• Sun. Oct 24th, 2021

How Italy and Europe facilitate investments in FinTech innovation and research


May 13, 2021

There are 11 billion euros allocated to component 2 of the fourth mission of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan drawn up by the Draghi government to incentivize investments in research, development and innovation in Italy. But how FinTech companies can move and what are the precise references on the measures already in place for financial concessions is not always clear. Let’s try to define its perimeter with Francesco Raimondi, General Manager of Value Target, an expert in subsidized finance. What are the concessions for companies that do research in the Fintech sector? The main tax concessions currently active at national level for companies in the FinTech sector are the Tax Credit for R&D and the one for Technological Innovation. Both offer the recognition of a tax credit in relation to a certain percentage of the expenses incurred in development activities, higher if these expenses can be classified as Research and Development activities (12% for the year 2020 and 20% for the financial year 2021 and 2022), less generous if we only talk about Technological Innovation (6% for financial year 2020 and 10% for financial year 2021 and 2022). In both cases, the project must meet the novelty criterion, that is, it must have as its objective the development of a new product or a new process; what changes is the perimeter in which this innovation is assessed: in the first case towards the entire reference sector, in the second case only in relation to the state of the art of the company. What is the difference between Research and Development and Technological Innovation? Basically, it is R&D if it is new for everyone, it is innovation if it is new only for the company. The novelty of a FinTech product can be related to the original characteristics of the software technology developed or to the ability to provide a solution to a need in the finance sector not already satisfied by other solutions on the market, even using non-original software technologies. What is considered new in the field of technology? The innovations, indicated by the Frascati manual and the Oslo manual, which identify R&D and innovation activities respectively, concern the creation of new or more efficient algorithms than those already used in the computer systems on the market, the creation of new and original coding or security, the design and implementation of new search engines based on original technologies and solutions to resolve conflicts between hardware or software in complex systems and networks. And what about finance? Here the case history is much broader: ranging from the new application of data analysis algorithms for financial risk analysis, customer profiling, investment management to coding techniques for financial transactions or electronic currency; from the development of home banking software with features not available on the market to the development of new services in the banking and electronic insurance sectors, services connected to the Internet and electronic commerce applications. Are there non-repayable and subsidized rate loans for startups? For startups active in the Fintech sector, there are various national loans, in particular for those whose majority of shareholders are women or young people (under 35) and for innovative startups. In the first case, the facilitation tool is called NIT0, or “New companies at interest rate 0” and finances investment plans of up to 1.5 million euros for companies with seniority of less than 36 months and up to 3 million for companies with seniority greater than 36 and less than 60 months, grants a non-repayable contribution up to 20% of the expenses and, for the remainder and up to 90% of the total expenses, it grants a subsidized loan at an interest rate of 10 years. For innovative startups, on the other hand, the tool is called Smart & Start and finances investment plans of up to 1.5 million euros and grants a 10-year subsidized interest rate loan for 80% of the costs. Although the most interesting non-repayable funding opportunities for research activities for companies active in FinTech are at a European level. Let’s talk about European funding. The new Horizon Europe research program for the seven-year period 21-27 is organized into different macro programs (so-called Pillars) and action lines (so-called Clusters), within which various thematic calls are published, the Calls. The most interesting calls are found in the Pillar Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness and in the Digital, Industry and Space Cluster. The calls for the two-year period 2021-2022 have recently been published. In both years the call WORLD LEADING DATA AND COMPUTING TECHNOLOGIES 2021 is foreseen, which finances research projects on information technologies in relation to data computing, artificial intelligence, information security . European funding is as competitive as it is generous, with a grant from 70% to 100% of research expenses to the Fund. It should be considered that applications for funding must almost always be made by international consortia comprising at least 3 companies from 3 different European countries. And for SMEs? For them there is a special instrument, called EIC Accelerator: it provides non-repayable loans up to 2.5 million euros and for 70% of the expenses incurred. The decisive characteristic of the projects that can be financed is that they have as their objective the development of highly innovative technologies with a high impact on the continent’s economy. Artificial Intelligence technologies or those related to Blockchain and DLT are probably among those that can be candidates for a financing project of this type.