Innovation instrument for SMEs

Finexpo can provide support to your SME if it fulfils all of the conditions below.

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Finexpo can provide support to your SME if it fulfils all of the conditions below: 

  • You are a Belgian SME.
  • You offer an infrastructure or investment product and related service.
  • You would like to export this product or service to a developing country for the first time.
  • The product or service offers sufficient added value for Belgium.
  • The contract amount does not exceed 876,000 euros.
  • You have a public-sector client.

Finexpo can support you by making a grant of between 80.01% and 100% of the contract value up to a maximum of 700,000 euros, and 500,000 euros depending on the level of Belgian interests.

Belgian SMEs

In order to determine whether or not a company is a small or medium-sized enterprise, the European definition is used. This depends on:

  • staff headcount;
  • turnover or balance sheet total;
  • autonomy. This means that not more than 25% of an enterprise may be owned by an enterprise that does not fulfil the SME definition.

In order to fall into a certain size category, each of the three elements must be fulfilled.

Innovative product

Finexpo's aim is to support the export of Belgian capital goods and related services. This means that other products and services fall outside the scope.

The products and related services that are developed must be fully functional. These need to be the first versions of finished products or services and therefore not products that are in a testing phase. Despite this, developments intended for adaptation to the local context may also be financed.

These products must also be innovative. In order to determine whether or not a product is innovative, the definitions used by regions, and federal and European institutions/agencies working in the area of innovation will be used. Products developed with public-sector support for innovation are recognised as such. This support may have been provided during the R&D process and/or product or process development. If a product has not been developed with public-sector support, it may still be eligible. In this case, the application form must include detailed reasons for the application and this will be assessed by the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo).

The products and related services may be commercially viable.

The training of the client's personnel to enable them to start using this product after delivery may be invoiced for.

The innovation cost must account for at least 40% of the total project cost. The following elements may be included in the calculation to determine this:

  • the cost of all productive factors, such as capital, employment, and raw materials that form part of this improved product
  • if the new product consists of a combination of products (whether or not new), the cost of (all individual productive factors of) the various products;
  • costs involved in adapting the innovative product to the context;
  • spare parts.

The following cost items are not included in this calculation:

  • transport and other logistical costs;
  • financial costs;
  • management costs;
  • training costs;
  • maintenance costs; 
  • installation costs;
  • margin and overhead

Initial export of the product

The support may only be applied for once for the same product and must relate to the first-time export of a product to a country on the DAC list.

Developing country

The regulatory framework of Finexpo only allows the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank, and the OECD to provide support in the form of tied and untied aid to developing countries. This support must be relevant for the development of those countries.

Sufficient added value for Belgium

This instrument may only be used by projects of Belgian SMEs that offer a sufficient level of interest for Belgium (30% or 50%). The percentage of Belgium's interest determines the amount of support.

The method of calculating the interest can be found in the Finexpo vademecum. This also specifies that the project must be in keeping with the enterprise's long-term strategic export vision.

Maximum contract amount

For projects where the Belgian interest is at least 50%contracts worth up to 700,000 euros are financed in full. The contract value may possibly be increased to 874,000 euros, but the amount in excess of 700,000 euros must then be financed by the client, except for LDCs where the maximum contract amount is 700,000 euros.

For projects where the Belgian interest is at least 30%contracts worth up to 500,000 euros are financed in full. The contract value may possibly be increased to 624,000 euros, but the amount in excess of 500,000 euros must then be financed by the client, except for LDCs where the maximum contract amount is 500,000 euros.

The maximum contract amounts must be respected, given that the OECD arrangement requires the SME instrument to contain a grant element of at least 80%, and even 100% for LDCs.

To a public-sector client

The client must be a public entity.


For projects for which this support is applied for, companies must compile a dossier on the basis of a questionnaire. The economic aspects of the project and its relevance for development can be examined on the basis of this questionnaire.

A Credendo questionnaire has to be completed simultaneously and transmitted to the Finexpo Secretariat. 

The Finexpo Committee will examine the dossier and deliver an opinion to the Minister for Foreign Trade. The minister will then decide whether or not to grant an interest rate subsidy.

The commercial contract cannot be signed before the treatment of the demand for this instrument by the Council of Ministers.

Promissory note

The minister’s favourable decision takes the form of a promissory note, which is a document that is sent to the bank and/or the exporter and guarantees state intervention for a period of one year, twice renewable (i.e. three years altogether).

Ministerial decree

If the transaction is concluded within this three-year period, a Ministerial Decree is assigned to the exporter’s bank to formalise the granting of this support.