It’s not easy for aspiring European SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) to access the funding they need, especially in the early stages. But there are financial instruments provided by the EU at their disposal as we will learn in this edition of Business Planet.
Reporter Sergei Rombi travelled to the Polish city of Lodz, where he talked to managers at an SME specialising in chemical analysis, aimed primarily at the pharmaceutical industry.
Two years ago, the company’s bosses realised they needed state-of-the-art equipment if they wanted to develop and be competitive. So they decided to buy faster and better performing analysis machinery.
They borrowed two thirds of the almost 200,000 euros needed for the investment. The loan guarantee came through the EU’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme" or CIP, as General Manager Małgorzata Rajka explained:
“We needed a loan to buy this equipment. The bank asked us for a guarantee and connected us to the contact person for the CIP, the EU financial support instrument. It was very easy and fast. And that’s how we were able to achieve our goals with this project,” she said.
Thanks to the new equipment and the dynamism of its leadership, the business became one of the top ten best-performing micro-enterprises in Poland in 2012. And, according to Małgorzata Rajka, it’s still reaping the rewards: “We’ve been working with the big international pharmaceutical companies, which is something we couldn’t have done without this equipment. Moreover, it’s enabled us, from the first year, to increase our turnover by 112% and to recruit two new colleagues,” she explained.
What are the other EU financial support tools available to entrepreneurs? And how can you access them?
Over the past five years, the financing instruments of the CIP have boosted more than 300,000 SMEs. A new scheme called COSME (Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) will continue that support, with a fund of more than 25 billion euros.
Arkadiusz Lewicki, director of the CIP’s Contact Point in Poland explained: “We have different forms of financing: loans, leasing, loan guarantees. It’s all destined for entrepreneurs looking for made-to-measure financing, whatever stage of development they’re at. They can always find something that suits them,” he said.
This aid can also come in the form of venture capital. It depends on the particular needs of each entrepreneur, adds Lewicki: “This is valid for small, medium and micro-enterprises, including start-ups. It’s tailored financing for all sectors from crafts to commerce.”
So what are the keys to success for any SME seeking to make use of EU financial assistance?
“For me the key to success is to reinvest the profits in our lab equipment, and to have a strong and united team,” concluded Małgorzata Rajka.