Support for small and medium-sized enterprises in Slovakia is concentrated in a number of initiatives and support instruments. The aim of the 2021 Initiatives Guide is to provide quick access to information on the initiatives in a clear format to make it easier to navigate the existing forms of support.
The institutional support framework consists of several institutions. The Slovak Business Agency, which has several non-financial as well as financial options to support SMEs, is a key player in terms of support for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Non-financial assistance is also provided through National Projects. One of them is NP Monitoring of the business environment in line with the application of the “Think Small First” principle. Its main objective is to provide comprehensive information on the business environment with an emphasis on SMEs. These include regular and irregular reports on SMEs, information material, studies and surveys. The main objective of the NP Support for the internationalisation of SMEs is to strengthen the internationalisation capacities of SMEs, including the presentation of entrepreneurial potential and the provision of free presentation, cooperation and advisory services to SMEs in order to increase their involvement in international cooperation. The other two National Projects – NP NEC II – Bratislava Self-Governing Region and NP NEC in the regions, aim to establish institutions – National Entrepreneurship Centres (NECs), which provide under one roof comprehensive systematic support and expert advice for SMEs, as well as for those interested in entrepreneurship. Within the NECs, entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs can use the following services: the Front Office information centre, the Creative Point workshop, the Incubator and Coworking. Through various services and programmes, they also have the opportunity to benefit from counselling, consultation, project advice and to participate in workshops and seminars. Entrepreneurs can benefit from support in the form of participation in international events, internships and trade fairs.
Other support programmes for entrepreneurs and those interested in entrepreneurship are implemented by the Slovak Business Agency through state schemes and programmes, including the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Support Scheme, the Family Business Support Scheme and the Successful Entrepreneurial Practice Support Programme, under which the SBA organises the Businesswoman of the Year competition. It also provides significant support under the Start-up Support Programme and the Internet Economy Support Programme. Entrepreneurs can also get involved in international projects, which are also covered in this Guide.
Financial support under the SBA can be obtained through the Microloan Programme or through venture capital funds such as Eterus Capital, the Innovation and Technology Fund, and the Slovak Development Fund.
The next part of the document is devoted to support programmes from the European Union. These are mainly the so-called euro funds, which are redistributed within the framework of the basic operational programmes.
The European Union also provides support through Community programmes. They are the EU’s instrument for deepening cooperation and tackling common problems between EU Member States on specific EU policies. These programmes are funded directly from the EU budget and managed by the European Commission. These include Horizon Europe, Creative Europe and COSME programmes.
A significant part of the document is devoted to programmes and initiatives by public authorities.
The Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic provides some subsidies to support business development or regional investment aid, especially to ensure the development of less developed regions of Slovakia. Through the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency (SARIO), it provides support for the internationalisation of SMEs (in cooperation with the SBA). SARIO also organises and co-creates conditions for the participation of Slovak entrepreneurs at exhibitions and fairs, organises business missions and cooperation meetings. The Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency (SIEA) provides, among other things, free energy consulting and education for entrepreneurs. It is also an implementer of support through Creative Vouchers.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic provides state aid in direct form (subsidy) or indirect form (de minimis aid) to business entities operating in the sector falling within the competence of the Ministry. It successfully implements the project “Quality Mark SK” to promote Slovak products. It also uses the services of the Agricultural Payments Agency for this support.
The Slovak Ministry of Environment, through the Slovak Environmental Agency, focuses on non-financial assistance to SMEs, such as Environmental Product Labelling. It provides financial assistance through the Environmental Fund in the form of grants, loans or compensations. .
In particular, the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport provides incentives for science and research in the Slovak Republic, which are also available to business entities in cooperation with academia. Within direct subsidies, the main focus is on the promotion of dual education. Other types of support are also provided by the Agency for the Promotion of Science and Research through state schemes, programmes and international projects, or by the Centre for Scientific and Technical Information of the Slovak Republic (CVTI SR), which provides information support for research and development up to its implementation. The Research Agency implements research and innovation projects under the OP Integrated Infrastructure.
In 2021, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic is providing support through a subsidy system under which entrepreneurs can receive subsidies through a number of programmes. The support programmes of the Audiovisual Fund and the Fund for the Promotion of the Arts are also available to entrepreneurs in this segment.
The Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic is also an important body in terms of support for entrepreneurs. It provides support through the so-called active labour market measures, self-employment allowances and contributions to entrepreneurs. It also provides a job retention allowance, a job creation allowance to support the creation of a job in the first regularly paid employment. It implements specific programmes through state support, such as support for social enterprises.
The Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic supports increased involvement of Slovak companies in business in developing countries mainly through the Private Sector Support Programme and supports Eximbank’s soft export credits.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic provides support mainly at the international level. It also uses the services of its own Business Centre. The Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation (SAMRS) supports cooperation between companies and the non-profit and academic sectors in development projects.
The Ministry of Investment, Regional Development and Informatization of the Slovak Republic also provides support in the field of regional development in the form of regional contribution or in the environment of innovation support in the form of subsidies and de minimis aid schemes.
The financial instruments used to support entrepreneurship are at disposal to the Slovak Guarantee and Development Bank which provides mainly bank guarantees and soft loans and to Eximbanka which focuses on supporting development financing. Information on Eximbank’s loan and insurance products is also provided in this 2021 Initiatives Guide.
An important part of the ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs is also the Slovak Investment Holding and the European Investment Bank. The individual programmes are discussed in detail in the document.
The overall system of business support is complemented by other entities such as the Association of Entrepreneurs of Slovakia, the Slovak Craft Industry Federation, the Association of Young Entrepreneurs of Slovakia, the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Slovak Chamber of Trade and the Slovak Agriculture and Food Chamber. They provide their members with a number of opportunities to influence the legislative process and provide them with advice and other benefits.
From the point of view of business development, business development centres such as BIC Bratislava, RPIC Prešov, Innovation and Partnership Centre or incubators – University Technology Incubator of STU in Bratislava or Start-up Centre of TUKE are increasingly important. Crowdberry, Startlab, HitHit or Startovač complement the funding opportunities also from other sources.
Both 2020 and 2021 are years significantly affected by the pandemic of the new COVID-19 virus. A number of tools have been developed to support entrepreneurs to avert the negative consequences of quarantine measures. These are summarised in the last section of the 2021 SME Support Initiatives Guide.