The corona pandemic brought it to light: Only companies with a high degree of digitization can work despite unfavorable conditions. For this reason, the federal and state governments have launched funding programs that support SMEs in particular that are economically highly endangered in digitization. This includes, among other things, the expansion of home office workstations.
More and more home offices due to corona regulations
Since the emergence of the coronavirus, more and more people are working at home. Even companies that otherwise only allowed a few employees to work from home on a daily basis are sticking to this solution. In order for the employees sent to the home office to be able to do their work, as usual, they must have the appropriate technical requirements there. You need notebooks, smartphones, and licenses for VPN access or a cloud-based service. In addition, they must be able to communicate undisturbed and comply with data security and data protection, not to mention access to a copier repair service. According to a survey conducted by the industry association Bitkom in March 2020, 49% of working people are working full-time or on a daily basis in the home office due to the corona pandemic. In the pre-corona period, only 39% of companies allowed work from home. How popular working from home was even then is shown by the fact that 45% of employees want a legal right to work at home.
Digitalization: On the way to Work 4.0
Of course, the rapidly advancing digitalization in some places also includes jobs. However, many companies are still a long way from holistically oriented digitization. In order to implement the Workplace 4.0 project, they have introduced various other innovations in addition to software automation solutions. They are advantageous in the current corona crisis: video conferencing is replacing meetings in the office. Instead of filling rows of folders with paper pages, the employee simply creates cloud files.
Meanwhile, more and more companies are willing to invest in digital workplaces. For this, however, they need the support of a specialized IT service provider. It helps companies to meet the requirements of Workplace 4.0. Working at home, which was forced by the corona pandemic, shows that only mobile work devices such as laptops, notebooks, and tablets optimally meet the requirements of Workplace 4.0. Many companies have now recognized this. Also very important: are the areas of IT security and data protection. Due to the high requirements of the GDPR, many companies find it difficult to set up flexible and at the same time data protection-compliant home offices. This is especially true for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The state promotes the establishment of home offices: go-digital program
On the occasion of the corona pandemic, the Federal Government decided to support small and medium-sized commercial and craft enterprises in setting up home office workplaces quickly and unbureaucratically. For this purpose, the go-digital program launched at the time by the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) was expanded. The subsidy paid is intended to enable SMEs that are not so well positioned to continue working at home. Upon request, they will be reimbursed 50% of the consulting costs if they use the help of an authorized consulting firm to set up home offices. The consultants approved by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy support SMEs in setting up and expanding their IT systems. They provide technical information and accompany the entire digitization process. In addition, they take care of the associated formalities such as applying for funding, billing, and checking the proof of use.
Qualification of approved consultancy firms
The authorized consulting firms published in the interactive consultant map meet the following requirements. They
- have professional expertise
- cooperate with universities, colleges, and research institutions
- guarantee a non-competitive consulting service
- are economically stable
- have a connection to small businesses
- meet the quality standards
Who can apply for funding
The extended go-digital program is aimed at commercial and craft businesses that are legally independent and have technological potential. They have their permanent establishment and/or a branch in Germany and, alone or together with this, achieve a turnover of the previous year or a balance sheet total of less than EUR 20 million. The maximum number of employees is 100.
It is also a prerequisite that the applicant company is eligible under the de minimis Regulation. In addition, start-ups can apply for funding if they already generate sufficiently large sales. If the authorized consultant charges 1,100 euros as a daily rate, they may use his services for a maximum of 30 days within six months. A maximum of 50% of this will be funded. The go-digital funding can be used for one main module or for one main module and several minor modules. For the establishment of home office workstations, which should be expressly noted in the application, the company can receive a total of up to 16,500 euros in funding per year.
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What benefits the funding program includes
In addition to the three previous modules,
- Digitized business processes
- IT Security
- Digitized market development
If approved, the applicant will be subsidized for the additional module of setting up home office workstations. In addition to consulting tailored to the company, this module includes, for example, the configuration of existing hardware and the installation of company-specific software. The hardware and software themselves are not financed. The three modules approved so far are also aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises because they have a particularly large amount of catching up to do in terms of digitization.
Selected practical examples
In the Digital Business Processes module, the company can
- Set up home office workstations
- Programming interfaces
- Install new software tools
- Adopt cloud computing
The Digital Market Development module includes, for example, setting up a website, or an online shop or switching to a digital business model.
How SMEs receive funding
SMEs that want to set up home offices first look for a consulting firm authorized by BMWi in their region and conclude a consulting contract with them. You can find the right company in the go-digital consultant map under www.bmwi-go-digital.de. Subsequently, this regulates everything else. The contract itself only becomes effective upon receipt of the approval decision. After the end of the project period of no more than six months, the consulting firm prepares an invoice and proof of use. The sponsor of the funded project is EURONORM GmbH, which also answers questions regarding eligibility and application by telephone.
The BAFA (Federal Office of Economics and Export Control) also offers a funding program for SMEs. This is called BAFA Corona Consulting and is intended to help affected companies to implement digitization faster. Experts assume that some industries will be particularly changed by the pandemic: they will not only have to rethink their product range but even adapt their sales strategy and their entire corporate planning. For them, a management consultant financed by BAFA is particularly helpful to support.
Who is entitled to BAFA funding
Companies that are in difficulties due to corona receive consulting assistance to have a new business concept created and implemented. Or to have a new financing strategy or a more efficient marketing plan worked out. Alternatively, the management consultancy can also be used to set up several home office workstations. The prerequisite for the up to 90% and a maximum amount of 2,700 euros funded advice is that the applicant:
- has lost more than half of the subscribed share capital (GmbH)
- has lost at least 50 % of the declared own funds
- will probably soon lose a major customer
If this is not the case, SMEs can still take advantage of the aid if they have not been on the market for more than two years (start-ups) or are among the existing companies. Young companies can receive up to 50% subsidy (maximum 2,000 euros, old federal states) and up to 80% (maximum 3,200 euros, new federal states). For existing companies, the maximum amounts apply are 1,500 euros (maximum 50%, old federal states) and 2,400 euros (maximum 80%, new federal states). The Lüneburg region has special funding rates.
How to apply for BAFA funding
Companies wishing to take advantage of BAFA funding must complete the application published under https://fms.bafa.de/BafaFrame/unternehmensberatung as described under https://corona-unternehmensberatung.de/bafa-corona-beratungsfoerderung/. After receipt of the letter of approval, the corona consultation can take place. It must be completed after six months at the latest. If the company exceeds the highest amount of funding, it must bear the additional costs itself.
Digital Bonus funding from the federal state
The digital bonus in the amount of 2,500 to 10,000 euros is a special funding program for SMEs, which was launched by federal states such as Lower Saxony. It finances the acquisition and installation of hardware, software, and investments in IT security. With its help, the digitization of processes, services, and products is to be promoted. Recently, small and medium-sized enterprises based in Lower Saxony have even received funding for the establishment of home office workstations, video conferencing, and telemedicine technology. The funding offer is aimed at SMEs in the craft and trade sectors as well as small planning offices and eHealth and life science companies. Small businesses can receive up to 50% and medium-sized up to 30% of the maximum funding amount. Interested companies submit their application online via the NBank’s customer portal and additionally within four weeks in paper form and signed to the licensing office. Once they have received their commitment, they can start the measures immediately. They are allowed a total of twelve months for implementation.