Funding for digitisation and innovative R&D projects

As we have been dealing with various subsidy programs for quite some time now and have already used some of them ourselves, it was obvious to examine to what extent our customers can also apply for subsidies for services we provide.

At first glance, the topic of funding seems like an impenetrable jungle - questions over questions and often it leads to the fact that funding is not even considered and one or the other project cannot be implemented.

We would like to share with you our knowledge and experience on the subject of subsidy programmes, but would like to point out that we are not a designated subsidy consultant, nor do we claim to be complete. However, we can certainly emphasize in advance that the subsidy landscape is very complex.

Depending on the project, one or even more funding programmes are possible and a closer look at the project in advance can be financially profitable. In some cases, funding programmes can also be combined, e.g. funding for consultancy with subsequent implementation, which in turn can be funded by another programme. Either way, it is worth considering funding programmes if R&D and/or digitisation measures are planned anyway. Most of the support programmes are only of interest to SMEs, but the new research allowance can also be used to support companies of any size.

Within the scope of a cooperation with us, we will be happy to support you in the examination and the eligible design of our services, so that ideally you will benefit twice - from our actual development and consulting services and from subsidies.

The return on investment of your digitisation measures or your new, innovative product can be achieved in a very short time thanks to state subsidies.

Money Stack

Subsidies - The agony of choice

There are countless funding opportunities and support programs. We cannot and do not want to enumerate them all. The programmes we can present to you are at state and federal level. Some have a regional focus, others do not. Subsidy sums - and quotas vary and also what can and should be subsidised is covered differently by the individual subsidy pools. In addition, some programmes are already credited against other subsidies - it quickly becomes clear that "promotion" is not an easy undertaking.

Here is a short overview and if you like you can download our white paper at the end of the page.

ZIM funding is a programme for innovative research and development

ZIM (Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand) projects are - as the name suggests - a funding instrument tailored to small and medium-sized companies for operational research and development activities for the development of innovative products, processes or technical services. As a rule, these are projects that extend over one to several years. In addition to individual projects, there is also the possibility of carrying out cooperation projects together with other companies and/or research institutions. Cooperation projects have slightly higher maximum funding amounts and quotas and tend to increase the probability of approval. Eligible for funding are own personnel costs as well as material costs and external work.

In our experience, ZIM projects are suitable for complex new product developments. The innovative character of the development is important. Otherwise the application will most likely be rejected.

The application as well as the implementation and documentation of ZIM projects is quite complex and is usually accompanied by specialised consultants who are remunerated pro rata from the funding amount. Of course, the remaining amount of funding is reduced by this fee.

It is also important that the project may only be started after approval of the application for funding.

Sources and further information:

ZIM Promotion

The research allowance - flexible support for in-house and third-party development

The research allowance will have to be applied for the first time for the year 2020 and is therefore a completely new instrument for which there is no practical experience as yet. The two most important differences to most other programmes are the absence of size restrictions on eligible companies - most other programmes are aimed exclusively at SMEs - and the fact that the research allowance is applied for retrospectively.

The research allowance is intended as a supplement to the ZIM programme and should be somewhat more flexible and less costly to handle. We intend to make use of this programme and will hopefully be able to say more about whether these goals have been achieved by early 2021.

Only internal personnel costs incurred in the course of development and/or externally purchased development services are subsidised, but then only to a maximum of 15% of the invoice total.

One disadvantage of the programme is obviously the relatively low funding rate, which is why we really only see it as a supplement to the funding kit. If other programmes are suitable for a development project, we would give preference to these.

However, especially for companies outside the SME specification it is (for lack of alternatives) the means of choice.

Sources and further information:

Research allowance

"Digital Now": The brand new program on federal level

The "Digital Now" programme is divided into two funding modules: "Investment in digital technologies" and "Investment in staff training". Eligible are expenses for services (hardware, software & services) for digitisation measures of external providers. Own personnel costs cannot be claimed. It will be possible to submit online applications for this from 07.09.2020. Accordingly, little can be said about this yet, but on the basis of the information available it sounds extremely promising. The maximum funding amount as well as the funding quota are quite high and the complexity of application and implementation seems to be much lower than e.g. in ZIM projects.

Explicitly mentioned as eligible are, among others, investments in data-driven business models, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud applications, big data and sensor technology.

"Digital Now" falls under the "de minimis" regulation[1].

Sources and further information:

Digital now

1] This EU regulation stipulates that the total amount of aid granted may not exceed EUR 200,000 over a period of three fiscal years.

The Digi grant: efficient support for small-scale digitisation activities in Hessen

This support programme, which is exclusively based in Hessen, is limited to "only" 10,000 euros, but with a support rate of 50% and low formal expenditure it is absolutely worthwhile for small and medium-sized digitisation projects. It should also be noted that this subsidy can only be claimed once per company. It is therefore worthwhile to use the pot as fully as possible.

Similar to "Digital Jetzt", only costs of external providers are eligible. Own personnel costs cannot be claimed. Eligible are expenses in the field of hardware, software & services for digitisation measures, such as in the simplest case e.g. CRM or e-commerce systems. However, the digitisation of logistics processes or the integration of sensor technology and networking of production systems is also possible under this programme.

Even if the "Digi Zuschuss" is a Hessian programme, you should simply find out more about it in your federal state. According to our knowledge, there are often very similar programs like
z. e.g. the "Digital Bonus" programme in Bavaria.

The 'digi grant' is also covered by the de minimis rule.

Sources and further information:

Technology State Hesse


"Leaflet on the support programme Grant for Digitisation Measures" of the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing of 12.06.2020

"Go Digital" Promotion of consultancy services relating to digitisation

The "Go Digital" programme can only be applied for through certified consultants, who will then also take care of handling the grant. Thus, the complexity for the subsidized company is very low. Within the funding programme there are three modules: "Digitalised business processes", "Digital market development" and "IT security". Only consultancy services are funded, not the implementation of corresponding digitisation measures.

Authorized consulting firms for the different modules can be searched for online via an interactive consultant map. This programme also falls under the de minimis rule.


Sources and further information:

Go Digital

"Digitization consulting" of the RKW Hessen

The "Digitisation Advisory Service" is quite similar to the "Go Digital" programme at federal level. For example, only consultancy services in connection with digitisation projects are funded; the actual implementation and acquisition of hardware or software is not eligible for funding under this programme. The application and project documentation is also carried out by certified consultants. If you have not yet found your preferred consultant, you can easily contact the RKW, which can provide competent consultants. In this respect, the programme is not very complex and is well suited for smaller projects and digitisation projects.
Within the framework of this programme we have, for example, sought advice on digitisation in marketing. This programme also falls under the de minimis rule.

Sources and further information:

RKW Hesse