Despite noticeable progress of the level of innovation in the Polish economy in recent years, the growth rate is still unsatisfactory compared to other Member States. The reason may be that entrepreneurs still lack adequate facilities and often the motivation to accomplish tasks enabling the implementation of innovative solutions in business. It mainly concerns research with the aim of developing a concept of an innovative technology or product, creating a prototype, its testing and confirming the validity of implementation.
Therefore, under the new financial perspective for 2014-2020, European funds include a number of programmes whose purpose is to support research projects. Both SMEs and large companies may apply for funding of R&D. The size of the company and the type and scope of research determines the level of co-financing for which entrepreneurs can apply at the application stage. A novelty in the financial perspective for 2014-2020 is that a large amount of funds were located in the regions - almost every province provides for the organization of competitions for the most interesting research projects!
Examples of programmes for R&D financing in enterprises
Smart Growth Operational Programme, Sub-measure 1.1.1 Industrial research and development work carried out by enterprises (Fast Path) - the measure is directed to enterprises from the SME sector and for large enterprises
"Fast Track" makes it possible to finance research and development consisting of industrial research and development works. The former constitutes research to acquire new knowledge and know-how in order to develop new products, processes and services or introducing significant improvements. The maximum level of support, which can be obtained in the case of industrial research is 70%. The second type of research involves acquiring, combining, shaping and using currently available knowledge and know-how in order to plan production and create and design new or improved products, processes and services. The maximum level of support, which can be obtained for development is 45%. In summary, R&D projects may include all activities leading to the development of new or improved products or new or improved production technology, or actions that the company takes to be able to offer customers a product more suited to their needs. Very often it is barriers, defects or deficiencies indicated by contractors that give rise to research and development processes in companies. The institution evaluating application documents and granting funding is the National Centre for Research and Development. One major advantage of the "Fast Track" is an efficient process for assessing applications. The National Centre for Research and Development guarantees that projects will be evaluated within 60 calendar days from the date of closure of the call for proposals.
Smart Growth Operational Programme, Sub-measure 1.1.2 R&D work related to manufacturing a pilot/demonstration installation (Demonstrator) - the sub-measure is directed to enterprises from the SME sector and to large enterprises
The "Demonstrator" creates opportunities for financing R&D consisting exclusively of the development stage with manufacturing a pilot installation. Development work includes work to build a large-scale prototype, and then carrying out tests, optimization and trial production. This stage ends in developing a ready to implement solution. Usually final technical documentation as well as the patent application are prepared at this stage. As in the case of sub-measure 1.1.1, the institution evaluating applications and awarding grants is the National Centre for Research and Development.
Smart Growth Operational Programme, Sectoral R&D programmes
Sectoral programmes are aimed at realising large R&D projects, essential for the development of individual industries/sectors. In sectoral programmes, the joint venture is initiated by a group of enterprises that represent the industry (e.g. through a technology platform or cluster initiative or trade chambers), presenting the outline of the research agenda with a particular sector demand for R&D. Funding is provided for projects that include industrial research and development work or development work. Examples of sectoral programs include:
- R & D projects implemented under the sectoral program INNOCHEM;
- R & D projects implemented under the sectoral program INNOTEXTILE;
- R & D projects implemented under the sectoral program INNOSBZ.
The institution evaluating projects and awarding grants is also the National Centre for Research and Development.
Costs eligible for financing
In all of the above-mentioned research projects funding includes:
- cost of salaries of people employed in R&D;
- depreciation write-offs or the cost of paid use of research equipment and other facilities for research purposes;
- costs of materials (raw materials, semi-finished products, reagents);
- components for the construction of a pilot and demonstration installation;
- laboratory equipment (unless it falls under the category of fixed assets in accordance with the Accounting Act);
- depreciation of buildings;
- lease or perpetual usufruct of the land;
- subcontracting costs.
Criteria for assessing applications
In all research projects the evaluating institution considers three main factors:
- novelty of the project results - understood as novelty at least on the Polish market, taking into account new features and functionality of the product in relation to the solutions available on the market;
- market demand - assessed for the possibility to satisfy the real needs of consumers and the competitiveness of the product or technology resulting from R&D compared to other similar solutions available on the market;
- profitability of implementation - measured by improvement in the company's results, taking into account the projection of expected revenue and costs related to the implementation of the product or technology in the business operations of the Applicant.
There are scores assigned for both these criteria , and therefore, taking into account the huge competition, they decide on awarding grants. It should however be borne in mind that programmes aimed at R&D activities also oblige Applicants to provide adequate facilities to carry out research in the form of a qualified and experienced research team and managerial staff, as well as appropriate technical resources. Furthermore, it is crucial for the scope of the project to fit in the National Smart Specialisations, and more specifically in one of the following thematic areas:
- Healthy society;
- Agro-food, forest and wood and environmental bioeconomy;
- Sustainable energy;
- Natural resources and waste management;
- Innovative technologies and industrial processes.
Also important is a thoughtful and effective way of managing the research project and thorough verification of whether the solution proposed in the project in the form of new or improved product or technology infringes intellectual property rights.