This Friday opens the period for companies with between three and nine workers to apply for aid from the Digital Kit, the Government program to support the digitization of SMEs that is paid for with European recovery funds. In this second stage of the plan, the maximum amount of the bonds is up to 6,000 euros, which can be used for various purposes, from creating or renewing the company’s website, establishing electronic invoicing or cybersecurity systems. The call will remain open for one year.
The aid for companies with between three and nine employees arrive five months after the opening of the first term, which covered those SMEs with staff of 10 to 50 workers. Since March, some 70,000 companies in this segment have applied for aid, which represents more than 50% of the total. Some 22,000 have already received the bonds, sharing 252 million euros. The period to apply for the aid of this first section will continue to be open for a few more days, until September 15.
Until now, the achievement of the Digital Kit is to get the social agents to agree. “It is very useful,” they say from Adigital, the Spanish Association of the Digital Economy, affiliated with the CEOE. “The successive phases of the aid of the Digital Kit are very welcome”, agree from UGT. “The deadlines for granting the digitization vouchers have been adjusted, the procedures for resolving incidents and corrections have been agile, and the program has achieved a good impact among SMEs in our country”, they break down in DigitalES, the other employer of reference in this sector.
Both unions and employers, yes, ask the Executive to use the program as the basis of a long-term strategy and not an isolated support.
“It would be desirable for it to go beyond basic digitization,” María Lázaro, a spokesperson for Adigital, tells this medium. “It is time to start thinking about what is going to happen after the Digital Kit programme. The challenge is to achieve a long-term structural change that goes beyond specific aid. For this reason, it is important to establish a monitoring method that allows us to measure the results of the program, its usefulness and its real impact on the productive fabric. Giving a bonus is useful, but SMEs must be clear about how they can take advantage of having digital tools for their company”, he adds.
Most of the companies that will be entitled to the bonuses are in the segments with fewer workers, both in the one from three to nine that opens this Friday and in the one from zero to three, which will be the following. They will also be the ones that receive the bulk of the funds: the second tranche has 500 million euros contemplated, for the 252 invested so far in the first. The program has a total budget of 3,027 million, with which more than 2,000 will be available for smaller SMEs.
“It remains to be seen what capacity these companies have to take advantage of having an electronic commerce or having a presence on social networks, for example,” questions Lázaro. From this employer, they propose an “accompaniment” to these SMEs so that the effect of the funds does not fade in a short time. In UGT, by contrast, the importance of training is highlighted.
“We run the risk that this huge investment in new technologies will not have an adequate return in competitive terms if it is not accompanied by training measures for workers,” emphasizes José Varela, head of Digitization at UGT. “It will be of little use to introduce electronic commerce, data analytics or cloud computing in our SMEs if the people who are going to use them do not have the necessary skills,” he says.
In this sense, the union recalls that only 2.4% of the companies to which this second phase of the Digital Kit is directed trained their staff in 2021. “Or the companies become aware that they have to train their workers, matching the plan provided by the Government for digital skills, or we run the risk that a large part of this investment will be underused or even wasted,” warns Varela.
“We have noticed that some SMEs have launched to request their help from the Digital Kit without having a specific plan or with a clear idea of what to allocate the money to,” they agree in DigitalES.
“As is logical, the delay in the digitization of smaller companies is a complex challenge that will not be resolved overnight,” they continue from this employer’s association: “For this reason, we see it as essential to monitor all the public impact that has achieved the Digital Kit, as well as all the digital push that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to, in an effort to enhance the dragging effect that large companies can have in our country”.
The new section of the Digital Kit is configured in the same way as the previous one, although it includes some changes. One of them is the inclusion of the figure of the “voluntary representative”, empowered to “facilitate access to aid as much as possible”. As explained by Red.es, the entity that manages the Digital Kit attached to the Secretary of State for Digitization and Artificial Intelligence (Ministry of Economic Affairs), these “duly authorized” delegates will be able to request help on behalf of the company and speed up the process for SMEs.
With this same objective, it will also be possible for companies to “request help without providing any documentation”. “It will be enough for the employer to authorize Red.es to consult ex officio the requirements and obligations required to obtain beneficiary status,” details the public company.
There have also been some changes in the purpose of the aid. In the vouchers for the web pages of SMEs, the amount may be used to renew the company’s current portal and not only to create a new domain, as was required until now. Aid aimed at creating a “marketplace” or “advanced presence on the Internet” are also adhesions of this call that were not contemplated for the first tranche.
“Facing the second call, the Government has clarified some points that raised many questions during the previous call, and it is expected to continue improving agility. In addition, from now on the Digital Kit will be able to pay for solutions that integrate hardware”, they point out from DigitalES. “The success of this semi-automated aid management model for the execution of massive volumes of applications, in fact, will extend to other Recovery Plan aid. Among them, the next ‘Activa’ programs for advice on digitization “, they remember.
The only way to apply for Digital Kit grants is online at Acelera pyme. It is the official portal through which all the aid of the plan is processed. It is necessary to register and complete a self-diagnosis test on the level of digitization of the company “which does not take more than 10 minutes”, explains Red.es.
After that, you must choose one or more of the digitalization services available in Acelera pyme and request help through the electronic office. These are provided through “digitizing companies” attached to the program. There are more than 8,700 offering their services in this way. “The grants are non-competitive and will be awarded directly and in order of arrival, once the verification of compliance with the requirements of the call has been made,” recalls the public company.