Moroccan innovation centre aids start-ups
By Rachid Jankari for Magharebia in Casablanca – 11/10/11
The Moroccan government offers assistance to small enterprises helping to expand the national economy. The Moroccan Innovation Centre (CMI) is designed to support businesses in critical sectors to implement new projects.
The CMI was founded in July by the industry ministry, finance ministry and the National Agency for the Promotion of SMEs (ANPME), on the principle that encouraging innovation helps to stimulate job creation and foster a culture of entrepreneurship.
"Specifically, the purpose of this public centre is to provide funding to young medium-sized Moroccan companies so that they can invest in high-priority global sectors with a view to national development, namely off-shoring, automotive, aerospace, electronics, textiles and the agro-food industry," CMI chief Samir El Aichaoui explained during a presentation about the new body given to companies based at the Casablanca Technopark.
With a three-year budget of 450 million dirhams (40 million euros), the centre forms an integral part of the "Innovation Morocco" plan, which was launched in 2009 with the goal of promoting cutting edge ideas by providing funds to businesses with innovative projects.
Information technologies are another key aspect of the centre's work. The agency seeks to support ventures involving a variety technology, including mobile phones, video games, Arabic content, e-government, electronic payments, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
The centre has two programmes designed to help entrepreneurs. The first, Intilak ("launch"), supports development of innovative start-ups that are less than two years old by granting interest-free loans and advances that must be repaid over a five-year period if the business is successful. This support mechanism will cost up to one million dirhams.
"The financing will support innovation when a business is developing by taking risks associated with innovative projects. Up to 90% of financing requirements will be met," El Aichaoui said.
The second programme launched by the CMI is called Tatwir ("development"). It is aimed at businesses that are more than two years old and will provide them with up to 50% of the funding they need for research and development (R&D) projects.
The R&D sector in Morocco is growing steadily, with the level of investment in this area now equivalent to nearly 1% of GDP. To request funding, young entrepreneurs pursuing innovative projects can download application forms directly from cmi.net.ma.
In addition to the CMI, this year has also seen the launch of a software centre that will support innovation in the field of software research and development.
"This software development centre will help companies in the information technology sector by enabling them to produce innovative software cheaply," said Jamal Benhamou, the head of the centre, which is located in Rabat within the National Post and Telecommunications Institute (INPT). The software centre seeks to harness the skills of researchers, PhD students and engineering students at universities across Morocco.
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