The Ministry of Economic Development announced in 2018 a call for R&D projects in the Agrifood, Smart Factory and Life Sciences sectors, open to companies of any size that carry out agro-industrial activities throughout the Italian territory, including microalgae cultivation plants.
The tender is devoted to single or combined research and development projects from 800,000 euros to 40 million, with a financial coverage of up to 90%.
The Ministry of Economic Development has developed a new subsidy for the activities of Industrial Research and Experimental Development aimed at the realization of new products, processes or services. The R&D activity will support the development of the areas of the national Smart Specialization Strategy in three areas of primary importance: Agrifood, Smart Factory and Life Sciences.
One of the objectives of the intervention is to develop collaborations between companies, research centers and research organizations. The tender is open to:
Companies of any size that carry out agro-industrial, artisan or service industry activities;
Research organisations, which can be co-proposing subjects of joint projects;
Agricultural businesses, exclusively for Agrifood projects.
In order to support the economic enhancement of innovation and the adoption of high-profile innovative solutions, the tender is open to R&D projects aimed at the realization of new products, processes or services through the development of key enabling technologies (KETs) that Agrifood and Smart Factory share:
Information and Communication Technologies;
Advanced manufacturing and processing;
The Application Sectors
Within the Smart Specialization Strategy, three areas of research and innovation were selected:
It selects and studies high-tech topics for the development of the agri-food sector: in particular it deals with innovative food technologies, food packaging, "green" industrial processes, valorization of by-products and reduction of waste.
Technological Cluster that concentrates its research and innovation studies on production systems for personalized production, strategies and models of industrial sustainability, systems for the enhancement of people in factories, innovative production processes and strategies for next-generation systems.
A development opportunity for microalgae biofuels:
THE DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT
Little-known and very flexible tool, it allows to support the company in medium / large investments, with particular interest on innovation, research and development.
Who manages it? In the Decrees and in the Law we speak of "Agency"= INVITALIA.
The main regulatory sources to refer to are:
Ministerial Decree 9-12-2014 (G.U. 29 January 2015 no. 23);
Agro-industrial development contracts approved by the European Commission on 9 June 2017 with decision C (2017) 3867 final;
Ministerial Decree 2-8-2017 (again by the Ministry of Economic Development),
- in the context of European programming 2014-2020-
In our case, the facilitation is aimed at implementing investment projects in the processing and marketing of agricultural products, such as microalgae; beneficiaries are companies of any size.
The objectives are:
creation of a new production unit;
expansion of the capacity of an existing production unit;
conversion of an existing production unit (and it would be interesting to evaluate the conversion of biomass plants).
restructuring an existing production unit, meant as a change in the existing production process, through a new process capable of increasing the level of efficiency and / or flexibility in the performance of economic activity (cost reduction, increase in product quality level and / or processes, reduction of environmental impact, improvement of safety conditions at work).
The subsidies consist of subsidized loans and / or contributions in the plant account, and can be granted in compliance with the following conditions:
The aid must not violate the prohibitions or restrictions established by Community legislation;
In the case of large companies, "... the aid cannot exceed the amount of the net over-implementation cost of the investment in the region concerned compared to the counterfactual scenario in the absence of aid and, in any case, must not exceed the minimum necessary to make the project sufficiently profitable "(art.13 letter B, page 32 Ministerial Decree 9.12.14). It is emphasized that the concept of "sufficiently profitable" is at least subjective;
The projects must be started after the application for subsidies has been submitted or after the decision of the European Commission on ad hoc aid;
The subsidized assets must be maintained in the production unit covered by the facilitated investment project for at least five years, or three years in the case of SMEs, from the date of completion of the project itself.
-> The concessions are granted, also in combination with each other, in various forms that can be varied in various ways: non-repayable contributions, subsidized financing (within the limits of 75% of eligible expenses) and interest subsidies.
Beneficiaries are obliged to make a minimum financial contribution through their own resources or through external financing, in a form devoid of any kind of public support, equal to at least 25% of the total eligible expenses.
-> The size of the facilities, in compliance with the limits of the current regulations on state aid, is determined on the basis of the type of project, the location of the initiative and the size of the company, it being understood that the amount and form of the Granted contributions are defined within the negotiation phase.
The eligible expenses must refer to the purchase and construction of fixed assets to the extent necessary for the purposes of the project subject to the request for subsidies.
-> The total amount of expenses and costs eligible for subsidies must not be less than € 7.5 million if the program concerns exclusively the processing and marketing of agricultural products (see classification of microalgae).
The new regulation applies until 31 December 2020 (subject to any extensions authorized by the European Commission)
WARNING: art. 19-bis of the Ministerial Decree 9-12-14 "Direct investment projects for the production of biofuels produced from food crops are not eligible". Microalgae for biofuels are NOT considered "food crops".
According to article 19-bis, co.7, they can be financed:
The corporate land and its arrangements, within the limit of 10 percent of the total eligible costs of the investment project;
Masonry and similar works, up to a limit of 40 percent of the total eligible costs of the investment project;
Company specific infrastructures;
The various new machinery, plants and equipment, up to their market value;
The acquisition or development of computer programs and the acquisition of patents, licenses, copyrights and trademarks;
Consultancy connected to the investment project up to 4 per cent of the total eligible amount of the investment project.