On Tuesday, March 21, the management of StartUp HUB presented at a press conference Róbert Grüman , President Oltean, Executive President Csongor , Vice-Presidents Szilárd Kelemen and Miklós Orbán about the ongoing startup grants, statistics of the 2014-2020 EU application period, the digitalization of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and tender resources for young farmers.

Róbert Grüman reported on the launch of StartUp HUB – Centre for Business Development, Adult Education and Vocational Training in 2021, the goal set at that time was to review the possibilities of the post-pandemic economic restart, however, the EU funds for 2021-2027 present new opportunities for Covasna County and the Centre intends to participate in this. StartUp HUB moved to a new headquarters in 2022 and a rebranding took place, so the company operates as a centre for business development, adult education and vocational training . This centre is home to 5 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 5 civil society organisations with 50 permanent staff to implement projects worth EUR 20 million.

The Ministry of European Investment and Projects regularly publishes statistics on grants from European Union funds, the last statistics of this kind (2014-2020 cycle) are from December 2022. The data show that contracts were concluded for tenders worth 877 million lei in Covasna County. This includes both the public and private sectors and is a huge amount in itself, but in national terms Covasna County lags significantly behind other counties.

Róbert Grüman highlighted: the unfortunate conclusion must be drawn that Covasna County is one of the country’s failed students among the counties in Romania as far as drawing down EU funds is concerned. We were tied with Teleorman County, but we managed to get last place because this county was also ahead of ours. Obviously, it must also be taken into account that Covasna County is small, but we can also see that a county of similar size, Sălaj County, was able to draw on funds almost twice as much. At present, it is not necessary to start a public debate on how the previous result could have been better, but on the contrary: preparation is important, since in the next period the tender opportunities that apply to the next cycle will be announced, and certain applications will be available already from May – stressed Róbert Grüman.

He also highlighted that grants worth 46 billion euros will be available over the next seven years, and Covasna County cannot afford another lost train. The most important thing is cooperation on the part of those who are interested in this opportunity, as European Union subsidies result in investments, new, well-paid jobs and economic development, said Róbert Grüman.

Vice-President Szilard Kelemen informed about the business development projects taking place at StartUp HUB, highlighting that after the so-called diagnosis in the field, they would like to propose solutions to representatives of the business sector, especially young people.

As he explained, in recent times they have tried to bring EU funds closer to young people in the form of startup opportunities, which is why an enterprise development course was announced in 2021, to which 800 young people applied. Completion of this training was one of the conditions for applying for a grant of €25 000. About half of the applicants successfully completed the course, they received a certificate of competence in business development, and then more than 200 successful applications were received for funding, of which one hundred signed financing contracts in December 2022. Half of the signatories are young people from Covasna County, who implement interesting, original ideas: decorative wall printer, self-service car wash in the countryside or dental laboratory.

Szilard Kelemen highlighted: Enterprising young people took the obstacles easily, as many of them had previous experience in a youth organization, which counts for a lot. As for the €25,000 grant, StartUp HUB staff will mentor applicants for a year, helping them work and navigate the world of bureaucracy. The next similar call for proposals is expected in spring 2024.

Executive President Csongor Oltean presented the latest services of the center, as they will also help small and medium-sized enterprises to successfully apply in the future. The managing director emphasized that the goal is to provide assistance to all parties involved who would take advantage of the opportunity of EU tenders. To this end, two years ago, when StartUp HUB was launched, an online survey of entrepreneurs was conducted, which asked about 300 businessmen what their biggest problems and reservations are that they do not take advantage of EU funds. Most indicated a lack of information, but it turned out that too much information is not good either, as it leads to chaos in the minds of entrepreneurs. In addition, bureaucracy and lack of deductibles were also problems.

StartUp HUB Consulting tries to make suggestions and find solutions to eliminate these, the primary goal of which is to help small and medium-sized enterprises by providing information, writing tenders, as well as follow-up and management. The goal is for entrepreneurs from Covasna County to take on other entrepreneurs, so they would primarily help digitalization. Applicants can account for costs in several categories: purchase of IT equipment, development, license software for business activities, software management. For this purpose, micro-enterprises can apply for between EUR 20 000 and EUR 30 000, small enterprises between EUR 20 and 50 000 and medium-sized enterprises EUR 100 000. The good news is that 90% of the total cost is covered by the tender and €40 million is available in the Central Region, which means that around 150-200 entrepreneurs can successfully apply – highlighted Csongor Olteán.

With regard to agricultural subsidies, Vice-President and agricultural engineer Miklós Orbán said that the county is doing well from an agricultural tender point of view, as most projects have run out of money, so the drawdown is 90 percent, which is due to the fact that there is a strong, young farmer base in Threeszék. At the same time, institutions also have an important role to play in making farmers’ situation easier now, as a result of which the machinery of farms has been renewed and farms are better equipped, but there is always room for renewal and development, Mr. Orbán said.

The next period is about this: the Young Farmer grant will be published in June, for which they are already preparing and which has been successful so far, as more than 160 applications have been submitted within this framework in the past two years. At the same time, there will be new tenders worth paying attention to, and the employees of the consulting company will help all those who would like to expand the farm or invest in new agricultural machinery. Information about the tender opportunities for the period 2021-2027 and the most important calls for proposals expected this year can be found at StartUp HUB Consulting’s office and at the www.startupcovasna.ro page.