Matching Grants Program

The Matching Grants Program is designed for enterprises looking for significant financial resources for the commercialization of research and development.

No, an entrepreneur cannot apply for this program. The Applicant for the Matching Grants Program must be a legal business entity in accordance with the active Serbian Company Law, which stipulates four (4) types of companies: general partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company and joint stock company.

Yes, they can. The only relevant issue for a company that has applied for the Matching Grants Program is that it must fulfill all the conditions stipulated in the Eligibility section 2.1 of the Matching Grants Program Manual.

The company must have majority private ownership (more than 51%), be founded in Serbia, has generated a minimum of EUR 200,000 in operating revenue in the previous or current business year, and it cannot have generated revenue over EUR 50,000,000 in any of the prior two years from the moment of Application. The company also cannot be in majority ownership of a parent or holding company that has revenue or is part of the group that had revenue over EUR 50,000,000 in any of the prior two years.

It is sufficient for the company to have majority private ownership. This means that the company has to be at least 51% in private ownership for it to be eligible for the Matching Grants Program. If the above condition is met, the owner of the minority part can be a University, a City and/or such.

Founders are allowed to participate on projects as subcontractors, R&D advisors/consultants operational support, etc. as long as there is no conflict of interest based on the Confidentiality Policy and Prevention of Conflict of Interest Policy of the Innovation Fund, as well as long as there is unquestionable arm’s length in that transaction (for legal entities). Arm’s length means that the two entities must be financially and operationally independent from each other and that all the proposed transactions between them are fair transactions (made with respect to commercial practice and market conditions).

Note: This answer does not imply any liability towards the Innovation Fund in any phase of program implementation nor during the undertaking of any action by the Innovation Fund.

There are no limitations regarding the founding date of a company applying for the Matching Grants Program, but the company needs to be classified by the SBRA as a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise in accordance with the Law on Accounting of the Republic of Serbia. If the company hasn’t yet been classified, it is not eligible to apply for this program.

Applying for one Program does not prevent the company from also applying for the other Program, but a company cannot apply for both Programs with the same project proposal.

Newly founded companies, as they are defined in the Law on Accounting of the Republic of Serbia, are not eligible to apply for the Matching Grants Program.

In order to apply for the Matching Grants Program, a company has to register on the Innovation Fund application Portal (available at http://www.inovacionifond.rs/en/login), and to fill out the Company registration request application form which includes basic data about the company (among others: tax ID, legal type, company headquarters and contact person info). The IF provides the necessary application documents which must be populated by the Applicant and submitted through the Portal before the application submission deadline. It is the Applicant’s responsibility to ensure the timely submission of the information/documents.

Companies that are currently implementing a project under Mini Grants Program, Matching Grants Program or CGS Program (in the capacity of the Lead Applicant) or program Katapult must fully complete the project implementation and sign a Final Settlement with the Fund before they are eligible to apply for the financing under any of the Fund’s grant scheme programs. Applications coming from companies already implementing a project with the IF will not be taken into consideration.

The exception is the Innovation Voucher program where companies can apply at any time.

Additionally, no Applicant can receive more than EUR 600,000 of grant financing under all IF programs (Mini Grants Program, Matching Grants Program, Collaborative Grant Scheme Program, and program Katapult) over the lifetime of the Applicant and all of its past, present and future affiliated entities (including its subsidiaries, spinoffs or affiliated companies which have changed their trade name).

Yes, a company which was rejected for financing has the right to apply again with the same project. However, a company can resubmit the same Application only once. Any Application which is fundamentally the same as any other two Applications (i.e. based on essentially the same innovative technology, product or service and business plan) previously submitted by the company to the IF in any of the previous calls for any of the grant programs will not be taken into consideration for financing.

The document Project Presentation needs to be submitted based on the instructions provided in the template itself (See the IF website). Maximum size and number of slides are predefined, and the file cannot exceed 40MB.

A document that has already been uploaded can be freely changed before the submission deadline. When the Applicant has uploaded the final version of all the required documents for the Application, they have to hit the Submit button in order for the Application to be sent and be valid.

No, as it is assumed that companies applying for the Matching Grants Program have already developed business infrastructure in this domain.

Direct marketing costs are not allowed due to the State Aid rules. However, certain costs of business development services incurred directly as a result of research activities can be financed, for example market research, project cycle management, business strategy development services, etc. It is up to the company to provide enough evidence within the application why this costs are directly related to the R&D activities of Project Proposal.

If the project is successful (generates revenue), the Applicant will be required to pay royalties in the maximum amount of 120% of the received Matching Grant funds. This will be done either by paying the Fund 5% of annual revenue generated by the newly developed product/service (15% if the company is licensing it to a third party) for the next 5 years after project completion, or by repaying 120% of the grant, whichever comes first. In case of unsuccessful commercialization of the product/service, the Fund will share the risk with the Applicant and no royalty payments are required.

The project’s total budget can exceed EUR 300,000. This figure represents the maximum amount up to which the Fund can finance a project.

At least 30% of the Approved Project Budget (40% if the Applicant is a medium company) have to be secured by the Applicant from other, private sources independent from the IF, exclusively in cash contribution. These funds can come from existing or potential own capital, private equity or venture capital sources, private sector debt financing and other private sector cash contributions. Since the disbursement for the project is made quarterly, it is not necessary to be in possession of the co-financing funds at the time of the application because these funds will be disbursed once the project begins implementation.

However, it is required to provide evidence in the business plan template on how and from what sources the funds will be secured for the purpose of the project upon its start.

Eligible and ineligible expenses for which total funds can be used are defined in section 2.3 of the Matching Grants Program manual.

Considering that the final decision pertaining to financing under the Matching Grants Program is made by the independent Investment Committee based on the complete and eligible application, taking into account the peer-review results and the results of the live pitch event held before the Investment Committee, the process itself takes time. After the Application submission deadline, it takes approximately 10 weeks for the Company which is selected for financing to be notified. This time frame can vary based on the number of Applications in a public call.

It is necessary for the Matching Grants Awardees to open a special account in Serbian dinars (RSD), but this procedure is to be executed only at the moment of signing of the Financing Agreement.

The funds for the Project will be disbursed to the Awardee’s bank account on quarterly basis, specifically at the beginning of every quarter for the current quarter. However, before the Fund disburses payment (which covers up to 70% of the quarterly Approved Project Budget, and up to 60% for medium-sized companies), the Awardee is obligated to submit to the Fund the bank’s account statement showing the Awardee’s co-financing payment (minimum of 30% of the quarterly Approved Project Budget) for the particular quarter, as well as quarterly Progress Report and quarterly Financial Report, along with other required Project-related documentation. Upon approval of the reports by the Fund and positive outcome of the monitoring visit (when applicable) the project financing for the next quarter will be disbursed.

The Project and its budget have to be designed for completion within a maximum of 24 months.

In case of ineligible expenses (based on the criteria listed in the Matching Grants Manual, but not limited to those instances), the Innovation Fund has the right to deduct the amount treated as “ineligible expenses” from its next quarterly disbursement, but also to demand the Awardee to pay back all or any part of the amount of the financing disbursed in the quarter, in the event that the Awardee fails to perform any of its obligations under the Financing Agreement.

Unspent funds from one quarter can be transferred and spent in the next one, but drastic under-spending compared to the Approved Project Budget may raise the issue of the Project’s progress, adequacy of the budget and development activities.

It is not required to hire the key proposed personnel (and other individuals which are to be employed through the project) in advance or during the Application submission process. At the time of the Application submission it is required to provide short biographies of the key personnel that will be working on the Project.

Having a registered patent at the time of applying is not an eligibility criterion. Patent application, fees and certifications is an eligible expense within the Matching Grants Program.

The Applicant is required to present information regarding IP and know-how rights in the Business Plan, and to own or have rights to the technology being developed and the finished product or service. Thus, it is not required for the copyrights to be in the Applicant’s ownership, but an agreement (e.g. license agreement) on the right to the technology/product or service is required.  All new intellectual property and know-how which may be created during the Project implementation must belong to the Applicant. It is the Applicant’s obligation to secure intellectual property rights and know-how for contracts with third-parties.

Technical aspects of the Project Proposals are initially reviewed by the independent international peer-reviewers, who provide their expert opinions on the quality of the project and award points from 1 to 4 for each evaluation criterion. Their average score counts as 30% of the total score in the preselection phase. After that, the independent Investment Committee will review the Proposals and award points from 1 to 4 for each of the evaluation criteria and their score accounts for 70% of the total score in the preselection phase. Based on the results of the Investment Committee’s own evaluation of the complete Application and the results of the independent peer–review, the projects whose total score is 21 or more will be preselected. The final decision on financing is made by the Investment Committee at the end of the live pitch project presentation phase in which all previously preselected Proposals participate.

The entire process is described in the Review Guidelines:

  1. After the Application is submitted, the Innovation Fund’s staff will do a desk check of the eligibility and completeness of the submitted Application to ensure their technical and administrative compliance.
  2. The first phase is the evaluation of the Applications by independent international peer reviewers and the 5-member independent Investment Committee.
  3. Based on the results of the peer–review and the Investment Committee’s own evaluation, all projects with the score of 21 and more will be preselected for further evaluation in the final live pitch presentation phase.
  4. The independent Investment Committee makes the final decision pertaining to financing under the Matching Grants Program at the end of the live pitch presentation phase.

Applicants may be rejected for financing in different phases of the evaluation process:

  1. Administrative and eligibility check – Applicants which are not eligible to apply for the Matching Grants Program, as well as incomplete Applications will not be considered for further evaluation. Ineligible Applicants will be contacted after the conclusion of this phase.
  2. Pre-evaluation of Applications – Applications are initially peer-reviewed by the independent international reviewers, followed by a review of Applicants by the independent Investment Committee, after which the preselection decision is made. Pre-selected Applicants are notified of the decision at this time.
  3. Financing decision – After the completion of the entire evaluation process following the live pitch event, the final decision for financing is made by the Investment Committee. The Applicants which do not receive financing are notified at this time.

No. After an Applicant has been notified that their project was preselected, they need to submit a new presentation which is suited to the format of the final pitch event – it is necessary to present the project within a 10-minute time frame, while the remaining time will be reserved for questions raised by the Investment Committee. The aforementioned presentation needs to be delivered to the IF in PowerPoint format by the date requested by the IF and at least 7 days before the scheduled date of the presentation.

Yes, all Applicants will receive comments on their submitted Project Proposals. These comments and recommendations are aimed at helping the Applicant improve their Project Proposal. Following the independent Investment Committee’s final decision for financing under the Matching Grants Program, all eligible Applicants that were not selected for financing will receive the above mentioned Investment Committee comments.

All independent international peer-reviewers, independent experts, members of the independent Investment Committee and the employees of the Innovation Fund have signed and accepted all the terms of the Confidentiality Policy and Prevention of Conflict of Interest Policy.

All Applicants are required to submit a completed Environmental Screening Questionnaire (ESQ) as part of the Application for the Matching Grants Program. An independent environmental and social management expert (IESME) engaged by the Innovation Fund is responsible for the assessment and evaluation of the ESQ. Environmental assessment procedure is described in detail in the Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF).

Evaluated activities of the Project Proposal are classified in accordance with the following three screening categories:

  1. Category A – Not suitable for financing.
  2. Category B – Project related activities which do have an impact on the environment. Environmental Management Plan (EMP) will be needed to be done.
  3. Category C – Project related activities which are not expected to have an effect on the environment. Activities that fall into this category are not subject to further environmental impact assessment.

Only pre-selected Applicants will be notified about the results of the ESQ if their Project related activities are deemed to fall under Category A, or B where an EMP will be needed, in case the financing is approved.

Construction of a prototype in order to test new construction material(s) or innovation in the construction sector is acceptable as long as it is experimental, and is not a construction as defined in the EMF, provided that this prototype is located on the Applicant’s property (no change of land use or additional land purchase). Standard Environmental Management Plan (EMP) screening procedures and supervision will be implemented.

The staff of the Innovation Fund is obliged to perform supervisory visits to companies at least once a year, in order to determine that the project development and financial activities are carried out in accordance with approved project documents.

Disbursement for the last quarter (or the last two quarters, depending on the disbursement dynamics for the last two quarters) of the project will be reduced by an amount of 20% of the total IF financing as per Approved Project Budget for the second year of the project (or for the first year of the project, where applicable) until the monitoring of the project is completed and the final report is approved.

The final disbursement for eligible expenses will be made upon review and approval of the final progress report and the quarterly financial report for the last project quarter and upon completion of the project in accordance with the provisions of the Financing Agreement and signing of the Final Settlement. In case of any ineligible expenditures, the IF’s pro-rata amount of these expenditures will be subtracted from the withheld amount.

In accordance with regulations governing the financing through the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA), the financing under the MATCHING GRANTS Program in this public call is Value Added Tax (VAT), customs and import duties exempt.

No, the output can be a prototype, or just a technical idea. You define at what stage the project is and what the final outcome will be.

Yes, before signing the Contract, all Grant beneficiaries are obliged to:

  1. Be entered in the Register of Bidders in the Serbian Business Registers Agency. Also, the Fund will inspect the register of the Serbian Business Registers Agency in order to verify that the Grant Beneficiary has not been issued a permanent or temporary ban on conducting business activities (Notes of the Registrar of the Business Registration Agency);
  2. Submit the contract on opening a dinar account for the needs of project implementation;
  3. Submit the Environmental Management Plan, approved by the Innovation Fund’s independent Environmental and Social Management Expert, if the project is classified as category B.