The Development Ministry is earmarking 1.25 million euros to help small firms, fledging entrepreneurs and IT companies enhance their competitiveness and modernize their operations. Launching the second phase of the EU-funded Competitiveness Program, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said targeted groups include small and medium-sized enterprises, young entrepreneurs, businesswomen, companies in the energy sector and IT firms. «The Competitiveness Program covers manufacturing, trade, tourism, energy, technology and aims to boost productivity principally in the provinces and help companies become more productive, more competitive by using new technology,» he said. The biggest outlay, 470 million euros, will be allocated to companies focusing on renewable energy sources in line with Greece’s objective of promoting the use of green energy. Sixteen other projects set out under the program will disburse funds to companies seeking to upgrade their technology or operations, young entrepreneurs and women setting up business for the first time, and firms involved in R&D or IT projects. Tsochadzopoulos said response to the first leg of the Competitiveness Program, launched a year and a half ago, had been very encouraging. Slightly more than 9,000 applications were made to the ministry for funding, of which 4,854 were approved and 2 billion euros subsequently disbursed. A third of the 1,000 applications made by businesswomen and some 400 bids from young entrepreneurs were approved. Seventy percent of funds disbursed to date have gone to regions outside Attica.