Grant funding for start-ups and SMEs 2024 in Bulgaria

Guide to grant funding to start-ups and SMEs in 2024 under European programs in Bulgaria. Find out all about the possible grants under the EU funds.
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Grant funding for start-ups and SMEs 2024 in Bulgaria
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What grant programmes can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) apply for in 2024?

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have access to a number of grant programmes provided by the European Union in 2024. These programs are diverse and are designed to support different types of business activities, innovation and growth.

Single Market Programme

The Single Market programme aims to support SMEs in their quest to integrate more effectively into the EU Single Market. The aim is to facilitate access to new markets and financing, which is crucial for the growth and development of small and medium-sized businesses. This programme enables SMEs to increase their visibility and competitiveness within the EU by offering a variety of tools and resources to help in this process. The management of the programme is in the hands of the Executive Agency for the European Innovation Council and for SMEs (EISMEA), which ensures that policies and measures are adapted to the needs of small businesses.

Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is extremely important for SMEs involved in energy, transport and digital projects. This mechanism offers funding for infrastructure projects that are important for strengthening the internal market and supporting the overall economic development of the EU. The CEF acts as a catalyst for the development of key sectors, while offering opportunities for SMEs to participate in major projects. The mechanism is managed by two agencies, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) and the European Health and Digitalisation Executive Agency (HaDEA), which provides a specialised approach in the different support areas.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the EU's flagship programme for funding research and innovation. It offers significant opportunities for SMEs seeking innovative development and the introduction of new technologies. The programme supports a wide range of research activities, covering a variety of areas, from fundamental research to applied scientific development. Horizon Europe is the successor to the successful Horizon 2020 programme and continues to be a key instrument to support scientific innovation in the EU, thereby supporting the growth and competitiveness of SMEs across the European Union.

European Cohesion Policy

European Cohesion Policy focuses on reducing disparities between different EU regions and supporting the economic development of less developed regions. It provides significant financial resources for investment in regional development, which includes support for SMEs. Cohesion policy plays a key role in stimulating growth and job creation, while addressing social and economic challenges. SMEs in the different regions of the EU can benefit from this policy by receiving support to expand their activities and increase their competitiveness at local and national level.

Progress Microfinance Facility

The Progress Microfinance Facility is an important tool for SMEs, especially those that are just starting their business or expanding their activities. It offers microloans worth up to 25,000 euros, which are particularly suitable for small businesses and the self-employed. The Facility works in partnership with various microcredit providers across the EU, thus facilitating access to finance for entrepreneurs who often face difficulties in obtaining traditional bank financing. This mechanism is especially useful for start-up entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises looking for ways to finance their ventures.

Other funding opportunities

In addition to the above programmes, SMEs in the EU have access to a variety of other funding opportunities. This includes various funds and programmes provided by the European Commission that support a wide range of activities, including innovation, small and medium-sized business development, social entrepreneurship and environmental initiatives. The European Commission provides grants to support projects or organisations that serve the interests of the EU. This includes support for entrepreneurs and businesses through local financial institutions and the funding access portal, as well as instruments such as the European Agenda for Employment and Social Innovation, the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFF).

These programmes provide SMEs with opportunities to access a variety of financial resources and support that can be used to launch, expand or modernise their operations, for innovation, for research or for sustainable development.

What is the Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises Programme 2021-2027?

The Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises Programme 2021-2027 is an essential tool that supports Bulgarian enterprises in developing innovative products and business processes. The main objective of the programme is to strengthen the country's innovation capacity and support the transition to a more sustainable and efficient economy. It is divided into two priorities: “Innovation and Growth” and “Circular Economy”.

The main objective of the programme is to increase the competitiveness of SMEs through innovative technologies and processes. It also encourages the creation of new enterprises, supports their sustainable development and helps their integration into international markets. The program allocates funds for various initiatives, including research, development of new products and services, as well as improvement of production processes.

The programme provides financial support through various mechanisms, including grants, loans and guarantees. It also offers technical assistance and advice to SMEs looking for development and innovation opportunities. Funds are allocated in accordance with the specific needs and project proposals of enterprises.

What are the current grant programmes for Bulgarian start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises under the Innovation and Growth priority in 2023 and 2024?

Currently, several current programs are available for Bulgarian enterprises in the area of the “Innovation and Growth” priority under the “Innovation and Competitiveness 2021-2027” program. They all aim to support small and medium-sized enterprises in their efforts to innovate and increase competitiveness. These programmes offer a variety of financial instruments, including grants and loans, aimed at promoting research and development as well as bringing innovative products and services to market.

Procedure BG16RFPR001-1.003 “Implementation of innovations in enterprises”

This procedure represents a significant step under the Innovation and Growth priority of the Competitiveness and Innovation in Enterprises programme for the period 2021-2027. This procedure is focused on supporting Bulgarian enterprises in their quest to develop and strengthen the capacity for research, innovation and implementation of modern technologies.

The main purpose of the procedure is to stimulate the implementation of innovative products and services, as well as the improvement of business processes in enterprises. This includes a focus on innovations that can increase the productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of businesses locally and internationally. The procedure offers funding opportunities for projects that focus on the development and application of innovative approaches and technologies.

The projects eligible for funding under this procedure are those that fall within the specific thematic areas defined by the Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialization 2021-2027 (ISIS 2021-2027). These areas include “Informatics and ICT”, “Mechatronics and Microelectronics”, “Healthy Living, Bioeconomy and Biotechnology Industries” and “New Technologies in Creative and Recreational Industries”. It also includes “Clean Technology, Circular and Low Carbon Economy”, which shows the programme's commitment to sustainable development and environmental innovation.

The procedure provides for the financing of research and innovation activities, as well as networking between enterprises and scientific institutes. This includes the development of industrial research, experimental development and studies to establish the feasibility of new ideas and technologies. Thus, the procedure aims to strengthen the links between the scientific sector and business and to help translate scientific discoveries into practical innovations.

For Bulgarian enterprises, procedure BG16RFPR001-1.003 represents a valuable opportunity for obtaining support in the process of innovative development. It provides financial resources and expert assistance necessary for the implementation of innovative projects that can significantly contribute to the development of the Bulgarian economy and to increase the competitiveness of local enterprises on the European and global markets.

Procedure BG16RFOP002-8.001 “Support to those particularly affected by the increase in energy prices

Procedure BG16RFOP002-8.001 “Supporting SMEs particularly affected by the increase in energy prices through a measure implemented by the Electricity System Security Fund (SAFE)” is an important initiative under the Operational Programme “Innovation and Competitiveness”. This procedure is aimed at supporting Bulgarian SMEs, which have suffered significant difficulties as a result of increased energy prices, especially in the context of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine.

The objective of the procedure is to provide working capital to mitigate the effects that the increase in energy prices has had on the SMEs concerned. This includes financial assistance designed to help enterprises adapt to new economic conditions and maintain their activity and competitiveness in the difficult situation.

The total amount of the grant under the procedure is significant, BGN 103 952 133.72 (EUR 53 149 882.00)funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the REACT-EU Facility. This amount underlines the programme's commitment to supporting small and medium-sized businesses in Bulgaria, seeking to alleviate financial difficulties caused by external economic factors.

The specific activity eligible for funding under this procedure includes the recovery of funds used by the State in 2022 to provide compensation to SMEs. This means that the support is directed to those undertakings which have suffered the greatest impact from the increase in electricity prices and fulfil the conditions laid down for support.

The procedure for submitting project proposals under this programme is carried out entirely electronically, which facilitates the application process and speeds up the processing of applications. The full package of documents, including the application conditions, is available online, facilitating information access and the application process for interested SMEs.

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What are the current programmes for SMEs under the Circular Economy priority in 2024?

Procedure BG-RRP-3.008 “Support for the transition to a circular economy in enterprises” is a current procedure for SMEs under the Circular Economy priority in 2024. This procedure is focused on promoting the transition to circular economy models in Bulgarian enterprises, supporting investments in new technologies and processes that contribute to the sustainable use of resources.This procedure aims to support the transition to the circular economy, focusing on several key areas:

  1. Reduce the formation of waste: Includes activities such as preparation for reuse, recycling or other types of processing of waste, as well as reducing the raw materials used to produce a unit of product.
  2. Limiting the use of single-use plastic products: This includes replacing plastic products with alternative materials and reducing the use of plastic as a raw material.
  3. Use of resources of biological origin: Promotes the use of resources of biological origin in production.
  4. Improving product environmental standards: Aims to achieve compliance of products with applicable environmental standards and product requirements.
  5. Improving the energy efficiency of products: Covers the production of products with higher energy efficiency.
  6. Introduction of other circular economy models: Includes the use of alternative raw materials, increasing the use of recyclable materials and reducing the use of hazardous substances.

Micro, small, medium and large enterprises, registered no later than 31.12.2020 and having realized net sales revenue for 2022, depending on the category of the enterprise, can participate in the procedure. Eligible candidates shall be traders within the meaning of the T&C or equivalent persons within the meaning of the legislation of an EEA Member State.

Procedure BG-RRP-3.008 includes various eligible activities aimed at acquiring new technologies for introducing circular models at enterprises, such as reducing waste generation, limiting the use of disposable plastic products, using resources of biological origin, and improving product environmental standards.

Proposals for implementation of investments are submitted electronically through ISM-ISUN 2020 section NPVU. The evaluation of proposals shall include verification of compliance of applicants and partners with the administrative eligibility criteria and quality assessment. Applicants must plan specific quantitative and/or qualitative results of the implementation of Activity I and provide documentary evidence of their achievement at the end of the implementation of the investments.

The total amount of the grant under the procedure is BGN 103 952 133.72 (EUR 53 149 882.00) from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the REACT-EU instrument.

What are the open programmes under the CEF - Connecting Europe Facility in 2024?

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) plays a critical role in the development and modernisation of European infrastructure. The digital sector programmes under the auspices of the CEF for 2024 are particularly significant as they aim to boost digital connectivity and improve access to high-speed internet services across Europe.

In the context of these programs, Elan Consulting accounting firm offers specialized support and advice to organizations and businesses wishing to apply for financing. With their expertise in accounting and finance, they are able to offer valuable guidance on project proposal preparation, project finance management and compliance with mandatory regulations and requirements.

1. Competition CEF-DIG-2023-5GCORRIDORS (5G coverage on transport corridors):This competition is divided into two main parts:

  • 5G coverage along transport corridors — Works: With a budget of 95 million euros, this competition is focused on the purchase, supply and implementation of components, systems and services.
  • 5G coverage along transport corridors — Studies: With a budget of 5 million euros, this competition aims to conduct research.

2. Competition CEF-DIG-2023-5GSMARTCOM-EDGE-WORKS (5G for Smart Communities):With a budget of 51 million euros, this competition is aimed at the development of 5G technologies in the context of smart communities. It represents an important step towards the modernization of local infrastructure and service to citizens.

3. Competition CEF-DIG-2023-GATEWAYS (Supporting Connectivity for Digital Global Portals):This competition consists of two main topics:

  • Backbone connectivity for Digital Global Gateways — Works: With a budget of 75 million euros, this competition focuses on the work on supporting connectivity.
  • Backbone connectivity for Digital Global Gateways — Studies: With a budget of 15 million euros, this competition is designed to carry out research.

In addition to its main activity, Elan Consulting offers additional services related to the development of business plans, budget forecasts and financial analysis, which are essential when applying for MSE financing. Their experience in these areas can significantly increase the candidates' chances of success.

The deadline to apply for these competitions is February 20, 2024 All submitted projects will be evaluated by independent experts to the European Commission in March and April 2024. The signing of grant agreements is expected to be in November 2024. Elan Consulting can provide assistance throughout the entire process — from the initial planning to the final signing of contracts.

Why should I use the services of Elan Consulting if I apply for a European project?

Understanding the Complexity of European Funds: Accounting firm Elan Consulting has in-depth knowledge of the variety of grant programs offered by the EU in 2024. They can help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) navigate the complex world of European funds, which is particularly valuable in the context of programmes such as the Single Market, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), Horizon Europe and others.

Specialized preparation of documentation: Elan Consulting provides specialized services for the preparation of project proposals and documentation required for application. This includes the development of business plans, financial forecasts and detailed analyzes that are key to a successful application.

Support in project management:Once approved, projects under European programmes require careful management and accountability. Elan Consulting can offer valuable advice and support in project management, helping SMEs to meet all requirements and maximize the benefits of the funding received.

Help in navigating regulatory requirements: European funds are often subject to strict regulatory requirements and conditions. Elan Consulting has the knowledge and experience to guide SMEs through these conditions, facilitating the process and reducing the potential risk of errors.

Specialized support for scientific projects and technological innovations:Programmes such as Horizon Europe focus on research and innovation. Elan Consulting can help SMEs formulate and develop their innovative projects, preparing them to apply for funding under this and similar programs.

Assistance to small Bulgarian regional businesses: Through its expertise and full understanding of the European Cohesion Policy, Elan Consulting can direct SMEs to specific regional and local financing opportunities, which is essential for businesses operating in the less developed regions of Bulgaria.

Support for obtaining microfinance: With the help of Elan Consulting, SMEs can benefit from mechanisms such as Progress for microfinance. This is especially important for small startups or those looking for small amounts of financing.

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