Operational Programme “Innovations and Competitiveness“ 2014 – 2020

Updated last 26.03.2021

The program period for the implementation of this programme has expired. The preparation of the new programme for the period 2021 – 2027 is under way.

What is OP “Innovations and Competitiveness“?

Operational Programme “Innovations and Competitiveness” 2014 – 2020 (OPIC) is one of the national programmes funded by the Structural Funds of the European Union, under which micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises may receive financial grants.

What are the measures supported by OP “Innovations and Competitiveness “?

The support is focused on the development of innovations, entrepreneurship, growth of capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), energy and resource efficiency of companies.

What is the budget available to SMEs?

The total budget of OPIC 2014-2020 is EUR 1,27 billion, with financing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) exceeding EUR 1,079 billion (85% of the budget), and the national co-financing total a little over EUR 191 million (15% of the budget).

How is the budget of the Programme allocated?

The resources under the Programme for SMEs are allocated in four priority axis:

  • Priority axis 1 „Technological development and innovation“;
  • Priority axis 2 „Entrepreneurship and Capacity for Growth of SMEs“;
  • Priority axis 3 „Energy and resource efficiency“;
  • Priority axis 4 „Removing bottlenecks in security of gas supplies“;

There are launched calls for proposals to each priority axis. They are planned annually and are published in the Indicative Annual Working Programme of OPIC on the official website of the Programme.

For more information

Information regarding launched calls to provide grants under the programme is also available in the Information System for Management and Monitoring (UMIS 2020) especially created for the programming period 2014-2020. It contains the approved Operational Programmes co-financed by the EU Cohesion and Structural Funds. More specific information is available on the website of:

How can you apply to receive a grant?

  • You have to register in the UMIS system in order to create and file a project proposal on a specific OPIC call.
  • The system is interactive and easy to work with. If you have any difficulties in filing the project proposal, you may read the system manual which is published in order to provide directions and facilitate the work of the users;
  • On the official website of OPIC for a specific call you can find information as to how, who to and within what deadlines you may ask additional questions and request clarifications in relation to the Terms of Reference of the call.

What are the terms and conditions to participate in calls under OPIC?

There are Terms of Reference published to each call where you can find specific information as to:

  • The objectives, indicators of the call;
  • The total grant under the call;
  • The minimum (if applicable) and maximum grant to a specific project;
  • Percentage of co-financing. Except for calls oriented to start-ups and promotion of entrepreneurship, the co-financing percentage usually depends on:

– Category of the enterprise (a lower co-financing percentage for micro and small enterprises, and higher – for medium-sized and respectively large enterprises);

– The region where the project activities are implemented –
higher percentage of co-financing for projects implemented on the territory of the Southwest Planning Region (including the city of Sofia). For example, in identical circumstances, a micro enterprise would get a grant amounting to 70% of the total value of the project, if the project is implemented on the territory of the city of Plovdiv, and only 45% of the total value, if the activities under the same project are implemented on the territory of the city of Sofia;

  • The criteria which your business must meet to be an eligible candidate. Except for calls oriented towards start-ups and promotion of entrepreneurship, the Programme usually gives priority to stable (profitable) enterprises, having at least 3-year history, certain sales revenue threshold, etc.;
  • Eligible actions – they depend on the respective call;
  • Eligible and ineligible expenses under the call – under the Programme the eligible expenses usually include expenses for the acquisition of non-current tangible assets (machinery, plant and equipment), non-current intangible assets (software, licenses, patents), external consultancy services, implementation of quality systems (BSS EN ISO 9001, BSS EN ISO 14001) etc.;
  • Minimum and maximum project implementation period – usually not longer than 18-20 months;
  • Applicable minimum / state aid regime;
  • Project proposals evaluation procedure, criteria and methodology;
  • Ways and deadlines to receive clarifications under the call;
  • Others.

Project proposals evaluation procedure, criteria and methodology?

Project proposal evaluation has two stages, as follows:

Evaluation of the administrative compliance and eligibility

Evaluation of the administrative compliance and eligibility

This stage is aimed at answering the following questions:

  • Are all required documents provided?
  • Is the project proposal filed properly, is the qualified electronic signature (QES) used to sign the proposal valid?
  • Is the power of attorney for the filing of the project proposal valid?
  • Is the proposal compliant with all the specific eligibility criteria set out in the Terms of Reference, etc.?

Following completion of the administrative compliance and eligibility evaluation, a list of the project proposals not admitted to technical and financial evaluation stating the grounds for the non-admission is published on the website of the Managing Authority (www.opic.bg) and UMIS 2020 (if such functionality is available).

Applicants whose project proposals are included in the list may file written objections to the Head of the Managing Authority within one week of the announcement.

Technical and financial evaluation

Technical and financial evaluation

Technical and financial evaluation is only performed for project proposals that have passed successfully the evaluation for the administrative compliance and eligibility. At this stage the following is evaluated:

  • Technical capacity of the participants (for example, implemented standards and systems such as BSS EN ISO 14001, BSS EN ISO 9001, EMAS, certificates available, etc.);
  • Financial stability (for example, weighted value of profit before taxes, interest, depreciation and amortisation; grant under the project, profit margin, revenue generated, etc.);
  • Social and/or environmental effect of the project;
  • Compliance of forecast data to the call indicators and priorities set, etc.

It should be pointed out that the evaluation also includes check of the feasibility, efficiency and eligibility of all activities and expenses envisaged – i.e. this check tries to answer the following questions:

  • Are ineligible activities, ineligible and/or unrealistic expenses included in the project proposal?
  • Is there duplication of envisaged activities and/or expenses?

What are expense eligibility conditions?

To be eligible under OPIC expenses have to meet the following conditions

  • They have to be required for the implementation of the project and they have to comply with the good financial governance principles – economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the invested funds. This means that an expense that is not justified may be eliminated from the budget.

If the evaluation committee eliminates all expenses from the budget of the project, the project proposal is rejected;

  • They have to be incurred after the date of the signing of the administrative grant contract and by the report submission deadline;
  • They have to comply with the terms and conditions of the respective call. During the implementation of the projects the beneficiaries have to comply with the Guidelines issued by the Minister of Finance on the treatment of VAT as an eligible expense in the implementation of projects under the Operational Programmes co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund of the EU during the programming period 2014-2020 [1];
  • There has to be adequate audit trail with respect to the expenses;
  • The expenses have to be actually paid by the beneficiary, i.e. the total amount under the submitted invoices or other primary accounting documents (including the VAT) have to be paid by bank transfer or in cash;
  • The expenses have to be included in the beneficiary’s accounting documents through individual analytical accounts or in a separate accounting system;
  • They must be identifiable and subject to inspection, they must be supported by original expense documents;
  • They have to be incurred for eligible activities in accordance with the respective call;
  • The expenses have to be paid for actually supplied products and rendered services.

As beneficiaries you have to follow expense eligibility rules set out in the Law for the Management of the Funds from the European Structural and Investment Fund and Decree No 189 of the Council of Ministers of 28 July 2016 on the Setting of National Rules on the Eligibility of Expenses under the Programmes Co-financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds for the Programming Period 2014 – 2020.

What are the deadlines to apply under calls under the Programme?

You can apply under OPIC depending on the project proposal submission deadlines set for each call .

For more information
For more information

Additional information regarding the Operational Programme is available on the website of:

Guidance on the implementation of grant contracts under OPIC 2014-2020 may be found on the website of:

A list of frequently made mistakes is available on the website of:

Information regarding the financial instruments related to OPIC is available on the website of:

Fund Manager of Financial Instruments in Bulgaria.

[1] https://www.eufunds.bg/images/files/DNF3_23.12.2016.pdf