Bulgaria is part of EU and this gives to companies here chance to apply for EU funding.
There are many programs for innovations, expanding the capacity, energy efficiency etc.
This gives amazing opportunities to Bulgarian companies to become globally competitive.
Unfortunately the most interesting area the innovation is burden with most paperwork and some things which are totally unacceptable with our Open Source way of thinking. For instance one of the requirement is to
fill file patents for the innovation, which to protect the EU investment in your company. Looks logically, but this effectively cut off all companies which work with Open Source Technologies.
So for us the program for expanding production capacity option was interesting, as there the requirement is just to show good past records for company financial state and to prove that you will increase your production after you got this funding. Anyone can apply in this, but there are very strict requirements and open and transparent ranking rules, so if you run your business in the shadows you got no chance to apply and win such funding.
In the past we have read terrible stories in the newspapers about corruption practices with these EU funding, so we never considered to participate in such project.
The things changed with the time though and EU commission and Bulgarian government developed capacity and competence to find a way to make this in order and to tightly control the process so such practices to be stopped.
In the middle of 2015 year we got contacted by consulting company, which offered us free evaluations of our chances to win funding, they took our info from the public company register. It was free offer, so we had nothing to lose, and agreed. We got free pre-evaluation and they estimated our chances (number of points we could get in the process) to win funding as very good, so we decided to apply for funding. Even if nothing happen we do not lose anything except small fee for the consulting services, so it was worth to try.
I know many people who apply and prepare the documents by themself, but we decided to use the consultant as otherwise someone had to read all paperwork associated, and this would probably cost same as if we pay to professional to do it properly.
To our nice surprise in December we got letter from the Ministry of Economics, that we are approved and when we check the number of points we got in the rank list was exactly same as our consultant pre-estimated. Good work! This means there are really clear and transparent rules to evaluate your company chances to win. Also the complete communication with the government and paperwork submissions etc was held via well done and easy to use Internet portal.
In January we were invited at 10.00 o’clock in Sofia in the Ministry of Economics on brief meeting to hand us the contract to sign in personally and there was another nice surprise: exactly in 10.00 we made the meeting and finished everything for 10 minutes – quick and professional. I have no had touch with the Bulgarian administration for very long time and obviously the things got improved a lot at least in the Ministry of Economics!
So we are now lucky winner of EU funding for two new high speed, high precision assembly lines with screen printers and reflow ovens!
This will increase the number of assembly lines in our company to total six! Last year many customers have asked us for assembling custom PCBs and we had to decline their requests as we got our own over 600 different products and our assembly lines are loaded at 100%, when we got these two new lines we will have ability to take such external orders.
The whole procedure is not very quick as there are lot of control and requirements to be met when government and EU spent their money, but in about one year from now we expect to have finished the complete procedure and to have our two new assembly lines up and running!