industry, transport and the production of electricity and heat. Measures for energy efficiency in enterprises will also be supported, both with funds from the NRSP and the PKIP. A guarantee instrument for energy efficiency and renewable energy, which will be implemented within the framework of InvestEU, is laid down in the NRSP.
A scheme aimed at accelerating the decarbonization of the economy is also attracting great interest – construction of RES with a total capacity of at least 1.4 GW and adjacent storage infrastructure (battery) through five tender procedures, each of which provides for a minimum capacity of 285 MW of installed capacity.
Centralised grant programs where applications are made directly to the European Commission are also increasingly popular – such as the LIFE program for projects in the field of green technologies, circular economy and climate change mitigation or the Innovation Fund for investments in highly innovative low-carbon technologies.
Growth and digital transformation
The focus of the NRSP and the programs to stimulate the intelligent growth of enterprises with an emphasis on digitization is clearly expressed. One of the specific objectives of PKIP is the promotion of sustainable growth and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through productive investments, support of start-ups, as well as SMEs within industrial parks and building production infrastructure. The NRSP also foresees the possibility of financing (through grants and loans) industrial zones and parks.
For the first time, businesses will also be able to benefit from the Regional Development Program, which will promote integrated urban and territorial development through a partnership between various stakeholders (businesses, government bodies, NGOs, and the scientific community). The supported measures include different types of infrastructure, which must be identified in advance in the Integrated Development Plans of the municipalities or the Integrated Territorial Development Strategies of the regions.
NRSP also lays the foundations for the digital transformation of the economy, as SMEs will be able to benefit from free funding for technological modernization by purchasing equipment with a focus on the digitization of production processes. The Plan also includes a grant scheme for ICT solutions and cybersecurity, which will support enterprises’ access to digital technologies.
Business growth also depends on investment in people. The human resources development program combines measures to improve working conditions and overcome the discrepancy between the skills demanded and offered on the labour market through training and retraining courses for employees and the introduction of flexible innovative forms of work organization.
The development and implementation of new products and services and shortening the path from scientific research to innovation will be among the main priorities in the coming years. The Research, Innovation and Digitization Program for Smart Transformation envisages interventions to increase the innovation capacity of enterprises and promote the transfer of knowledge and technology between scientific organizations and industry. PCIP will provide support for the implementation of innovations and technologies from Industry 4.0 in enterprises, as well as for strengthening research capacity.
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