More than 40% of Finnish enterprises operate in the rural areas. A third of the farms engage in some other business besides agriculture. Diverse entrepreneurship that is also capable of renewal is the foundation of viable rural areas and their further progress. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry promotes the profitable and sustainable growth of rural enterprises and cooperation between them with the aim to further reinforce rural entrepreneurship. The objective is to create new jobs both in the enterprises already in operation and through new business activities.
Rural entrepreneurship is promoted under the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland. Part of the funding comes from the State budget and part from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development EAFRD, which is one of the European Structural and Investment Funds. As the Managing Authority for the programmme the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for the planning of the measures and the related legislation. The programme objectives are based on the Europe 2020 strategy and national strategies. At the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry a special focus is on promoting the bioeconomy and programmes on organic and local food.
Financing for enterprises under the Rural Development Programme
Under the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland 2014–2020 funding for investments may be granted to small enterprises with fewer than 50 employees operating in the rural areas (investment support). Financing for investments aimed to improve productivity and product quality may be granted to SMEs with fewer than 250 employees that process agricultural products (Annex I) independent of whether or not they are located in the rural areas. Financing may also be granted for setting up a new business in the countryside (business start up aid). To help in starting a business there is an electronic business planning board, which can be accessed by registering at My Enterprise Finland.
Eligibility for this funding is not conditional on engaging in agricultural activities besides other business. The main criterion is that the business contributes to the viability of the rural area and brings new opportunities to earn a living. The criteria for assessing the applications and more information on the support for enterprises are available at the Finnish Agency for Rural Affairs website.
Applications for funding are submitted to the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment or the Leader group in whose area the business is located. You may access the contact details of the Centre or Leader group according to your home municipality.
The applicants use the online service Hyrrä for filing the applications. Before doing this they are advised to contact the nearest Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment or Leader group. More information on the development needs in individual regions and specification of the eligible areas is available in the regional development strategies and plans.
To find out about other sources of funding for rural enterprises you may visit the Enterprise Finland online service. Conducting a development survey at My Enterprise Finland makes it easier to find suitable funding for an enterprise already in operation.