Mini Grants Program

The Mini Grants Program is aimed at private young enterprises which are engaged in the development of technological innovations with a clear market need.

Technological innovation is the development and successful placement into widespread use of new and improved products, services and processes from all fields of science and technology.

The term start-up company is generally associated with a newly founded tech company in the early stage of business development.

spin-off is a company that was founded inside a parent organization and has subsequently separated into an independent company which is often (but not always) connected with its parent organization via ownership structure.

Micro and small enterprises are defined in accordance with the current Law on Accounting of the Republic of Serbia. This includes newly founded companies, in accordance with the same law.

Individuals registered as entrepreneurs cannot apply for this Program. The Applicant for the Mini Grants Program must be a legal business entity (a company) founded in accordance with the active Serbian Company Law, which stipulates four types of companies: general partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company and joint stock company. Also, individuals are allowed to apply for the Program as a part of informal teams (comprised of physicals persons), but will be required to establish a company in case financing is awarded.

One individual can only be a core team member (as described in the Mini Grants Program Manual and Applicant Statement) on only one project per Call for Proposals. There is no rule in place that prevents individuals to be engaged on more than one projects in some other capacity, but their engagement needs to be appropriately justified.

Core team members are Applicants and take responsibility to submit and later implement the project in line with the Mini Grants Program rules. They will sign the Applicant Statement, must be stated in the Business along with their roles and responsibilities and their credentials will be evaluated as part of the Application evaluation. In case the Application is approved for financing, the newly established company must be at least 51% owned by Core members.

It is sufficient for the company to be in majority private ownership​ of Serbian residents. This means that a minimum of 51% of the company’s equity has to be in private Serbian ownership for it to be eligible for the Mini Grants Program. If the above condition is met, the owner of the minority part can be a University, a City and 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.

No, a foreign company’s branch cannot apply, since the branch is not a legal entity and in the organizational and functional terms a branch depends on the company to which it belongs. The same ineligibility exists for subsidiaries and affiliated companies of foreign companies, and representative offices of foreign companies, or any other form which is not an independent, majority private ownership of Serbian residents.

The Applicant is not eligible for the Mini Grants Program if the company has raised EUR 500,000 or more from different public or private financing sources (equity, debt or grant). Yes, it pertains only to the financial funds.

In order to apply for this program, the Applicants first need to register an account on the IF’s portal, (accessed via http://www.inovacionifond.rs/cir/prijava​). The registration request is approved by the Innovation Fund staff after preliminary assessment of the information provided in the account registration request (corporate and tax ID, basic company information and contact person details). Teams can register without a corporate and tax ID, which they will be required to provide after registering their company with the SBRA, if financing is approved.

The company that is applying for the Mini Grants Program can apply only one project proposal per public call. If the company is awarded funds for the proposed project, these funds must be used exclusively for that particular project, without the possibility of using the funds for other purposes or other projects.

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 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 other programs) 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 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 is 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.

Some of the items that fall under eligible expenses in the category Offices and business support are office/workshop space renting, electricity and heating (utilities in general), office supplies and stationery, accountant/legal fees, etc., but these items must be directly related to the needs of the project for which financing was awarded. Maximum amount for this category is EUR 1,000.

Eligible costs include sales, marketing and business consultancy (maximum 20% of Approved Project Budget, including, business development advisory, market research, conference attendance, travel costs (without per diem), production of promotional material, website design) 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.

The funds received from the Mini Grants Program do not have to be repaid, as long as they are spent in accordance with the rules dictated in the Program Grant Manual.

At least 30% of the funds have to be secured by the Applicant, exclusively in cash contribution. These funds can come from existing or potential sources of the Applicant’s own resources, other private equity or venture capital sources, private sector debt financing and other private sector cash contributions (other cash sources may be taken into consideration). The Applicant’s co-financing must be absolutely independent from the Fund. 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 Mini Grants Program manual.

It is necessary for the Mini Grants Awardees to open a special, dedicated account in Serbian dinars (RSD), but this procedure is to take place only in the phase of signing the Financing Agreement.

The funds for the Project will be paid to the Awardee’s bank account on a quarterly basis, specifically at the beginning of every quarter for the current quarter. Before the Fund disburses payment (which covers up to 70% of the quarterly Approved Project Budget), the Awardee is obligated to submit to the Fund the bank statement from the dedicated account which shows 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), financing for the next quarter will be disbursed.

In case of ineligible expenses (based on the criteria listed in the Mini 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 or patent application at the time of Application submission is not an eligibility requirement, but one of the criteria of Project evaluation is the potential for creating new intellectual property. The Applicant is required to present information about IP and know-how rights within the Business Plan, and to own or have rights to the technology being developed and the finished product or service. The Review Guidelines document describes the evaluation process in greater detail.

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. In cases where Applicant is team, any new IP and know-how that may be created during the implementation of the project will belong to the newly established company that will be the recipient of funds.

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 peer-review represents a step in the evaluation of the Application for the Mini Grants Program and includes a technical peer-review conducted by independent international peer-reviewers, assessing the projects on each defined evaluation criterion. The Review Guidelines document describes the evaluation process and criteria in greater detail.

The entire process is described in the Review Guidelines:

  1. After the Application is submitted, the Innovation Fund’s staff will do a desk review of the eligibility and administrative completeness of the submitted Application to ensure their technical and administrative compliance with Program requirements.
  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 Mini 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 Mini 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. The IF provides the template for this 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, 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 Mini 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 they are approved for financing.

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.

In accordance with regulations governing the financing through the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA), the financing under the Mini 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.
  4. Sign the Applicant's Statement on the received de minimis state aid (only for the Mini Grants Program). This document will be delivered to Grant beneficiaries by the Fund upon signing the Financing Agreement.