2023 is set to be a key year for the arrival of European funds to Spanish companies. The pace of calls is accelerating and there is no time to lose. Bankinter and La Vanguardia teamed up with FI Group, Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, the Port of Tarragona and Apport to organise a conference in the Port of Tarragona, the heart of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, so that the industrial sector could hear the testimonies of entrepreneurs who have already received subsidies for renewable energy projects.

“The funds are not received”. It is difficult to tackle an idea that has taken root in the minds of many entrepreneurs, who are tired of waiting for calls to tender or feeling helpless in the face of the difficulty of bidding for aid. The forum helped assuage these fears by bringing together not only experts and institutions but, above all, companies that have attained this goal.

“2022 ended with more than 22,000 million euros allocated to Spain and 4,600 million euros to the Autonomous Communities. This means 13,000 million euros for the business community for 280,000 companies that are benefitting from funds. Public organisations and technology centres have received more than 2,100 million euros, and local entities more than 6,000 million euros”, explained Gerard Brinquis, Strategy & Grants Director of NextGen EU at FI Group.

“Are there opportunities at present? The answer is an emphatic yes. Because in the coming months, in light of the dynamism of the first half, it will continue to grow. What is the great opportunity? Decarbonisation, which will probably arrive in October.”

Gerard Brinquis, Strategy & Grants Director of NextGen EU at FI Group
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European funds arrive in Spain: 280,000 beneficiary companies in a single year.

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22 Sep 2023
2023 is set to be a key year for the arrival of European funds to Spanish companies. The pace of calls is accelerating and there is no time to lose. Bankinter and La Vanguardia teamed up with FI Group, Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, the Port of Tarragona and Apport to organise a conference in the Port of Tarragona, the heart of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, so that the industrial sector could hear the testimonies of entrepreneurs who have already received subsidies for renewable energy projects.

“The funds are not received”. It is difficult to tackle an idea that has taken root in the minds of many entrepreneurs, who are tired of waiting for calls to tender or feeling helpless in the face of the difficulty of bidding for aid. The forum helped assuage these fears by bringing together not only experts and institutions but, above all, companies that have attained this goal.

“2022 ended with more than 22,000 million euros allocated to Spain and 4,600 million euros to the Autonomous Communities. This means 13,000 million euros for the business community for 280,000 companies that are benefitting from funds. Public organisations and technology centres have received more than 2,100 million euros, and local entities more than 6,000 million euros”, explained Gerard Brinquis, Strategy & Grants Director of NextGen EU at FI Group.

“Are there opportunities at present? The answer is an emphatic yes. Because in the coming months, in light of the dynamism of the first half, it will continue to grow. What is the great opportunity? Decarbonisation, which will probably arrive in October.”

Gerard Brinquis, Strategy & Grants Director of NextGen EU at FI Group
The first half of 2023 has been frenetic

According to the experts of FI Group, the consulting firm specialising in European funds that partners with Bankinter so that the bank's customers have access to aid, the first half of 2023 has been frenetic, with various calls such as the Circular Economy PERTE, Agri-Food and Naval, and lines of very specific technologies such as 5G, 4.0 and energy efficiency.

July saw a stepping-up of the pace with the PERTE Chip and calls for energy efficiency and the manufacturing industry. And soon calls for energy and storage programmes, hydrogen valleys, digitalisation, automotive and last-mile tourism will be made.

“We are going to demonstrate that European funds are indeed arriving. And discover the key aspects that make this possible”, said Emma Montserrat, head of European Funds at Bankinter, at the opening of the conference. The FI Group's experts and entrepreneurs from various industrial sectors went to the Port of Tarragona to explain how they obtained the subsidies.

“We are talking about a global figure of 180,000 million euros. It is an opportunity of this magnitude that we have never had in Spain and it is everyone's responsibility to know how to fully capitalise. I would urge the entire business community not to be deterred, even if it is difficult, expensive or takes longer than we would all have preferred.”

Emma Montserrat, Head of European Funds at Bankinter.

“A process that combines the complexity of identifying the call, preparing the project and ultimately having it awarded to you. But this is not where the story ends. Perhaps you need to present a guarantee, the subsidy is brought forward or the project requires an element of additional financing, and that is where Bankinter comes in”, explained Emma Montserrat.

Four key ideas for a project to end up securing Next Generation funds

Four key ideas for a project to end up securing Next Generation funds

Daniel Ramos and Gerard Brinquis, from FI Group, who have been behind countless projects financed with European funds, offered the keys to achieving the objective.

  • Strategic reflection. The company must see what strategic plans it has on the table. It is not worth inventing projects to secure funds, it has to be on the company's roadmap. The subsidy will help us accelerate them, to obtain more financing, but the important thing when it comes to justifying the requests is that they correspond to a plan. Bidding just to secure as much money as possible can be a mistake.
  • The best allies. No-one is in any doubt about the complexity of the calls. It is a long journey. That is why it is important not to go it alone: look for the best partners to manage the processing of funds and receive financial support; structure the guarantees, anticipate the collection of aid and obtain financing for what is not eligible. These partners can help gauge whether the project meets what the bidding conditions really require, because, as Emma Montserrat said, “they can be magnificent projects but still not meet the requirements of the call”.
  • Anticipation and planning. Success hinges on preparation. The calls are opened with submission deadlines that are sometimes 7 or 15 days. It is necessary to spend months anticipating and planning schedules with specialised consulting firms. And, when applications are submitted, it is essential to anticipate risks and work on contingency plans because they are live, long-term projects and undergo changes right at the outset.
  • Form consortia. The government considers this to be the idea formula for large, medium and small companies to cooperate, even start-ups and public research entities. They are very enriching projects that create value throughout the ecosystem and break with business inertia that reduces competitiveness.

The four Next Generation Funds success stories

Hydrogenizing BCN: Barcelona will be powered by hydrogen

Will heavy-goods transport and cars one day be powered by green hydrogen? This is the aim of Hydrogenizing BCN for the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona. This is a genuine, tangible project to create a hydrogen economy spanning the entire value chain: from a manufacturing plant to a charging network for the end user. Its aim is defined: to replace diesel with hydrogen at a competitive price.

“It is obvious that the end consumer is not going to consider a transformation of their fleets to hydrogen-powered electric vehicles if there is no guaranteed supply of this type of product. But who is going to make multi-million dollar investments, like our first plant, which cost 50 million euros, if there are no consumption guarantees? This circle is beginning to close with all the players involved”, explained Jeffrey Dost, promoter of H2 BCN.

Budget: 50 million euros. European funds: 12,8 million

L. Pernia: an SME with Europe's most efficient solar plant

L. Pernia had an annual turnover of 1.5 million euros. In 2023 they are set to post a figure of 6 million euros. The reason for this jump is a new energy generation system that has made its industrial processes cheaper and faster. The company specialises in recycling the by-products of the food industry, such as beer bagasse, for reuse in livestock. The 80% humidity of this by-product means a rapid and expensive drying process is required to avoid fermentation. The company found the solution in a photovoltaic system capable of generating solar and thermal energy on a large scale.

“We did the hardest thing: we achieved success. But then the challenge was getting them to give us the subsidy money. We did not receive it and this is where Bankinter comes in, which helped us advance those funds”, said Alfonso Pérez Carballo, general manager of L. Pernia, at the conference.

Plant budget: 8 million European direct subsidy: 4 million

Openchip: chips for Artificial Intelligence

The manufacture of chips with a formidable acceleration capacity for use in Artificial Intelligence? At Openchip they knew that this is what the market is demanding and the company found two partners who were heaven sent: the supercomputer of the Barcelona Supercomputer Center (BSC) and the Barcelona-based software company GTD, which provides aeronautical space defence engineering services.

Its director, Marc Fernández, summed it up as follows: “Bringing together a private company, GTD, and a public partner, the BSC, really helps: The government is looking at a country project. That forced us to turn to the EU, forming a common interest group with 54 other companies in Europe”.

“If you have a dream, you need to go for it. Our dream was to obtain a very high-performance chip and this is no easy task, but we are lucky to have partners with a steadfast belief in the project. It can be left for future generations.”

Marc Fernández, director of Openchip

Budget (R&D and preindustrialisation): 500 million euros. European funds: 138 million

Balantia: AI applied to a new electricity grid with multiple energy sources

It handles a billion items of data every day. Its focus is the energy consumption of individuals and companies. Using Big Data to help them decarbonise from project design to execution and monitoring. To do this, and with the help of the Next Generation, they will transfer Artificial Intelligence to the Spanish electrical system. Organise with AI the multiplicity of energy sources that have been added to the grid, such as solar and wind self-consumption.

“The goal is to provide the current electricity system with AI with the new renewables paradigm, both centralised and distributed, with a demanding consumer. We research AI-based solutions and then their application in generation, grids and consumption”, explained Francisco Cordero, director of innovation at Balantia, which is based in Palma de Mallorca and Madrid.

They have been working with FI Group for years and securing European aid for their projects. Most recently, two Next Generation lines worth 1.5 million euros.

Green hydrogen: the water that drinks from other energies

Hydrogen is extracted from water. But to separate it from oxygen, energy must be injected to produce a phenomenon called electrolysis. Which is to say, more than a source of energy it is a product derived from energy. With a high CO2 cost if that energy comes, for example, from fossil fuels. Green hydrogen is an alternative which is produced solely from renewable energies, such as wind or photovoltaic.

At present there is no large-scale economic cycle around hydrogen. It is not economically viable. It needs to be produced in plants, stored, distributed and consumed. This is why we work in ecosystems that span the entire value chain. Which explains why so-called “Hydrogen Valleys are being established”. Such as the one designed in Catalonia around Tarragona. Spain aspires to be one of the hydrogen generation poles in Europe.

Green hydrogen: the water that drinks from other energies

“It is not an energy source, but an energy vector. The good thing about green hydrogen is that it can be diversified. It can be used in fuel cells, for mobility, or in combustion, at a higher temperature than methane, but without CO2 emissions. For industries with significant heat needs you are providing a solution.”

Isaac Justicia, technical director of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia

“It is a strategic question of energy independence. Today we depend on third countries for oil, uranium or gas. Now we have a chance to stop depending on third parties”, explained Daniel Ramos, from FI Group. Last year, a first Next Generation line of 150 million euros was allocated and was fully covered. In fact, projects worth 750 million were presented. There is interest.

“This aid is demanding very grounded projects. Projects that could ensure a hydrogen production cost of less than 6 euros/kilo”, explained Daniel Ramos, ahead of the US, which with the Inflation Reduction Act has managed to produce it at 3 or 4 euros per kilo. In the coming months, the big Hydrogen Valleys call is expected, with bidding by projects such as the one in Tarragona, which brings together more than 280 entities.

Isaac Justice, director of the technical office of the Hydrogen Valley of Catalonia, considers hydrogen as strategic for industry, agriculture and transport. The key is to ensure that its price is competitive and can replace other fossil energy sources as a technology. Will we see it this decade? That is the plan.