What kind of agencies offer support to SMEs?
In Finland, the business supports of renewable energy are largely governed by the state, regional authorities, and public sectoral agencies. Local business development companies, owned by the municipalities, link SMEs to the public support programmes. Universities and research organisations provide research and development services and number of associations operate in specific themes and offer soft supports.
Is it clear to the SME where they should go for support?
The first contact for SMEs is usually local development company operating in a district (sub region) level. They provide support in business planning and development, and link companies to the regional authorities and sectoral agencies and funding sources/programmes. Many companies are also members of the business associations that can advise them in finding the most relevant supports.
Is there one agency which is the first place for businesses to go?
Enterprise Finland, governed by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, has established a business support portal (http://www.yrityssuomi.fi/en). It provides necessary background information on business establishment, funding sources, business routines (taxation, permits, audits, employer obligations etc.) and contacts to the supporting agencies.
Are business supports restricted to certain types of business, or enhanced for certain types of SMEs (e.g. only available for manufacturing or for exporters)?
Business supports are mostly generic, not focused on certain types of businesses. Financial supports focus much on the business establishment phase and reaching the business growth through internationalisation or product/service development.
Are there special supports for RE businesses?
RE businesses have tailored financial supports: energy support (Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment), and feed-in-tariff (Energy Authority). In addition, RDI (Research, Development and Innovation) activities are supported through the EU funding programmes. Soft supports (advisories, training, development programmes, mentoring) have often thematic contents but are available for all sectors.
Business supports available in Finland are described in more detail in the coming pages under the following themes:
- Financial Support (grants, loans, equity investment)
- Taxation or welfare supports or concessions for businesses
- Soft supports e.g. mentoring, training, specialist advice, networks
- Research and Development supports
- Social and Community supports (focused on not for profit)
- Other- e.g. Incubation space or office space