At the beginning of 2019, the Slovene Enterprise Fund (“SEF”) introduced a new simplified programme of incentives for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”). The primary purpose of these vouchers is to financially assist SMEs through the co-financing of particular services in different fields and, consequently, to positively influence the competitiveness and competences of SMEs. The funding commenced in 2019, and will be available until 2023. Importantly, what differentiates these incentives from others, is that the costs of external advisors are also covered.
The level of financial incentives
The amount of financial support is limited. Each voucher can co-finance a maximum 60% of eligible costs, whereby the maximum value of each voucher is up to 10.000 EUR. On an annual basis, SMEs can be eligible for financing for a maximum amount of 30.000 EUR. Regardless of the date of individual public call, the eligible costs will be those that were incurred as of 1 January 2019. Therefore, it is recommended that the documentation, being the basis for incurred costs, is kept in order to prove eligibility for the support.
How to apply for vouchers and what are the conditions?
Interested SMEs can obtain vouchers through a submitted application, based on a public call, which will be published on SEF’s website and in the Official Gazette. In order to benefit from funding, SMEs’ must comply with the required conditions, inter alia: (i) enterprises must be SMEs, which generally means that they must have less than 250 employees and with an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million, (ii) the SME’s registered seat must be in Slovenia, (iii) on the date of submission, the SMEs must have at least one employee, (iv) there can be no insolvency procedure initiated against the SMEs, and (v) the SMEs tax obligations and financial obligations to public institutions and SEF must be settled.
Different types of vouchers
There are eleven types of vouchers with different contents, varying from the vouchers for quality certificates, the improvement of digital competences, preparation of a digital strategy, participation in international fairs, cyber security, to the voucher for reorganisation of the legal form of enterprises and a voucher for the protection of intellectual property. Public calls will be published for each of the groups individually.
We will briefly present below two groups of vouchers, which are important for the conduct of business from a legal perspective.
Voucher for the reorganisation of the legal form of enterprises
The main purpose of this type of voucher is to encourage SMEs to change their legal form, namely:
- From a sole proprietor to a limited liability company (LLC);
- from a joint stock company (JSC) to a private limited liability company (LLC) or vice versa; and,
- from a cooperative to a company limited by shares or vice versa.
The reorganization of a legal form does not change the company’s identity, only its corporate relations and organizational structure. It often has important tax consequences as well. Therefore, a change of the legal form can enable companies to develop their full potential and positively influence their competitiveness.
The main benefit of reorganization from a sole proprietor to LLC is mostly exclusion of personal liability of members of LLC for company’s liabilities. Comparing an LLC and JSC, an LLC enables more flexible management of the company, while a JSC enables easier transferability of shares, as well as facilitated equity financing. A cooperative is an appropriate legal form when voluntary and open membership is required for the conduct of business.
These vouchers may be used to cover (i) external expert’s fees and costs (including legal advisory costs), (ii) notarial costs and (iii) audit costs. For 2019, the final date to apply for a voucher is 31 October.
Voucher for the protection of intellectual property
The main purpose of this type of voucher is to encourage SMEs to protect their intellectual property (“IP”) and subsequently to improve their competitive position. Under intellectual property law, holders of IP obtain an exclusive right to use, licence and dispose with IP rights. Therefore, IP represents a significant part of the companies’ assets and an important source of financing. When appropriately protected, IP rights can significantly increase the value of the companies, enhance their reputation and consequently strengthen their market position. Also, IP is often subject to individual transactions, which include only IP.
The most commonly registered and protected IP are trademarks. They protect a recognizable sign or a plethora o signs which identify and differentiate individual products. Also, an important IP is a patent, which protects an invention from different technical areas and enables the exclusive right to such an invention for a period of twenty years. An industrial design protects the product’s design and its visual features.
Vouchers may be used to cover the (i) costs for the preparation of the filling of a patent, industrial design or trademark application (ii) external expert’s fee, (iii) the costs of the application for IP registrations, its extension abroad and maintenance, as well as (iv) costs of the translation of applications and claims. For 2019, the last possibility to apply for this type of voucher is 31 October.