Through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and its component Resilient, Green and Digital Economy investing in stimulating innovation and digitalization of the economy will be continued.
The estimated value of investments from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan in the part related to innovation and development and application of new (digital) technologies is HRK 960,450,000.
Investments in all phases of innovation development are envisaged, with Ministry’s investments being primarily focused on projects of higher levels of technological readiness (TRL). Measures are envisaged to encourage the acceleration and commercialization of innovations, as well as investments in the development capacity of companies to increase competitiveness in the global market. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development will also encourage the digital transformation of the economy through the support of the European Digital Innovation Centers (EDIH), but also by direct support to projects of companies for the development and application of digital technologies and digitalization of business processes. In this way, through the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism, it is planned to raise the level of investment in research and innovation and encourage those activities of companies that contribute to the creation of value-added products and services.
A wide range of planned measures consists of financial instruments and grants that will enable companies not only to invest in the necessary IT equipment and e-commerce solutions but also in know-how by co-financing advisory services and developing strategies for introducing new, digital technology solutions in various business segments, up-skill by strengthening the competencies of entrepreneurs for smart specialization and industrial transition. Cooperation with digital innovation hubs will also be encouraged in order to transfer knowledge about available solutions and technologies. In addition, emphasis was placed on the further development of digital innovations that have proven to be one of the best Croatian export products.
The Ministry is also establishing the European Center for Innovation, Advanced Technologies and Skills Development, which will contribute to the dissemination of knowledge and skills needed for industrial transition through a number of activities that include the organization of B2B and B2G events.
Planned investments through Calls for Awarding the Grants and Advisory Services in Digitization and Innovation:
• Investment in management capacities of small and medium enterprises (total call allocation: HRK 30,000,000) – The goal of the investment is to support the recovery and resilience of Croatian small and medium enterprises by providing customized business improvement plans (i.e. action plans) and phased advisory support. SMEs that achieve the key stages identified in the action plan, and thus demonstrate commitment, will be given access to training for groups of participants, focused on the advisory support of technical experts and individual business mentoring and teaching. The business improvement plan can, among other things, provide a customized direction for the digital transformation of supported SMEs. The investment will cover the costs of advisory fees and training provided to SMEs.
• Grants for start-ups (total call allocation: HRK 141,700,000) – The aim of the investment is to award grants and support for investment readiness to start-ups for projects whose maturity is outside the concept phase, but which are not yet ready for the market i.e. TRL 5-8. This includes upgrading, designing, performing verification, market validation, testing, pilot line development, intellectual property protection and external services aimed at developing of innovative ideas (product, process, service, etc.), as well as training on risk mitigation and risk assessment.
• Strengthening the acceleration activity (total call allocation: HRK 60,000,000) – The investment includes support for acceleration for a period of four years in order to establish an acceleration program in Croatia. The acceleration program will provide mentoring, investment readiness support and access to investor networks for groups of up to 20 start-ups over a period of at least 3 months. Investment readiness support may include access to mentoring and advising business leaders and entrepreneurs, advising on business and product development strategies, access to technology experts, intellectual property experts, technology suppliers, access to potential clients, guidance on initial investment activities and the like.
• Commercialization of innovations (total call allocation: HRK 380,000,000) – The aim of the investment is to encourage the commercialization of innovation projects for mature projects that are close to entering the market; increase the export of innovative products, services or technologies to SMEs by supporting the creation of sales and distribution channels in foreign markets; increase the innovative capacity of SMEs.
• Vouchers for digitalization (total call allocation: HRK 75,000,000) – The purpose of digitalization vouchers is to strengthen the capacity of SMEs to implement digitalization and start the process of digital transformation. It will be possible to use the Vouchers for the implementation of specialized training, digital marketing and other services. The digitization voucher program includes several types of vouchers, i.e. categories of services, depending on the needs of SMEs: Voucher for digital skills improvement, Voucher for digital transformation, Voucher for digital marketing, Voucher for cyber resilience, Voucher for development or application of complex digital products and services.
• Grants for digitalization (total call allocation: HRK 206,000,000) – Grants for business digitalization provide financial resources for the implementation of digital solutions based on a detailed research of digitalization needs. Research can be funded through vouchers for a digital transformation strategy or from other sources. This grant provides funding for investments in digital tools and equipment to introduce new or significantly improved production processes, service delivery methods or organizational practices.
• Support for digital innovation centers (total call allocation: HRK 56,500,000) – The aim of the investment is to define a framework for the establishment and monitoring of DIHs in Croatia and to ensure co-financing of EDIHs that will be successful at the European Commission call Digital Europe 2021-2027. In this way, the implementation of EDIH’s activities aimed at providing services to SMEs and other users in the field of artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, cyber security and other technologies will be supported.
The publication of the call within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan is planned for the first half of 2022.
In the next programming period 2021-2027, the focus will be on the thematic objective Smarter Europe, under which Priority, interventions aimed at strengthening the research and innovation capacities and the use of advanced technologies, reaping the benefits of digitalization, increasing growth and competitiveness of SMEs and development skills for smart specialization, industrial transition and entrepreneurship will be encouraged.
Through OP Competitiveness and Cohesion 2021 – 2027 Ministry will continue with the already known measures to encourage research, innovation and development activities that have so far given excellent results such as:
• Call for IRI S3, intended for the development of new products, services and business processes by increasing the investment of the business sector in research and development and innovation in S3 thematic areas,
• Innovation vouchers intended for the use of professional technical knowledge of Scientific Research Organizations for the needs of innovative processes and commercialization of innovations.
In the forthcoming period, Ministry will continue to provide support to the business sector by ensuring access to financing the business development and increasing competitiveness of the SMEs, i.e. for investments in tangible and intangible assets, including working capital. It is also planned to support the inclusion of SMEs in value chains and the construction of sustainable and resilient systems and processes through process and organizational innovation. In addition, entrepreneurs will be supported for projects aimed at strengthening export potentials and internationalization of business and inclusion in international value chains. In addition, the activities improving the quality of business support infrastructure services and business support institutions will continue. Special emphasis will be placed on strengthening the competencies of entrepreneurs for smart specialization and industrial transition and the adoption of new and improving entrepreneurial skills in order to support SMEs.