Funds minister announces new innovation programme for SMEs

The minister highlighted that a significant share of the funds for Polish entrepreneurs will be funds for innovation. Andrzej Grygiel/PAP

Polish Minister of Funds and Regional Policy Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak announced a new programme on Wednesday that will provide grants and loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to encourage innovative projects.

Speaking at the European Economic Congress in Katowice, southern Poland, the minister said Poland needed to change its approach towards financing innovation and laid out plans to use EU funds from the long-term budget for 2021-27. She said that although the coronavirus pandemic had forced a re-modelling of national and regional programmes, their principle frameworks should remain the same, as to date.

Jarosińska-Jedynak also warned that like previous programmes, those for the 2021-27 perspective would probably start late. Next year, there will be additional funds available for entrepreneurs from the current funding period, she said, including from the Intelligent Development programme.

"I very much hope that we will manage to successfully finalise work on the Recovery Fund and will be able to implement it in 2021, so that its funds flow into the economy," she told the congress. "We are prepared and ready for that, however, I suppose it may not be possible; we must therefore seek other solutions and we're seeking them through cohesion policy programmes from the current perspective."

The minister highlighted that a significant share of the funds for Polish entrepreneurs will be funds for innovation. "Without innovation, we will stay in the same place, we will not develop," she said. Those innovations must be financed, but we have to change slightly our approach to financing innovation."

She said that innovation and research and development work were risky projects and that entrepreneurs rarely want to seek funds for those aims, not having a guarantee of a lack of consequences in the event of a fiasco.

She said that was what the 2007-13 funding period had been like, when if something went wrong with a project, the funds had to be returned. She said the 2014-20 funding period saw a complete change in approach towards R&D, as if a project failed, entrepreneurs could submit a report justifying the impossibility of continuing it and there was no need to return the funds.

"But it seems to me that that is still an insufficient approach to flexibility in innovation," she explained. "We have now shown, in the time of pandemic, that we can flexibly grant funds and and move them flexibly - and the European Commission agreed to that: we can adapt, but only to projects that are carried out in connection to the occurrence of a pandemic."

She went on to explain that her ministry wanted to carry that flexibility forward to the coming financing perspective. She said it had been shown that it could be done "faster, easier and in a more straightforward manner" and that such an approach would be applied to the coming financing period, specifically for innovation-related projects.

Jarosińska-Jedynak announced an innovation programme addressed to micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises. "We also want to direct support to research organisations, to clusters, to institutions in the business environment," she said. "And we also want that innovation to be financed from start to finish."

She explained that plans involved financing for the whole life cycle of innovative projects, from research to bringing new solutions to the market, as well as for their promotion, including on foreign markets. She went on to state that analysis was currently ongoing into which stages of a project could be financed with a grant and which by loans.