Small and medium-sized enterprises from within Oulu’s ICT cluster can apply for business development aid for specific investment and development projects from ELY Centre.
Each year, several projects are funded by ELY Centre, and in 2023 they have approximately 36 million euros to allocate from their Just Transition Funds (JTF). We recently spoke with Sari Turtiainen, one of their Business Specialists, who gave us all the key details. You can also watch a video interview below about the subject, which is in Finnish.
Who are the funds for?
“In general, business development aid is meant for SMEs of key industries in our region, and for those companies that seek growth and will enter foreign markets.
“The key industries we support are high tech, manufacturing and metal, woodwork, and tourism. However, companies that provide direct customer services for local people will not be funded because of competitive reasons.
“The criteria for business funding is set by EU and national law, the EU Programme and ELY Centre’s regional guidelines. All in all, the criteria and principles for funding are quite strict, so the applicant must have, among other things, a very stable financial status and proven track record. ELY Centre will also analyse the uniqueness of the business idea and overall competitive situation of the company, as well as the project plan itself.”
What kind of projects are funded?
“Business aid may be granted for projects that have a significant impact on company development, but the goals must be set at a realistic level. In practice, the company´s turnover, exports and the number of personnel should increase. For instance, the company should launch new products, expand to foreign markets, invest in automatisation or develop productivity. Only the best and most effective projects receive public funding from ELY Centre.
“The project must consist of at least 20,000 euros of acceptable costs, otherwise the project is not considered to be significant enough. Overall, the maximum grant for one project may be as high as 7 million euros. Usually, the project budget varies between approximately 50,000 and 1 million euros.”
What kind of costs can be eligible?
“A project may include the costs of using external experts for foreign market analyses, participation at an exhibition abroad, wage and salary costs for employing new experts, and costs of raw materials needed for developing new products. Conventional operational costs and basic investments, costs due to marketing or sales operations, or setting up a webshop are not eligible.”
How much is the aid?
“The maximum level of business aid for investments is 30% for medium-sized companies and 40% for small companies. For development measures, the maximum aid is 50%.”
When would a business receive the money?
“When the aid is granted for a company, it means in practice that the company must carry the project and its costs by itself at first, and then the business aid will be paid afterwards when the costs and outputs are verified. Carrying out an EU project requires official reporting according to the EU programme standards and specific regulations. Thus, using public funding requires also resources and some extra measures and visibility from the beneficiary.”
How do I apply?
“The application period for JTF funding will start later in 2023. The application must be submitted in electronic format via the EURA 2021 system. The application system and instructions are available only in Finnish and Swedish.
“Before submitting an application to ELY Centre, you should contact a national helpline, which provides advisory services for SME funding. The number to call is +358 295 024 800. You may also contact a Business Specialist at your nearest ELY Centre.”