Author: INNO team

Publication date: 23.10.2019

Is your business ready to take the next step? The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development can help you identify and access the expertize you need in order to take that step towards success.
The EBRD has been helping SMEs access know-how since 1993, and this support is now present in 29 countries across three continents. Nearly 16.000 enterprises have benefited from advisory support, and the results are very encouraging – 74% of supported enterprises have increased their turnover, and 56% have increased productivity, all within a year of completing an advisory project.
In Romania, the EBRD has supported, until now, more than 900 enterprises, from various industries and regions of the country. Starting with 2019, the EBRD is facilitating access to advice for innovative SMEs, with financing from the European Union, under Horizon 2020.
We spoke to EBRD’s SME Finance & Development team to find out more about the initiative.

Inno.ro: „In which time frame will advisory support for innovative SMEs be available in Romania, and what is the available budget?”
EBRD: In the period 2019-2022, €2.5 million will be available in Romania, from the European Union, under Horizon 2020, to ensure the access of innovative SMEs to local and international expertise.
The EBRD connects innovative enterprises to local and international advisors, to improve their competitiveness and take their business to the next level. This expertise stretches across a wide range of areas, including strategy, trade promotion, financial management, energy efficiency, marketing and beyond. Business advisory projects delivered by local consultants aim to achieve a specific goal, in a short time frame (max. 6 months). Intensive,  12-18 month international advisory projects provide tailored mentoring to local company executives, to support them in achieving long-term goals (for relatively mature, medium-sized companies looking to compete on the global frontier).

Inno.ro: “How does advisory support for innovative SMEs fit into the pilot programme launched by the EBRD and the EU, under Horizon 2020, in 2018?”
EBRD: A €20 million pilot programme was launched in 2018, under Horizon 2020, to help innovative SMEs in Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia. The EBRD and the European Union are providing a comprehensive package of finance, advisory support and measures to promote green technologies:
1.    Finance for innovative businesses in Romania – EBRD credit lines will help local banks lend to SMEs investing in innovation, while EU grants totalling €12.5 million will support investment incentives for end-beneficiaries.
2.    Advice for innovative SMEs  (Romania, Bulgaria) – €5 million will be available in Romania and €1.5 million in Bulgaria, to ensure the access of innovative SMEs to local and international expertise.
3.    Green  innovation support (Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia) –  €5 million in Horizon 2020 grants, alongside EBRD financing, will help companies in all three countries to invest in R&D, new products/technologies and new business models, which have beneficial impacts in terms of climate change.

Inno.ro: “What is the additionality of EBRD work with SMEs, compared to other SME support programmes in Romania?”
EBRD:  Beyond finance, SMEs also need access to the right know-how to improve their internal operations, to innovate effectively and to expand. We help SMEs receive business advice in a wide range of areas, so that they can be more competitive and better prepared for the finance that takes them further.
We have a database of more than 300 local consultants in Romania, and each of them has been through a rigorous evaluation process. We also work with more than 2,500 international experts, leaders in their field, who can provide Romanian companies with the best practices and ideas in these fields.
We work closely with all of them to make sure that only the highest quality advice reaches SMEs. We also work closely with our clients to identify the right expertise and to structure the project for maximum results.
Moreover, thanks to our donor, the European Union, we can offer grant financing that covers 70% of the net cost of a local advisory project, and more than 75% of the cost of an international advisory project. More information on EBRD grants is available at https://knowhowromania.ro/.
The aim of EBRD grants is to educate and motivate SMEs to seek business advice, so that, in the long term, they will access expertise without our support.

Inno.ro: “Is there a category of SMEs that EBRD targets in particular? What key qualities does an SME need to have in order to receive EBRD support?”
EBRD:  From the smallest looking to grow to those going global, we support a wide variety of businesses, from many industries, such as food and beverages, wholesale and retail distribution and constructions and engineering. What connects them is a focus on development and openness to external advice.
The basic criteria for selecting eligible companies are those used by the European Union to define SMEs, and innovative companies are identified based on EU InnovFin criteria. Therefore, we can support companies that have up to 250 employees, and exceptionally up to 3,000 employees, a turnover of less than €50 million or a balance sheet total of less than €43 million, and that are majority owned by entrepreneurs from one of the EBRD countries of operation. In terms of innovation, we are looking for companies that, for example, aim to develop new products, processes or service, companies that have received grants, loans or guarantees from European research and innovation support schemes, or companies that have attracted venture capital. All the eligibility criteria are available at https://knowhowromania.ro/.

So far, in Romania, we have supported more than 10 innovative enterprises under Horizon 2020. Some are IT companies looking to conquer international markets, others come from the food industry and are looking to optimize their processes by implementing innovative solutions, while others have become market leaders through innovation and now want to reach the next level with the help of a consultant.

Find out more about the programme on the official webpage https://knowhowromania.ro/, because you have the chance to become a success story. The numbers are looking promising: 74% of the companies that benefited from EBRD support have reported an average increase of 31% of their turnover, while 56% of companies report a growth in productivity as a result of expanding their activity.