Spirit Slovenia, the national business development agency, has been around in its current form for ten years. One of its main tasks is to attract foreign direct investment. Its director Rok Capl says it was successful in that last year despite a challenging international environment.
“We managed to get 30 new potential greenfield investors last year. We detected 18 new business-expansion investment projects in companies with foreign capital that are already present in Slovenia,” he says.
Three greenfield projects – a type of foreign direct investment in which a company creates a subsidiary in a different country and builds its operations from the ground up – were recorded and 13 business-expansion projects were confirmed, of which several are still in the decision-making phase.
The estimated value of the newly confirmed investments (greenfield and expansions) is €460 million, which includes the recently announced investment of pharma company Lek in Lendava. Together, these investments are expected to create over 1,100 jobs, according to Capl.
These figures are estimates since companies often do not reveal all investment data, preferring to keep them a trade secret.
“Lately we have been noticing that expansions are less about adding jobs and more automation and productivity improvements. It is a trend that is largely the consequence of the unavailability of skilled labour,” Capl says.
Favourable FDI trends
Overall, Capl says the trends regarding foreign direct investment have been favourable over the past decade. Most of the demand is coming from the EU, in particular markets which know Slovenia and the benefits of its investment environment well. The trend has been stable and shows that investors see Slovenia as a suitable location for their investment projects.
“Since 2016, Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland have retained their places as the biggest investors. Germany was in fourth place until 2020, but it was taken over in 2021 by Croatia, which increased the value of investments by €706 million over the year before. This is the biggest increase in nominal terms any country has ever recorded in a single year,” Capl notes.
Helping Slovenian companies a major task as well
Another major area that Spirit works on is helping Slovenian companies in their forays to foreign markets. The national internationalisation strategy designates markets within a 2,000-kilometre radius as the priority. These include Germany, Croatia, Austria, France and Poland, which together account for significantly more than half of all Slovenian exports.
While focusing on markets in closer proximity, Slovenia has recently also been eyeing markets further afield such as the United States, the Middle East and Japan. Accordingly, Spirit will organise presentations and business meetings in these markets, says Capl.
As part of these efforts, Spirit leads Slovenia’s presentations at world Expositions. The last Expo, in Dubai, was the largest presentation of Slovenia and its economy to date; its pavilion attracted nearly a million visitors, more than 200 events were organised, and over 600 companies participated in 34 business delegations.
“The successful presentation is already producing results in the form of Slovenian companies’ cooperation with companies from the Middle East and the far East,” Capl says.
Aid disbursement during crisis
During the current energy crisis Spirit was also tasked with disbursing some of the state aid. Last year alone it allocated €39 million, which Capl says helped many companies survive the crisis.
The agency has also started implementing measures in the framework of the national Recovery and Resilience Plan, so far concluding agreements worth €118 million and paying out nearly €4 million so far.
Additionally, over €188 million in incentives are currently available for the transition to a circular economy, R&D projects, pilot demo projects and investment projects.