The FAQ are non-binding basic information and list the funding terms and conditions in a comprehensible manner. The individual funding agreement, the guideline specifications valid at the time the agreement is signed and the “Pressed | Seedfincing – Deep Tech Programme to Fund the Establishment and Setting up of Innovative Companies“ guideline valid at the time the agreement is signed as well as their legal basis take precedence.
Significant changes relate to the clarification of the repayment conditions and the calculation of the repayment as well as the amount of the subsidy. The amount of funding can be up to EUR 800,000 from 2022 on if a technically qualified female founder holds more than 25 % of the shares, otherwise it will be a maximum of EUR 700,000.
What is the objective of the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech programme?
The goal is to help young, innovative deep-tech companies that have remarkable product ideas based on a breakthrough innovation and scalable business models to grow and sustain their growth. Because the companies that are funded by aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech usually have to compete with others on a global scale, the international market acts as the benchmark for evaluating the companies’ innovation.
How does the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech Programme define deep tech?
Deep-tech or high-tech start-ups are based on tangible scientific advances and discoveries and time-consuming in-house high-tech development, which is associated with significant technological risks and requires exceptionally high investments. The company must be in a position to expand and secure in a lasting way its competitive position on account of its international technological leadership (technology leap), secured by patents, licences and other options for protection.
What legal form can an aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech company have?
Any appropriate Austrian legal form (OG, KG, GmbH, AG) is possible, with a financial statement having to be prepared in accordance with the Austrian Commercial Code (UGB) as of the year the first funds are paid out at the latest. The beneficiary must be an independent small company. This means that no other company may exercise a determining influence (in form and content) over the company. The condition of a small company within the meaning of the SME definition must always be met (https://www.aws.at/fileadmin/user_upload/Downloads/ergaenzende_Information/KMU-Definition_Kurzmerkblatt.pdf), which Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws) reviews on a case-by-case basis.
I have been managing a company for years – can I still apply for aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
Business experience is always a good thing. Because aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech is aimed at young companies that are no more than 5 years old at the time the funding agreement is signed, content aspects will have to be considered to assess the situation. If, for example, a sole proprietorship was incorporated into a GmbH, it is the day the sole proprietorship was established that is decisive. Likewise, if the same shareholders set up a new subsidiary or sister company of an existing company, that is not enough to fall into the “young company” category under EU state aid law.
How are companies of the same shareholders or companies that are otherwise linked abroad considered?
In the same way as companies in Austria.
Is it possible to receive aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech if a business model or technology that is already internationally established is brought to Austria/Europe for the first time?
No, a technological lead can usually no longer be presented in this instance.
How can I apply for aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
The page for submitting applications can be found at aws fördermanager. It is an electronic submission. If you require technical support, please use the contact number +43 1 50175-110.
In how much detail must the application form be filled out?
You will be guided through the fields required for the application. The information in the application form can be kept to a minimum. This initial information must allow us to draw qualitative conclusions about the technology, the distinction to the state of the art and the target market. A business plan with relevant information on the project has to be submitted with the application.
After the initial assessment, an iterative process will commence during which you will provide detailed information and can edit the documents according to the formal requirements.
Must I already have founded a company in order to apply for aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
Neither a business licence nor an entry in the commercial register is a prerequisite for submitting an application. Regardless, the relevant legal provisions of course apply when taking up a business activity. If aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech is granted to the applicant, then a company must be founded before the funding agreement is drawn up.
What are the requirements for the business plan and financial planning?
The business plan should comply with the following criteria:
- technology: exhaustive description of the technology and the breakthrough innovation
- product: specification and features of the product
- problem of the customer: how can the product solve the problem of the customer
- USP: what is the added value of your product /service compared to the international competition
- business model: how will the company make money
- market /market size: comprehensive presentation of the international market situation in the addressed market segment with figures and sources
- sales strategy: through which channels and with which methods is sales planned
- competition: description of the international competition (competitors, products, differentiation from the company's planned product) with figures and sources
- intellectual property (freedom-to-operate analysis, patents, licenses, trademarks or other intellectual property rights strategies)
- team: presentation of the team, skills, experience, responsibilities and the time commitment of the team members as well as a personnel plan must be presented
- current status and milestones achieved so far: description of the current development status of the technology and the company
- development plan: representation of further development along the time axis with technical and financial milestones
- financials (for the project period and further outlook for 2-3 years): presentation of the overall financing of the company. The planning calculation should break down sales according to sales types (e.g. product sales, services, license revenues, etc.) and also show the essential elements of the company-typical expense structure. A monthly presentation is required for the first 12-24 months, after which semi-annual or annual presentations can be used.
Will financial planning spanning two years suffice?
No, financial planning should span 4–5 years. Even though the planning uncertainties in the seed and start-up phase are great, a four to five-year plan is a working hypothesis that should and must be continuously refined as the company grows.
According to which Austrian and EU guidelines is aws Seedfunding Deep Tech structured?
Funding within the European Union is subject to extensive legal regulations, to which Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws) is bound.
The "Preseed | Seedfinancing - Deep Tech Programme to Fund the Establishment and Setting up of Innovative Companies" is based on item 3 of the Guideline of Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH for the funding of technology and innovation from 01.01.2022 (“AWS T&I Guideline")
The Seedfinancing Deep Tech Programme Module is based on Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, OJ L 187/1 of 26 June 2014 (General Block Exemption Regulation, or GBER), in particular Articles 22 and 28 thereof. Moreover, Austrian laws and regulations exist that are referred to in the guideline specifications.
Is aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech a de-minimis aid?
No. Neither the funds of the Seedfinancing Deep Tech programme nor the consulting that forms a part thereof has to be counted towards the de-minimis amounts.
What is the aid intensity?
Aid intensity is the amount the public sector gives, expressed as a percentage (present value) of (partial) project costs. Depending on the funding guidelines or the importance of a business promotion programme for an economy, the aid intensity can range from a few percent to almost 100 percent.
What is the present value?
The present value describes the benefit of funding, expressed in financial terms, taking into account financial mathematical methods and risk assessment. A grant usually keeps 100 percent of its present value, while a loan or guarantee has a much lower present value depending on the repayment conditions.
Can aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech be recognised as equity when pursuing other funding schemes?
aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech is public funding. Therefore, these funds cannot be counted towards an equity contribution or complementary own equity financing for other funding schemes that finance, for example, 50 % of the project costs and as such must be financed with other private capital (own funds, long-term shareholder loans, lines of credit, company profits). However, it is possible to provide evidence of sufficient overall funding (in compliance with the respective aid intensities) by including aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech.
Can I have my own work output credited as equity in aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
No, the founders’ minimum own cash contribution (minimum 10 % of the requested funding) is considered reasonable.
Can I have the work hours for which I receive remuneration from aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech credited towards other funding as an “own contribution”?
No, as that would be an impermissible double grant.
Why is the entrepreneur or team of entrepreneurs so important?
Start-up companies, especially those in the high-tech industry, are faced with high risk but also great opportunities. Entrepreneurial success and failure highly depend on management. For this reason, when selecting start-up projects, it is vital to have an experienced, committed and risk-averse start-up team.
The following minimum requirements apply: At least one shareholder who has a 25 % stake in the company at least and is 100 % active. Those who have the essential know-how must also hold at least 25 % of the shares and be actively involved in operations.
Why do founders have to bring in equity capital in cash?
How the company is managed (and thus how the company value is influenced) is in the hands of the founders. It is possible and also probable to achieve a high growth in value of companies. Adequate risk participation is therefore a matter of course. Depending on the composition of the founding team, the founders must contribute at least 10 % of the requested funding to the company as their own funds.
Is/are the founder(s) allowed to be remunerated?
Depending on how high the own funds contributed in cash are, the founder(s) may be remunerated. This is determined within the context of the economical use of the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech funds. The ceiling for mostly publicly funded aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech companies is the rate for the “Senior Postdoc” level of the Austrian Science Fund FWF (www.fwf.ac.at; standard personnel costs). The founders should first and foremost be interested in the company’s growth (i.e. in an increased value).
If I have received aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech, can I be a part-time entrepreneur, i.e. hold another job?
Technically no. Smaller lecturing or teaching jobs are possible, subject to prior agreement. Successfully setting up a business requires all available resources, which is why a company as a sideline is generally a reason for exclusion from aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech.
How long does it take to receive aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
The period is comparable to a typical Austrian venture capital financing. From the time that documents are made available that provide clarity and detail, you can expect an approval period averaging 3 months, subject to the availability of funds and a favourable vote in the assessment panel.
Why is there an assessment panel?
The members of the assessment panel have many years of entrepreneurial and/or scientific experience while also being knowledgeable about the uncertainties of founding a company in the deep-tech industry. The members of the panel are able to identify many of the potential bottlenecks along the company’s growth trajectory. Information or conditions will be provided as part of any recommendation for funding
Why are the tranche payments based on milestones?
The seed and start-up phase pose many risks. Agreeing on interim targets allows for feasible growth and an ongoing assessment of the start-up project.
Does Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws) receive shares in the company as part of aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
No. However, in order to ensure that the funds are used in compliance with the financing, Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws) reserves the right to extensively audit and inspect the company's operations. Because the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech interests are similar to those of an equity investor, any major entrepreneurial decisions and changes such as to the shareholder structure must be first discussed with Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws).
Can a company that has already been funded by a VC (venture capitalist, institutional risk capital provider) also receive aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech?
Given the small amount of early-stage venture capital funds available in Austria, companies that have already been VC funded can also receive funds from aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech, provided that there has only been one venture round and VC funding was less than EUR 1 million. Typically, aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech is provided prior to VC funding, however. Moreover, it must become evident that the project cannot be implemented in the planned way without aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech.
Why are the funds “conditionally repayable”?
For the benefit of efficient and proper use of resources, funds must be repaid when the company has achieved particular success after having received funding. A successful sale (for the shareholders) or steadily positive earnings are one reason to repay the funds, taking into consideration the company’s liquidity.
If at the end of the agreed funding period (project duration plus five-year observation period) no “business success” was able to be achieved or the company has not been sold, the contract will be ended and no further repayment will become due.
What happens when new shareholders are admitted to the company?
aws must be verifiably notified of a new shareholder entering the company or of a change in shareholders within two weeks. If this leads to a change of control, aws must first be consulted. With regard to the criteria for repaying the funds, all shareholders are required to accede to key points of the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech agreement.
When and how must the funds be repaid?
Alternative 1: in case of profit:
In the event of a profit in accordance with UGB during the term of the contract, repayment is due six months after the balance sheet date. It amounts to 50% of the annual surplus according to §231 UGB. The annual financial statements are to be prepared according to the rules of the UGB. This regulation also applies to partnerships and sole proprietorships. The regulation also applies to subsidiaries.
Alternative 2: Sale of the company:
If the company or shares in the company are sold in whole or in part, the funds must be repaid. As a general rule of thumb, aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech should be repaid if the shareholders withdraw money from the funds besides that which is agreed to cover their living expenses.
In the event of a serious breach of contract, the funds must be repaid with interest.
What happens when founding partners leave the company?
The above rule of thumb also applies in this instance: When an owner withdraws money from the funds, the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech is expected to be repaid.
What happens if the company is sold?
Then the necessary repayment of the funds must be taken into account in advance.
Do the founders have personal liability?
Yes. However, only in the event that the company or essential assets are sold without the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech grant having been repaid. For other liability cases, the existing legal regulations apply. Founders with a 10 % or greater stake in the company should accede to the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech agreement and thus be personally liable for certain situations.
How should the aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech grant be handled on the balance sheet?
The funds are designed as “conditionally refundable grant“.
We recommend the consultation of the company‘s tax accountant. Please refer to the information provided in the German version of this FAQ-topic.
Which expenses are NOT funded?
The expenses not eligible for funding include: Any expense that is not related to a technology project in terms of content (e.g. food, other expenses strongly connected to “personal lifestyle”), expenses that have already been claimed for other funding; expenses that cannot be recognised as business expenditures within the meaning of the Income Tax Act (Einkommensteuergesetz); expenses that do not comply with the principle of economy and expediency; travel expenses that do not follow the guidelines of the federal business travel regulations, invoices with a net amount less than EUR 150. In the case of investments, only the pro rata depreciation (AfA) in the project period can be claimed as eligible costs.
What should be taken into account when doing the account settlement?
The funds are accounted for on the basis of verifiable costs. There is an accounting form for this, which must be filled out accurately and correctly. We recommend you to keep this list up to date from the start of the project onward. Each invoice must have a proof of payment or proof of cash flow (e.g. bank statement). Only the eligible costs may be invoiced. For this purpose, grant recipients will generally consult tax advisers/public accountants for assistance.
Further details and important information can be found in the account statement guidelines. The guidelines and the accounting form can be downloaded here.
Can vehicles be purchased?
Purchasing a vehicle from aws Seedfinancing Deep Tech funds is not permitted. Rentals or leases are allowed, provided it is economical, appropriate and approved as part of the business plan.