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European Funds: The digital leap is now | European funds. The Guide

A cheese factory in a remote village in the Pyrenees that sells online and finds a new audience in the US market. A consultancy that uses artificial intelligence to facilitate the consultation of all its cases and accumulated jurisprudence. A clothing firm that gives flight to its latest creations with careful social networks. They are examples of companies that have gone digital to thrive in an increasingly fierce and changing business landscape.

Since March, Spanish SMEs have had access to this type of solution thanks to the digital-kit, a program endowed with more than 3,000 million euros from the Next Generation EU European fund which, in its first call, aimed at companies with ten to less than 50 employees, subsidizes investment in virtual tools with 12,000 euros. To date, more than 50,000 requests have been registered and more than 2,000 have been resolved. 6,700 digitizing agents collaborate in this project, companies that free SMEs from bureaucracy, provide these solutions and make the process easier than ever.

Alberto Martinez, director of Red.es, the government body that promotes this program, explains why the SME fabric, which generates half of the country’s employment, is given a unique window with this plan: “Today the cultural factor comes together, because the pandemic made it clear that digitization he came to stay; with the economic one, since the European funds are a great opportunity to start this process”. Red.es estimates an initial impact of 50,000 new jobs without counting the multiplicative effect.

According to the 2021 DESI report of the European Commission, Spain ranks sixteenth in the integration of digital technologies, one position in the average of the EU countries. But SMEs, warns the report, lag behind in the use of resources such as artificial intelligence, big data and the cloud, key in the development of electronic commerce. Francisco Hortigüela, general director of the Multisectoral Association of Information Technology, Communications and Electronics Companies (AMETIC), assures that this leap is no longer an option: “It is urgent. Spain is a country of SMEs, more than the rest. And we are little digitized compared to the potential we have. This step will result in better services, cost savings, customer insight and better business results.”

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AddiConsulting, a tax, accounting and legal consultancy for companies, is one of the companies that has signed up for the Digital Kit. The company, located in San Sebastián and with 14 employees, operates in a traditionally low-tech sector, where much of the documentation is still on paper. Monika González, manager, affirms that they are convinced of technological investment as a key to improving the service: “The client today asks you for zero paper, immediacy in the procedures, connection to the cloud, that you free up trips to resolve bureaucracy.”

This SME has requested the Digital Kit to further automate its processes, improve cybersecurity and acquire a documentary product. “We want to achieve, among other things, the automatic registration of workers online and with the least possible physical documentation. Or that during the rental campaign the client does not need to go to the office, it is enough to issue a digital certificate”, González details. They estimate that these improvements will cost about 20,000 euros. With the 12,000 euros of the Digital Kit bonus, this investment will remain at 8,000 euros. The manager adds that in the Basque Country, where her company operates, one of the solutions that the Kit is subsidizing the most is TicketBAI, an approved billing program with the new payment regulations.

12,000 euros in ten digitization categories

The Digital Kit is structured into ten categories of solutions, such as e-commerce, business intelligence and analytics or cybersecurity. Each SME gets a voucher worth 12,000 euros to invest in one or more categories. It is enough to consult the eligibility bases and, if they are met, register from the Red.es page, which also enables a quick guide. The bonus is granted directly and in order of request.

Alberto Martínez, director of Red.es, highlights the agility of the process and the “zero paperwork” involved: “The objective is to make the subsidy as easy as possible. A robotic system allows a commercial or autonomous company not to provide paper as long as it authorizes access to the database. This reduces processing times by 90%”.

Until now, Red.es has registered more than 50,000 applications in this first call for the program, open from March 15 to mid-December and aimed at companies with ten to 49 employees. Two more are planned, one for companies with less than ten to three employees – with a bonus of 6,000 euros – and another for micro-SMEs with less than three employees and the self-employed – with a bonus of 2,000 euros. In some provinces, details the entity, the penetration rate exceeds 50%, with one out of every two SMEs requesting this aid. In Soria, Palencia, Lleida and Córdoba, 60% has been reached.

6,700 digitizing agents

The figure of the digitizing agent, one of the novelties of the Digital Kit, has contributed to this capillarity. They are companies that assume the procedures in the request for the voucher and install the solutions that SMEs need. One of the advantages of this system is that the beneficiaries do not pay for these tools out of pocket. “The SME does not have to advance money. The solutions are contracted directly, which are paid to the digitizing agent”, points out Alberto Martínez.

There are already more than 6,700 digitizing agents of all kinds registered: cloud developers to safeguard databases, account automation software marketers, marketing companies that enhance the image on social networks…

A guide with everything you need to know about European aid for the transformation of the Spanish business fabric

One of these agents is Lefebvre, a Madrid-based company that invents solutions for consultancies and law firms. María de la O Martínez, market director, details one of the services they offer to the law firms with which they work: “Through artificial intelligence, a program searches for and orders the information of all the documents and the knowledge of an office. When a new case comes in, lawyers can quickly marry the new information with the old to see useful background and case law.” The company also builds web pages and fills them with content. “Oddly enough, there are many lawyers who do not have a digital presence. It is a way to gain visibility and differentiate yourself from the competition”, she expands.

Francisco Hortigüela, from AMETIC, understands that the role of these agents is to free SMEs from fright at the idea of ​​so much paperwork: “They are companies that do not have much time and are not experts in these procedures. The agents have an evangelization and communication function, they are facilitators of the digital Kit”. Alberto Martínez considers this mechanism a milestone: “It is perhaps one of the largest public-private collaboration experiments in Spain”.

Accompaniment and advice

In addition to the information provided by official sites, such as Red.es and Accelerate SME, entrepreneurs who want to apply for the Digital Kit or other aid from European funds can find specialized support in banking entities. The services they offer range from advice, guiding the entrepreneur in the processing of aid, to the advance payment of some subsidies or the co-financing of the improvements they want to implement in their business.

Carmen Urraca, director of European Funds at Banco Sabadell, understands that many SMEs are not used to this type of management, something that means that, on many occasions, a tiny amount of subsidies is consumed. “We offer a personalized selection of aids. We filter and propose three specific typologies for each SME, company or freelancer based on their sector, their turnover and the autonomous community where they operate”.

Banco Sabadell also has a network of territorial offices and managers for each client with whom Find out about everything related to European funds Next Generation EU. “Digitalization and sustainability are a challenge for the productive fabric. We want to accompany all kinds of companies in this period of transformation”, concludes Carmen Urraca.

Aid for the digitization of SMEs

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To grow technology companies through private financing (FOND-ICO Next Tech Fund)

ACTIVE

The Official Credit Institute (ICO) and the Secretary of State for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence have launched a venture capital fund to finance growing companies and emerging companies, as well as to mobilize investment for the development of business activity based on advanced technologies called deep tech , such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity or big data, among others, that have an impact on the economy, especially in the field of small and medium-sized companies.

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To promote digital companies with female leadership (Digital entrepreneurs)

ACTIVE

This program, endowed with 51 million euros, has the objective of promoting through financing female digital entrepreneurship projects that contribute to reducing the gender gap. It will do so through participative loans for small and medium-sized companies in which one or several women hold a relevant position of leadership within the company: in the shareholding, in the administrative body or as part of the management team. This line is aimed at both newly created companies and those considering a consolidation, growth or internationalization project.

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For the maintenance of employment and the transformation towards the green and digital economy

ACTIVE

This program offers micro-SMEs (up to 10 employees) and freelancers aid of 5,000 euros and advice for the consolidation of their businesses. Its objective is to achieve this through actions within its financial and operational management or through the development of products and services that favor its digital and green transformation.

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For the digitization of tourism companies

COMING SOON

The Aid for digitization projects of companies in the tourism sector They are aimed at undertaking technological initiatives to improve their relationship with tourists at the local level through the development of mobile applications that facilitate the management, promotion, enhancement and dissemination of destinations. Specifically, the aim is to mobilize unique and transformative projects that cover processes and products that can be easily replicated with a clear focus on the end user. Half the cost of the project will be subsidized, which must have a budget of a minimum of 300,000 euros and a maximum of 750,000 euros.

Companies and freelancers must go to the autonomous communities to request aid, since they are the ones that manage the programs.

CREDITS

Drafting: Jaime Ripa

Editorial coordination: Juan Antonio Carbajo

Design: John Sanchez

Developing: Rudolph Mata

Design coordination: Adolfo Domenech

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