Skočiť na hlavný obsah





The Smart&Start Italia programme provides interest-free loans to innovative start-ups. The scheme is open to all, but offers preferential terms to women, youth, recent PhD graduates and entrepreneurs in less developed regions. The programme is managed by the Italian National Agency for Inward Investment and Economic Development, Invitalia.



The current Smart&Start programme was created in 2015. It seeks to strengthen the Italian economy by stimulating innovative entrepreneurship, particularly in less developed regions and among women, youth and recent PhD graduates. A previous version of the programme targeting only regions in the South of Italy was launched in 2013.


Kľúčové aktivity

Smart&Start Italia offers interest free loans to pre-start-up entrepreneurs and young start-ups (under 60 months old), for projects costing between EUR 100 000 and EUR 1.5 million. Smart&Start has a total budget of EUR 200 million.

To be eligible, start-ups must be innovative, and (i) have a strong technical dimension, (ii) operate in the digital economy or (iii) be spin-offs from research. Candidates apply online. Support is available to candidates requiring additional help to fill out the application. The scheme is not competitive, applications are reviewed in chronological order and evaluated based on the viability of their business plan within 60 days of submission. Successful candidates receive an interest-free loan of up to 80% of the total investment, or up to 90% if the start-up is (i) composed exclusively of women or people under 35 years old, or (ii) engages a recent (less than six years) Italian PhD graduate returning to Italy for the project. The loan may be used to cover investments into the business (e.g. machinery, software and hardware, intellectual property, personnel cost, advice) as well as operating costs (e.g. raw materials, rent and hosting). The funding is disbursed in instalments over 24 months and must be repaid within 10 years after the disbursement of the last tranche. A non-repayable grant of 30% of the loan is granted to start-ups operating in less developed regions of Italy (with support from EU Structural Funds).

In addition, start-ups in operation for less than one year are offered technical and management support. The support includes mentoring by a relevant expert and personalised trainings on topics of interest to the company through webinars. A point of contact at Invitalia monitors the process to ensure the start-up’s needs are met.

How did the programme adapt to the pandemic? To mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on innovative start-ups, the Italian government launched the Relaunch Fund in October 2020. The fund targets firms with growth potential (i.e. with a potential for revenue and employment growth, a sustainable three-year business plan, and strategic partnerships, contracts, or intellectual property). During its first six months of operation, the fund focused on supporting start-ups that qualified for Smart&Start in the first half or 2020 as well as businesses that experienced a reduction in turnover of at least 30% when compared to 2019.  


Between its introduction in 2015 to June 2021, Smart&Start Italy had invested EUR 591 million into the development of 1 213 innovative start-ups, which created 7 420 jobs.  As of 2018, the programme was deemed successful as it had reached its participation targets (number of beneficiaries). The programme also collected success stories of successful entrepreneurs. The provision of technical support to new start-ups in addition to funding is considered an important factor for the success of the scheme.