Celje, 10 September (STA) - The Slovenian Enterprise Fund, which provides small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) with funds for investments on favourable terms, plans to change its policy next year so as to encourage innovative companies which generate high added value, rather than growth in the number of new companies. Economy Ministry State Secretary Darja Radic told a press conference of the International Trade Fair in Celje on Thursday that the fund would shift support for SMEs from subsidies to bank loan guarantees, interest rate subsidies and funds for investment. The beneficiaries will have to repay the funds after a certain period of time. Under current plans, the fund will support about 2,500 innovative projects until 2013, offering SMEs some EUR 528.5m. Radic explained that this year the Enterprise Fund had subsidised interest rates and the purchase of technological equipment, as well as the start-up of innovative incubator companies. "A crisis is the time to invest in company development. We were quite surprised at the number of applications with good projects answering our calls. Since we did not want good projects to end up unrealised, we raised the funds by EUR 50m," Radic said. Enterprise Fund director Maja Tomanic said its goal was a 10% increase in added value per employed, which currently stands at EUR 29,513, while the EU's average is EUR 36,400. The fund carried out three-year monitoring of the companies that have received its development funds, establishing that 60% of the companies had met the planned goals, while 20% trumped them and 5% failed to meet them. The fund backed 358 novice entrepreneurs in 2006-2009. The fund has offered EUR 98.7m in favourable loans in calls for applications this year, and has so far approved EUR 86.4m for 617 projects. The remaining funds are to be distributed next week. A new call is planned for SMEs to vie for EUR 82m in potential bank loan guarantees and EUR 15m in interest rate subsidies, to be available from October and throughout 2010.