€4 million for digital projects in wake of coronavirus crisis


The Flemish government is matching EU funds to help businesses take their products and services online and is also expanding the Win-Win loan programme for small businesses

Smart sales

The government of Flanders has set aside €2 million for innovative local projects that help companies take their business online, matching €2 million provided by European Union. Already a trend in the economy, this digital transformation has been given a new urgency by the coronavirus crisis.

“Many entrepreneurs are now going digital in order to continue working,” explained Hilde Crevits (pictured), Flemish minister for the economy. “This ranges from telework and meetings via video calls to offering products and services online.”

The aim of the funding is to encourage local authorities to go further in their support for digital transformation after the crisis. “Technology and digital innovation can be very powerful levers in becoming a real smart city,” Crevits added.

Technology and digital innovation can be very powerful levers in becoming a real smart city

- Minister Hilde Crevits

The projects she has in mind include platforms that allow local traders to offer their products digitally, reaching a wider range of consumers, or where they can share ideas for new products and services. Local authorities can also use the money to improve their own digital support for entrepreneurs.

The money comes from the European Regional Development Fund’s Smart City programme and the Flemish Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Municipalities are also be expected to chip in, providing at least 20% of project budgets.

Bids must be registered by 30 June, with final applications due by 14 August.

Win-Win loans

Crevits has also announced an expansion in the options for friends and family of entrepreneurs to invest in their small businesses. “In the coming weeks and months, many entrepreneurs will need extra capital,” she said. “The Win-Win loan is an ideal tool for friends and family to temporarily assist an entrepreneur during this crisis.”

These Win-Win loans have been possible since 2006, allowing people close to an entrepreneur to lend money in return for interest and a modest tax reduction. But the scheme’s conditions are now considered too restrictive for the demands of the current crisis.

So the maximum loan will be increased from €50,000 per lender to €75,000, and the maximum a company can receive from €200,000 to €300,000. Loans can now last between five and 10 years, rather than a fixed term of eight years. And the government guarantee in case of bankruptcy has been temporarily increased from 30% to 40%.

Photo ©Thierry Roge/BELGA