Innovation and digital vouchers – is it worth applying?
In 2023, there will also be many opportunities for small businesses in Slovakia to apply. First, let’s take a closer look at a pair of these, the Innovation and Digital Vouchers. Two opportunities that can make a difference to the future of your business.
When is it worth applying? The question is asked a lot. Many people only want to apply when they are sure to win. Of course, there is no such call. Others apply for everything indiscriminately, because sooner or later they will succeed somewhere. Neither logic is right in itself, the truth is more in the middle. You should apply for things that will move your business forward. They may not be in your plan for this year, but you may want to do them on your own in two or three years, or even more. Here, strong implementation of your own is very important. Just because you can get a grant for it, don’t apply! This will help you to navigate your way into a painful reality compared to the dream world you have imagined.
It's needed - then I'll apply!
Never apply for something you want to do anyway. The innovation and digital vouchers can help you develop your business, but don’t buy a new one to replace your broken computer. To sum up, for all the tenders, you should do what you need to do with your own resources, possibly with a loan. But under no circumstances should you rely on the fact that your application will either be successful or not, but failure to make the necessary improvements could jeopardise your day-to-day operations. How do you know in advance what services or equipment you will need years from now? Well, that’s where a precise business and marketing plan will help you, because once you’ve got it together, you’ll know where you see yourself in the short to medium term.
Not even by chance. Even though the Digital and Innovation Voucher is 100% subsidy intensive, this does not mean that the state and the European Union will throw a lot of money at you without a second thought. You have to write a project (not a complicated one, mind you), which will be evaluated and monitored. Many people see proposals only as a way to make money and spend it in the short term. This is a very wrong way of thinking. Look at it another way! If you can get someone else to finance a development, why not do it? Why would you look for bypasses where you can get the money “smart”? You have to develop anyway, otherwise you will be left behind. So why not do it with other people’s money? It is also a common misconception that only a select few lucky ones have access to tenders. Well, in these two calls, a total of 1,300 businesses from Slovakia will get a grant. You can get into that group, right?
Hardly any strings attached
The interesting thing about the applications is that they were supposed to be published in March and the expected date of publication is 29 April. No, there is no mistake, you are reading this in May and you are not late. That is why I recommend the first point: what is absolutely necessary should not be done by tender, because such a delay is possible. But in return, you are hardly tied down, you can choose which suppliers you want to bid from (and you don’t even have to do a big public procurement) and you can choose which part of your business you want to use the digital and innovation voucher for. In other words, if you can find a good target that will increase your productivity and the level of digitalisation in your business, you’ve almost got a winning case. But what if, like us, you do everything online and store it digitally? Well, then you’ll have to wait for the next call for proposals, which will be for something else.
What is fifo?
The digital and innovation voucher is also implemented in a fifo system. This acronym comes from the English term first in – first out. It regulates the distribution of funding. The first to arrive with a project that matches the call for proposals is the first to leave. In other words, it is not worth waiting too long, because once the grant budget is empty, the call for proposals is closed. As I described in the previous point, the deadline is quite flexible. However, if you want to increase your chances of success, you should have a project ready for the call, at least in your head and with a sufficiently detailed outline. Of course, there will be many who wake up late and some who submit a flawed project. But you cannot rely on that as opposed to your own work. Even if the 1300 companies seem like a lot. Just how much it isn’t: by the end of April 2023 alone, more than 7000 companies will have been founded (see the current statistics here).
Are you getting it anyway?
No, as I wrote in the introduction. There is a set of conditions that you have to meet. The simplest is the question of eligibility. If my company’s turnover last year was €10,000, I would be applying for a €50,000 grant for nothing. No one will believe that I can manage that money responsibly. As a general truth, you should contact your bank and ask for a credit check. If you are not eligible for a loan, you are not eligible for a grant. This is where it hits back that many entrepreneurs are barely making a profit or are operating at a solid loss. At least on paper. They are also judged by the application processor on the basis of these figures. In the end, they will not be eligible. In other words, as with all applications (this is true for an EU-funded digital and innovation voucher as well as a county application), the financial situation of the applicant is important. This is the first step. And your project is no good if you’ve already fallen flat on your face.
Why a voucher?
You don’t get money, just like you don’t pay money to the participants in your public procurement. That’s what vouchers are for. These vouchers are given to the projects and their contractors can convert them into cash at the contracting authorities. Why is this interesting? Because when you approach the contractors, it’s important that they are aware of this. For them, it’s an extra administrative burden that not everyone is willing to take on. If it comes out too late, it can jeopardise the success of the project. So with great freedom comes great responsibility.
Yes or no?
I cannot say whether a digital or innovation voucher will help you. If you have a good project and have managed it responsibly over the years, I would definitely recommend you try it. You don’t have to worry about the administrative burden, as you won’t have to ask for thousands of documents from different offices. Especially if you have a vision that fits the call for proposals (digital voucher, innovation voucher). If this feels like a big word in the life of a small business, this might be the moment to create one. In their absence, it is not for you. As you’ve seen, you have plenty of options, you can plan in a flexible enough environment with the application, and you don’t need any own resources. If you want to check your options or are looking for a grant writer, contact us to discuss your options.