State aid


What is State aid?

The notion of State aid has been developed through the case law of the European Court of Justice, based on Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and is understood as any assistance granted to an undertaking that jointly meets all of the following criteria:

  • it is provided by the State or through State resources (for projects submitted to the NCN, this is always true)
  • its terms are more beneficial than those of the market (for instance, private investors or financial institutions would not provide enterprises with non-refundable financing without any prospect for significant returns on investment)
  • it is selective (i.e. privileges a given undertaking/undertakings or favours the production of certain goods; the premise is always met for projects submitted to the NCN, since its funding is granted to specific undertakings)
  • it distorts or threatens to distort competition and affects trade between EU Member States (in principle, there are no barriers to the free flow of associated goods and services in research and development; this means that the premise would only be met by research projects related to the economic activities of a given entity).

NCN-funded projects will therefore fall under the rubric of State aid if the application for funding is filed by an enterprise. Importantly, in accordance with EU legislation, an enterprise is understood as any entity involved in economic activities (i.e. offering goods or services), irrespective of its legal form and the source of funding (private or public). For the purposes of this definition, it is also irrelevant whether or not the entity acts for profit. In the understanding of the EU, an undertaking can also take the form of a foundation, an association or a public institution (such as a museum), including an research and knowledge dissemination organisation (e.g. universities, research institutes), to the extent in which these conduct economic activities.

Contact person for matters related to State aid:

Barbara Kania-Dec, tel.: +48 12 341 90 32

STATE AID IN NCN-FUNDED RESEARCH PROJECTS

BASIC INFORMATION FOR ALL APPLICANTS

The National Science Centre (NCN) provides state aid for research projects under the OPUS, PRELUDIUM and SONATA funding schemes, as well as via open calls announced within the framework of multilateral international cooperation programmes.

The procedures and conditions that govern the provision of state aid by the NCN are regulated by the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 9 September 2015 on the terms and mode of granting State aid via the National Science Centre (in Polish, Journal of Laws of 2015, item 1381).

Any entity applying to have its basic research project funded by the NCN is required to determine whether such assistance would constitute State aid in its particular case. When filling in the proposal form in the ZSUN/OSF platform, all applicants will be asked the following question in the “POMOC PUBLICZNA” [STATE AID] tab: “Will the funding constitute State aid?”. To answer it, the applicant must first study the “Zasady występowania pomocy publicznej” [State Aid Rules] section. If the answer is affirmative, the entity will be applying for State aid.

If the answer is negative, the entity will not be applying for State aid. Whenever any doubts arise during the formal review process, applicants may be requested to provide additional explanations to further clarify the nature of their activities and to submit relevant documents to confirm the position stated in the proposal or the explanation.

DETAILED INFORMATION FOR ENTITIES APPLYING FOR STATE AID

If the entity is applying for State aid (i.e. the question “Will the funding constitute State aid?” is answered in the affirmative), it needs to fill in extra fields in the proposal form and submit attachments in accordance with the guidelines below:

Tab: Pomoc publiczna [State aid]

The POMOC PUBLICZNA [STATE AID] section requires all applicants to declare whether or not the NCN grant, if provided, would constitute State aid. To answer the question, they must study the ”Zasady występowania pomocy publicznej” [State Aid Rules], which outline the necessary conditions allowing to determine if this is the case. Importantly, the question applies to all the entities that make up a group of entities (the leader and the partners); their representatives are all required to certify that they have studied the “Rules” mentioned above.

If the analysis indicates that the answer should be affirmative, the applicant or the entity belonging to a group of entities will be applying for State aid. Choosing this option will automatically generate new fields in the proposal form. In addition, the tab will also show a list, along with relevant templates, of attachments that need to be added to the proposal, all signed with a qualified electronic signature.

TAB: TERMIN ROZPOCZĘCIA I LOKALIZACJA PROJEKTU [PROJECT TERM AND LOCATION]

The applicant shall specify the location of the research project by providing the relevant street address, town/city, commune, poviat, and voivodeship with maximum possible accuracy. For projects conducted in several locations, all centres should be listed in the appropriate order, based on where the largest, or the most important, part of the project is to be implemented.

The start dates of projects submitted by entities applying for State aid are automatically filled in by the system after defining the project location. As a rule, the start date falls on the first working day of the month that begins once 9 months have elapsed from the proposal submission deadline in a given call. For instance, for calls announced in March 2019, with a deadline in June 2019, the project start date will be scheduled for 1 April 2020. The end date is automatically calculated by the system based on the start date and the declared project duration in months.

PLEASE NOTE! In the case of projects submitted under international multilateral calls, an applicant should complete the project start date individually, whereas the project cannot start earlier than 3 months and later than 6 months after the call conclusion date.

TAB: INFORMACJE O PRZEDSIĘBIORSTWIE [COMPANY INFORMATION]

In this tab, specify the size of the undertaking and determine whether or not the project will be carried out in cooperation with a research organization.

Field: Wielkość przedsiębiorstwa [Undertaking size]

The applicant shall define the status of the undertaking in accordance with Annex I to Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market in application of Article 107 and 108 of the Treaty (hereinafter: Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014).

The size of an undertaking is assessed on the basis of financial data (such as the annual turnover and the annual balance sheet total), as well as staff numbers. For an autonomous undertaking, this evaluation is based only on its own figures. However, if the entity in question is associated (e.g. through capital or via partners/shareholders) with other undertakings, the data on the latter should also be included. Thus, when assessing undertaking size, it must be first determined whether it is autonomous or linked/partnered with other entities.

The data on staff, turnover and the balance sheet total should come from the latest approved accounting year. If the undertaking has exceeded the staffing or financial threshold in the previous year, this shall not affect its status, unless the situation also repeats in the following two accounting periods.

In accordance with Article 2 of Annex I to Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014:

  • the category of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (‘SMEs’) is made up of enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43 million.
  • within the SME category, a small enterprise is defined as an enterprise which employs fewer than 50 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed EUR 10 million.
  • within the SME category, a micro-enterprise is defined as an enterprise which employs fewer than 10 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total does not exceed EUR 2 million.
ENTERPRISE CATEGORYEMPLOYEESANNUAL TURNOVER / BALANCE SHEET TOTAL
Medium-sizedfewer than 250≤ EUR 50 million / ≤ EUR 43 million
Smallfewer than 50≤ EUR 10 million / ≤ EUR 10 million
Microfewer than 10≤ EUR 2 million / ≤ EUR 2 million

A large enterprise means an entity not fulfilling the criteria specified in Annex I to Commission Regulation No 651/2014, i.e. one that does not qualify as a micro, small, or medium-sized enterprise.

The size declared by the applicant must be consistent with the data provided in part A point 6 of the

Formularz informacji przedstawianych przy ubieganiu się o pomoc inną niż pomoc w rolnictwie lub rybołówstwie, pomoc de minimis lub pomoc de minimis w rolnictwie i rybołówstwie” [Information given when applying for aid other than aid in agricultural or fisheries sector, de minimis aid or de minimis aid in agricultural or fisheries sector], submitted as an attachment to the application.

Field: Czy projekt jest realizowany we współpracy z organizacją prowadzącą badania [Is the project conducted in cooperation with a research organisation mentioned in article 2(83) of 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?] 

The applicant must pick one of the two options (YES/NO).

Article 2(83) of Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014 defines a ‘research and knowledge-dissemination organisation’ as “an entity (such as universities or research institutes, technology transfer agencies, innovation intermediaries, research-oriented physical or virtual collaborative entities), irrespective of its legal status (organised under public or private law) or way of financing, whose primary goal is to independently conduct fundamental research, industrial research or experimental development or to widely disseminate the results of such activities by way of teaching, publication or knowledge transfer”.

If the applying undertaking will be cooperating with a research organisation within the framework of the project, it should answer “YES”. In such case, an additional attachment must be added, i.e. 

Oświadczenie dotyczące współpracy przedsiębiorstwa z organizacją prowadzącą badania o niewnoszeniu przez tą organizację wkładu finansowego na rzecz realizacji projektu badawczego”. [Declaration that the research organisation cooperating with the company does not financially contribute towards the project costs]

Field: Szczegółowe zestawienie wydatków [Specific cost breakdown]

In the Detailed Breakdown of Costs, the applicant should specify the type of expenditures, e.g. computer purchase, and its category, by selecting the correct letter from the drop-down menu, i.e.:

W – costs of salaries together with non-wage labour costs for persons employed in a research project to the extent in which these salaries are directly connected with the completion of the project (in the case of salaries for collective investigators, Wz should be chosen);

Where state aid is applied for, the costs of NCN scholarships for under-and post-graduate students as well as doctoral scholarships for post-graduate students are ineligible costs. Remuneration for under-and post-graduate students may be planned for employment pursuant to a full-time or part-time employment contract or civil law contract for the implementation of a research project.

A – costs of research equipment and instruments to the extent and for the period in which they are used for the completion of the project; if the research equipment and instruments are not used for the completion of the project over the entire period of use, only depreciation costs corresponding to the period of the project’s completion, calculated based on the applicable accountancy regulations, are deemed eligible costs;

G – costs of buildings and land to the extent and for the period in which they are used for the completion of the project; in the case of buildings, only depreciation costs corresponding to the period of the project’s completion, calculated based on the applicable accountancy regulations, are deemed eligible costs; in the case of land, only the costs of leasing the land and actually incurred capital costs;

E – costs of research conducted based on contracts, costs of knowledge and patents purchased or used pursuant to license agreements with external parties on a full competition basis, as well as costs of consultancy and parallel services used solely for the completion of the research project;

Op – other operating costs, including costs of materials, supplies and similar products directly related to the completion of the research project;

O – additional general costs (overheads).

If a given cost is not eligible for aid (i.e. does not fall under any of the above categories), the applicant should pick the letter N (non-eligible) in the “Kategoria kosztu” [Cost Category] column.

The each cost should be defined by the applicant as either direct or indirect. The letter P in the drop-down menu in the “Rodzaj kosztu” [Cost Type] rubric corresponds to indirect costs, while the letter B represents direct costs. Expenses related to salaries and the purchase of equipment will be automatically classified by the system as direct (no option of choice). The cost of salaries for collective investigators corresponds to letter Wz (in the general cost estimate, the costs of salaries for collective investigators will be subsumed under the category of other direct costs).

The “Koszt kwalifikowalny” [Eligible Cost] column should present those project costs that are eligible for State aid. If the applicant is entitled to reimbursement of VAT related to purchases outlined in the application, the rubric should include their net value (without VAT); otherwise, it should provide their gross value (with VAT). If the applying entity is entitled to partial VAT reimbursement, the rubric should be filled in with their cost minus reimbursable VAT. The reimbursement can be understood both as a deduction of the amount of input tax from output tax, and the repayment of a tax difference or input tax. The “Środki własne” [Undertaking's Own Resources] column should be filled in with the total value of expenses financed from the resources of the applying entity, especially those that cannot be funded via the NCN (e.g. the amount of VAT on eligible costs that the applying entity is entitled to reclaim). The “Dofinansowanie z NCN” [NCN funding] column should list the amount of subsidy requested for the eligible costs of a given project; the figure cannot be greater than the value in the “Eligible Cost” column. Based on the submitted values of requested funding and the undertaking's own resources, the system will automatically calculate the figure in the “Koszt razem brutto” [Total Gross Cost] column (understood as the sum of the requested funding and the undertaking’s own resources).

PLEASE NOTE! The sum total of the costs in all individual categories should be consistent with the costs enumerated in the section of budget summary of the research project.

Tab: Załączniki [Attachments]

Any entity applying for State aid must submit all the required attachments, prepared in accordance with the guidelines below.

PLEASE NOTE! All attachments must be signed with a qualified electronic signature by an authorised representative of the undertaking. The principal investigator cannot act as a representative, either. If attachments are submitted in the form of copies (e.g. copies of financial reports), each should be certified as a true copy of the document in question (the clause: “Certified as True Copy” must be placed on every page of the document or the clause: “Certified as True Copy from page ...to page ...” on the first page of the document, along with a legible signature by an authorised representative). The certified copy should be scanned, signed with a qualified electronic signature and added to the proposal as a PDF file.

Formularz informacji przedstawianych przy ubieganiu się o pomoc inną niż pomoc w rolnictwie lub rybołówstwie, pomoc de minimis lub pomoc de minimis w rolnictwie i rybołówstwie [Information Form for Applications for Aid in Sectors Other than Agriculture and Fisheries, De Minimis Aid, or De Minimis Aid in Agriculture and Fisheries]is obligatory for all undertakings

Section A

Points 1-4 need to be filled in with the full name of the undertaking, its residence or seat, the 7-digit commune identification number and the tax identification number (NIP).

Point 5 must be filled in with the appropriate legal form (the correct option should be marked with an X). If the entity is not a state-owned enterprise, a company wholly owned by the State Treasury, a company wholly owned by a local government, a joint stock company, or a limited liability company in which the State Treasury or a local government, a state-owned enterprise or a company wholly owned by the State Treasury holds the prerogatives of a dominant company, or an entity of the public finance sector, the applicant must put an X in the last line of the table (other legal form) and specify its character, e.g. as a sole proprietorship, joint stock company, limited liability company.

In point 6, applicants need to specify the size of the applicant (micro, small, medium or other (large) enterprise) by marking the correct category with an X.

In point 7, the applicant must provide the code (as defined in the Polish Classification of Activities, PKD) for the activity in which it is applying for State aid, in accordance with the Annex to the Regulation of the Council of Ministers of 24 December 2007 on the Polish Classification of Activities (PCA) (Journal of Laws No. 251, item 1885, as amended).

Point 8 should specify the founding date of the undertaking (date of entry into the National Court Register, the start of economic activities).

Part B

All the points need to be filled in. If a given question does not apply to the undertaking, the “not applicable” option should be selected.

Points 1-2 do not apply to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that have been active for less than 3 years. Points 5-7 do not concern micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, regardless of their length of activity. In the case of other enterprises, if an affirmative answer is given in point 5 (any of its subpoints), a special clarification will be required as to the way of restoring financial liquidity in point 6. In point 7, if the entity belongs to a group, the applicant is required to answer all three subpoints.

Section C

This section aims to determine whether the applicant is liable to repay a sum equivalent to the State aid received, as required by the regulations of the European Commission.

Section D

This section asks whether the applicant is involved in economic activities in relation to which it is applying for State aid, in sectors or areas enumerated in points 1-8.

Section E

The table needs to be filled in with information on any other financial aid that has gone toward the eligible costs for which State aid is requested, as well as information on any rescue and restructuring aid obtained within the 10 years prior to the day on which the State aid application is filed. If the applicant has never received such assistance before, the table should be left blank or the fields filled in with the formula: “not applicable”.

In the section devoted to “Informacje o przedsięwzięciu” [Information on the Undertaking], each undertaking must answer point 1, i.e. “Informacje ogólne” [General Information]. Whether point 2 (“Informacje szczegółowe” [Detailed Information]) needs to be completed, too, will depend on the purpose of State aid; the section only needs to be completed if the type of aid in question is applicable to the undertaking.

The last page of the form contains fields that need to be filled in with data on the specific person/persons authorised to provide the information, i.e. the representatives of the applying entity. These persons need to sign the form electronically.

Sprawozdania finansowane za okres 3 ostatnich lat obrotowych [Financial Statements for the Last 3 Financial Years] – only applies to medium-sized and large enterprises

Large and medium-sized enterprises are required to attach financial statements, or certified true copies of financial statements, for the last three fiscal years prior to the year in which the application is filed. If the undertaking has been active for less than 3 years, it should submit documents that span the entire period of its activities.

The financial statements should contain all the obligatory elements, in accordance with Article 45.2 and Article 45.3 of the Accounting Act of 29 September 1994 (Journal of Laws of 1994, No. 121, item 591, as amended)

In justified cases, the NCN may request a statutory auditor to issue an opinion and report on the audit of the financial statements and the undertakings activity.

Oświadczenie o nieotrzymaniu pomocy publicznej na wnioskowane koszty kwalifikowalne [Declaration that the company does not receive State aid to cover the requested eligible costs]obligatory for all undertakings

If the applying entity has not received any other State aid that has gone toward the eligible costs for which State aid is requested, it must present a declaration to that effect. The declaration should include correct undertaking data, consistent with the registry document.

Oświadczenie o kwalifikowalności podatku VAT [Declaration on the eligibility of VAT tax]obligatory for all undertakings

The applying undertaking is not eligible to receive a VAT subsidy for reimbursable VAT that it is legally entitled to reclaim. The reimbursement can be understood both as a deduction of the amount of input tax from output tax, and the repayment of a tax difference or input tax. Accordingly, the undertaking is required to submit a declaration to certify that the amounts listed in the application for funding from the NCN do not include reimbursable VAT. The declaration should include correct undertaking data, consistent with the registry document.

If the amounts do include VAT, the undertaking must explain why VAT in question is not reimbursable and provide the relevant legal basis.

At the same time, it should be noted that by signing the above-mentioned declaration, the undertaking is obliged to notify the NCN without any further delay of any changes that may cause an increase in the amount of reimbursable VAT and to return the relevant amount to the NCN.

Oświadczenie o braku okoliczności wyłączających udzielenie pomocy publicznej na realizację projektu badawczego [Declaration that no circumstances exist to exclude granting of the State aid to cover the project costs] – obligatory for all undertakings

Pursuant to Article 8.1 of the Regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 9 September 2015 on the terms and mode of granting State aid via the National Science Centre, the NCN cannot grant State aid in the cases specified in Article 1(2), Article 1(3), Article 1(4)(c) and Article 1(5) of Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014.

Accordingly, the applicant may not apply for aid:

  • for export-related activities toward third countries or Member States, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network, or to other current costs linked to the export activity
  • contingent upon the use of domestic over imported goods.
  • granted in the sector of processing and marketing of agricultural products, in the following cases:
  • where the amount of the aid is fixed on the basis of the price or quantity of such products purchased from primary producers or put on the market by the undertakings concerned; or
  • where the aid is conditional on being partly or entirely passed on to primary producers.

Moreover, aid cannot be granted to an undertaking “in difficulty” within the understanding of Article 2(18) of Commission Regulation (EU) No 651/2014.

In addition, pursuant to Article 7 of the Regulation, the NCN cannot grant aid to an undertaking specified in Article 25 (1) of the Act on Proceedings in Cases Involving State Aid of 30 April 2004, i.e. to an undertaking liable to repay the State aid in cases where the Commission has deemed it as repayable.

Accordingly, all entities applying for State aid are required to submit a declaration to certify that the above-mentioned circumstances, which would disqualify them for aid, do not exist. The declaration must provide correct undertaking data, consistent with the registry document.

Informacja dotycząca amortyzacji aparatury wraz z podaniem stawek amortyzacyjnych [Information pertaining to equipment depreciation costs, including depreciation rates] – applies to entities applying for aid toward the purchase of equipment

Eligible costs include the cost of research equipment and instruments within the scope and over the timeframe in which they are used for the implementation of the research project. Where such instruments and equipment are not used for their full life for the project, only the depreciation costs corresponding to the life of the project, as calculated on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles are considered as eligible.

This means that an applicant planning to purchase research equipment should specify whether the instruments in question will be used for the purposes of the research project over the entire span of full life in accordance with accounting regulations. An attachment should be added to describe the manner in which the cost of the research equipment to be purchased has been estimated (specifying the price of the given tangible asset, the duration of the research project, the equipment's full life and the depreciation rate). The declaration should provide correct undertaking data, consistent with the registry document.

Oświadczenie dotyczące współpracy przedsiębiorstwa z organizacją prowadzącą badania o niewnoszeniu przez tą organizację wkładu finansowego na rzecz realizacji projektu badawczego [Declaration that the research organisation cooperating with the company does not financially contribute towards the project costs] – applies to undertakings cooperating with research organisations

If the applying entity conducts the research project in cooperation with a research organisation, it should certify that the collaboration will meet at least one of the conditions specified in points 28 (a) – (d) of the Framework for State Aid for Research, Development and Innovation (OJ C 198, 27.6.201, pp. 1-29). This condition is necessary to confirm that the research organisation does not contribute financially toward the implementation of the project.

In accordance with Point 28 of the Framework, where collaboration projects are carried out jointly by undertakings and research organisations or research infrastructures, the Commission considers that no indirect State aid is awarded to the participating undertakings through those entities due to favourable conditions of the collaboration if one of the following conditions is fulfilled:

  • the participating undertakings bear the full cost of the project, or
  • the results of the collaboration which do not give rise to IPR may be widely disseminated and any IPR resulting from the activities of research organisations or research infrastructures are fully allocated to those entities, or
  • any IPR resulting from the project, as well as related access rights are allocated to the different collaboration partners in a manner which adequately reflects their work packages, contributions and respective interests, or
  • the research organisations or research infrastructures receive compensation equivalent to the market price for the IPR which result from their activities and are assigned to the participating undertakings, or to which participating undertakings are allocated access rights. The absolute amount of the value of any contribution, both financial and non-financial, of the participating undertakings to the costs of the research organisations or research infrastructures’ activities that resulted in the IPR concerned, may be deducted from that compensation.

In accordance with the above, undertakings that cooperate with research organisations must prove that their collaboration meets at least one of the above conditions.