The Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) has launched a funding scheme targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) intended to aid the local uptake of cybersecurity solutions.

CYBER+ALT ‘Agħżel Li Tipproteġi’ has a total budget of €2,000000, co-funded by the European Union under the Digital Europe Programme, whereby €1,000,000 are EU funds and €1,000,000 are national funds.

In the European Commission’s (EC) annual report on European SMEs 2021/2022, on the state of digitalisation of SMEs, the EC noted that the key barriers to the digitalisation of SMEs include a lack of internal financial funds; a lack of access to finance; a lack of public financial support; and the risk of security breaches.

A study conducted by MITA in the third quarter of 2022 to gain a better understanding of the Maltese business community’s overall maturity of cybersecurity and their funding needs found that 48 per cent of respondents do not have a dedicated cybersecurity function.

Of those respondents, 71 per cent said that they have no budget available for cybersecurity related measures, a further 22 per cent have a budget of less than €10,000, and only seven per cent have a budget ranging from €10,000 to €50,000.

The study’s findings clearly underline the lack of cybersecurity investment amongst local SMEs, with a lack of financing options being the main challenge amongst respondents without a cybersecurity function.

As a result of these findings, on 5th June 2023 the National Cybersecurity Coordination Centre of Malta (NCC-MT), under the auspices of MITA, launched CYBER+ALT ‘Agħżel Li Tipproteġi’.

The scheme will remain open until 29th December 2023, or an earlier date depending on absorption of funds.

The scheme shall be managed on a demand driven basis. The NCC-MT shall issue four public open calls (open rolling-calls) for interested eligible undertakings to submit their applications, cut-off dates being 20th July 2023, 14th September 2023, 9th November 2023, and 29th December 2023.

These applications will be assessed and evaluated by a dedicated committee, where eligible applications scoring at least 50 per cent of the selection criteria shall be awarded the grant.

Grants shall be awarded on a first come first served basis, subject to budget availability.

The aid intensity applied is 80 per cent whereby the maximum grant that an SME can benefit from is €60,000. The investment project proposal must include a comprehensive budget breakdown that in total amounts to at least €20,000 to be eligible for funding. Eligible projects will receive a pre-financing aid of 20 per cent and the remaining 80 per cent will be reimbursed upon full completion of project. Implementation of projects should be completed by not later than 30th September 2024.

Such investment should result in the SME advancing the status of its existing cybersecurity capacity through the implementation of new solutions that must be focused on at least one of the five investment areas: vulnerability management, identity and access management, end-to-end data protection, threat detection and response, and enhanced cloud-based platform security.

For each, eligible costs include cybersecurity solutions; hardware; subscriptions, license fees and managed services; staff training; and implementation.

Information on the scheme is available in the dedicated page on the NCC-MT website. Applications can only be submitted online through the dedicated NCC Funding Application Portal accessible here.

An information session specifically on this scheme will be held on Friday, 7th July 2023, which will allow interested applicants to follow a thorough explanation of the scheme, as well as ask questions. The NCC-MT is collaborating with Servizzi Ewropej f’Malta (SEM) in this respect and any queries are to be addressed to info.sem@gov.mt.

This article is co-funded by the European Union.

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