Cohesion & Regional
In a year marked by closed borders, suspended economic activity across all countries and social dislocation hitting the EU at its core, we have remained engaged in supporting Europe’s regions. Building on our close relationships with national and regional authorities, and also national promotional institutions, the EIF has continued to deliver financial solutions to local challenges across Europe.
We have remained fully committed to working towards economic and social cohesion across the EU and helping to ensure Europe’s competitiveness on the global scene. In this context, we have supported entrepreneurs in all four corners of the continent, expanding our outreach to previously underserved regions and encouraging sustainable growth and employment throughout the EU.
We have signed new agreements with institutions in the Netherlands and Portugal, to bolster financing for SMEs, while existing programmes in Croatia, Greece and Malta have been performing well. Ensuring that public resources travel further, we have been carefully reinvesting the reflows generated by the JEREMIE instruments in Bulgaria, Greece and Romania to reinject resources back into the market, boosting much needed financial support in these regions.
In parallel, in France, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Romania we have helped farmers survive a difficult year through various agricultural mandates, while beyond EU borders, our work with our neighbours has continued: our Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Initiative East Guarantee Facility and Western Balkans Enterprise Development & Innovation Facility have been mobilised to offer much-needed support to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reflows: amplifying our impact
One of the advantages of financial instruments is the ability to use reflows. Public resources can be invested using financial instruments, maximising impact by crowding-in private resources and leveraging more funds. When equity investments are exited and loans repaid, those resources (reflows) become available again for new investments. 2020 saw significant reflow activity in several financial instruments, ensuring that each euro travelled further.
The JEREMIE-Bulgaria instrument invested EUR 330m through two debt and three equity instruments, reaching around 9,000 Bulgarian SMEs. Accumulated reflows from the original JEREMIE-Bulgaria instrument have already exceeded EUR 200m - and there will be more to come.
In April 2020, using EUR 80m from these recycled resources, the Bulgarian government and the EIF agreed to boost support for small businesses, to help them weather the COVID-19 crisis. This took the form of a new guarantee facility providing working capital to local companies. For the first time, the facility will also guarantee factoring transactions. It will ultimately help Bulgarian SMEs and small mid-caps absorb liquidity shocks and declines in revenues and production volumes.
By end-2020, six transactions with Bulgarian banks had been signed, expected to generate, in total, up to EUR 800m of new financing.
This year also saw the first closing of a EUR 44m fund, LAUNCHub Fund II, in which the EIF is participating by combining EUR 12m from JEREMIE reflows with EUR 8m from the InnovFin Equity (IFE) mandate.
This is the first multi-country fund based in Sofia, the first such example of blended finance in Bulgaria, and the first time a fund in Bulgaria is backed by a majority of private limited partners.
“I think that the fact that the LAUNCHub team is successfully raising its second fund is proof that venture capital has become an asset class to be reckoned with to support innovation in Bulgaria. It is also a good indicator of how the Bulgarian VC/PE ecosystem has matured over the past few years.”
Signed in 2007, the JEREMIE instrument invested EUR 198.8m in more than 2,850 companies through its loans and equity products. JEREMIE has now returned more than 50% of the initially invested budget (from both equity and loans repayments).
These returns are being re-used to finance new instruments, targeting identified financial gaps in the market, with no burden on the public budget, creating, in reality, a virtuous circle supporting SMEs and the most dynamic part of entrepreneurship in the country – the VC ecosystem.
In particular, with an amount of up to EUR 20m, the reflows will support a Business Angels’ Co-Investment Equity Instrument. Through this initiative, the EIF will support a co-investment fund that will mobilise angel investors, active and potential, to support early ideas and projects and mature them into concrete business opportunities.
Reflows from the JEREMIE-Romania instrument (which generated EUR 668m in support of 7,000 Romanian SMEs through both equity and debt instruments in the 2007-2013 budgetary period) have totalled EUR 150m to date. Using these funds, the EIF, in collaboration with the Romanian government, is deploying new equity and debt instruments to generate much-needed support for small businesses. For this purpose, the EIF’s JEREMIE mandate has also been extended.
In particular, 2020 saw the first closing of a new VC fund, Catalyst II, in which the EIF is participating with EUR 7.5m from IFE and EUR 7.5m from reflows. Catalyst II, with a target size of EUR 40-50m, will focus on tech companies in the growth and expansion stage of their development.
At the same time, the EIF is also looking to make further commitments totalling EUR 40m in several other funds next year.
On the debt side, a new guarantee facility meant to support the internationalisation and diversification of the Romanian economy by improving access to finance for local SMEs has been developed this year and will be launched in 2021. The facility will also aim to help companies tackle financial shocks linked to the COVID-19 crisis, such as reduced revenues and liquidity shortages. An initial commitment of EUR 25m of reflows is envisaged, estimated to generate approximately EUR 125m in new financing.
Future Fund in the Netherlands
The Dutch Future Fund (DFF) is a new initiative launched by the EIF in close collaboration with the Dutch national promotional institution Invest-NL to offer fresh funding to innovative Dutch SMEs.
Both parties agreed to commit EUR 150m, making EUR 300m available to invest in venture and growth capital funds that have a strong commitment to innovative SMEs in the Netherlands. DFF aims to support the Dutch economy and contribute to preparing it for the future by focussing on areas such as digital innovation, artificial intelligence, life sciences and key enabling technologies; as well as thematic objectives such as energy transition, sustainability and the circular economy, all of which are priorities for Netherlands and the EIB Group. The initiative for the Netherlands also aims at supporting companies impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It is expected that the EIF, as the manager of the programme, will be able to construct a balanced portfolio of 15 to 20 funds.
After Dutch Venture Initiative I (DVI-I) and DVI-II, DFF is the third equity fund-of-funds programme implemented by the EIF in the Netherlands.
Aerones: Using robotics to help the environment
Baltic Innovation Fund – BIF; InnovFin Equity; EFSI
scaling the business
Number of employees
“We are building something completely different from the currently available solutions. The wind industry can provide energy for our children. If we can be a part of making renewable energy more accessible even by only 5 percent, that’s already something valuable.”
Equifund in Greece
EquiFund is a EUR 449m risk capital fund-of-funds aiming to develop the equity market in Greece. It brings together funding from ESIF with a Greek contribution, the EIF, EFSI and other market-oriented investors. By the end of 2020, investments from the nine funds supported by Equifund had reached EUR 170m in 114 companies.
The EquiFund fund managers have achieved three major exits in 2020 in which three companies have been successfully sold to larger businesses (two of which to global leaders in their sectors) on terms which secure additional investment and retain associated jobs in Greece. These exits have also resulted in returns to the investors, including the Greek state that is able to use these resources to re-invest in Greek SMEs in the future.
The exit of Think Silicon marked the biggest deep tech start-up exit ever in Greece based on publicly available data, while the exit of Instashop set a new record amount (EUR 360m) for a Greek start-up exit.
Contributing to a sustainable marine environment: Portugal Blue
In October, the EIF and Instituição Financeira de Desenvolvimento (IFD) launched Portugal Blue, a EUR 50m equity partnership to support Portuguese companies active in the area of blue economy.
With the EIF and IFD each contributing EUR 25m, this joint programme is expected to catalyse over EUR 75m worth of investments into up to two funds focused on blue economy with a climate impact and sustainable development objective.
This is the third equity partnership – following Portugal Tech and Portugal Growth – between the EIF and IFD under the EIF-NPI Equity Platform.
Encouraging growth in Croatia
Launched in 2019, the Croatian Growth Investment Programme (CROGIP) is a EUR 70m equity investment programme (topped-up to EUR 80m this year). Despite the restrictions, the EIF and HBOR have pressed ahead with deployment, making commitments to three private equity funds and one co-investment initiative, looking to unlock a total of up to EUR 205m for development and growth of SMEs and smaller mid-caps in Croatia.
Two of these investments were made into first-time teams: Adriatic Structured Equity Fund (EUR 25m), a private equity fund focusing on the lower mid-market; and Croatian Mezzanine Fund (EUR 21m), a mezzanine fund also focusing on the lower mid-market.
Energy efficiency in Malta
In line with the renewed focus on climate action, the Smart Finance for Smart Buildings instrument began deployment through the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Malta (EERE Malta) fund-of-funds. In particular, two transactions were signed with Bank of Valletta and APS Bank that will generate EUR 54m of financing for both households and enterprises for energy efficiency- and renewable energy-related investments.
This new financing is expected to reach between 2000 and 3000 projects across the country.
SME Initiative progressing
Building on its success and last year’s top-ups, the SME Initiative has continued its deployment across six EU Member States, blending national resources (structural funds) with EU programmes like COSME and InnovFin. This year’s highlights include:
- a top-up of EUR 7m in Malta – the second such top-up, expected to increase the total financing envelope for Maltese SMEs from EUR 90m to EUR 118m;
- signatures with five Finnish financial intermediaries, adding to the existing portfolio to make a total of EUR 770m available for Finnish businesses, especially allowing riskier and innovative businesses to receive preferential financing during the COVID-19 crisis; and
- the selection of two additional financial intermediaries in Italy, reconfirming the fruitful collaboration between the EIB Group, the EC and the Italian Ministry of Finance in support of SMEs affected by COVID-19 in the south of Italy.
“Developing regional mandates with new counterparts that we had never met before and could not visit became a challenge. On the other hand, today’s technologies enabled smooth implementation of the existing mandates with all the investors’ meetings shifting online.”
In the context of the EIF-NPI Fund Underwriting Programme, the EIF transferred its first commitments in investment funds to participating NPIs after the funds invested in these NPIs’ reference markets. This was a first concrete step toward linking the EIF’s pan-European pipeline of investments with the investment objectives of our local partners in Europe to support SMEs and mid-caps that are of relevance for their economies.
DCFTA: helping our Eastern neighbours
Under the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Initiative East Guarantee Facility, the EIB Group deploys a capped portfolio guarantee facility for the benefit of SMEs in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in line with the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy.
As of September 2020, through seven financial intermediaries, the instrument has made available 1,871 loans for SMEs worth EUR 242m.
The guarantee facility offers reduced collateral requirements and/or lower financing costs.
In addition, the guarantee facility supports local currency lending with 68% of the entire portfolio of transactions being in local currencies, which is a very important feature in the region in question.
Based on the success of this first phase, and to provide continued support to the Eastern Neighbourhood countries in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the EIB Group and the EC will be launching a second phase of the guarantee facility at the beginning of 2021 – with improved terms and coverage expanded to three more countries.
As part of the "Team Europe COVID response" package designed for the Western Balkans by the EC, the EIF is about to establish a new capped portfolio guarantee facility for the benefit of SMEs in the six Western Balkans economies.
The facility will follow the well-tested toolbox of the guarantee facilities successfully deployed so far under the WB EDIF platform and will be more focused on the type of loans which are most needed by SMEs in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, while at the same time orienting investments towards alignment with the green agenda.
The facility is endowed by the EC with EUR 60m of Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) resources, which the EIF plans to leverage into around EUR 300m of loans for SMEs in the region. Deployment will begin in early 2021.
Meanwhile, as at 30 June 2020, the WB EDIF Guarantee Facility has created SME loan portfolios for an aggregate of EUR 490m - of which EUR 361m has been absorbed and the rest on its way – in support of 3,646 SMEs in the region.
Aphea.Bio: Applied nature for better agriculture
Ghent, East Flanders
RCR/own resources – EFSI
Number of employees
“We all generate way too much waste. We need to think more in terms of the circular economy, to be more realistic about what we are asking for as consumers. And agriculture needs to be more sustainable. As a company, we’re trying to introduce next generation bio-treatments that can help move towards more sustainable agriculture.”
CEO & co-founder
Agricultural mandates: recognising the strategic importance of agriculture
Through the EIF’s financial instrument implementation, we have built a significant portfolio of investments across the agricultural value chain. 225,000 farmers and agri-businesses have benefited from this support. The large majority of this financing has come from central mandates, such as COSME and InnovFin, but national and regional mandates have become more and more important.
In most Member States, the detailed market testing which the EIF has carried out has fully warranted the need for financial instruments facilitating access to finance, particularly for riskier projects and for final recipients lacking sufficient collateral.
Last year we signed Initiative Nationale pour l’Agriculture Française (INAF), a new mandate to guarantee portfolios of new loans and leases to French farmers. INAF blends funds from the French government’s Investment Plan 2018-22 with EFSI resources and is managed by the EIF on behalf of the French Ministry of Agriculture.
In less than a year, more than 800 farmers have already been supported on very competitive terms for an amount of EUR 200m.
FOSTER AGRI is a EUR 27m financial instrument dedicated to rural development in the south-western regions of France. Launched in 2015 it was set up to help improve access to finance to SMEs in the agricultural sector. Despite the pandemic, 2020 was an exceptional year for FOSTER AGRI with more than 620 farmers benefiting from support worth EUR 70m.
As anticipated, the Alter’NA initiative has been enabling the transition to sustainable agriculture for many farmers. After just one year of implementation, EUR 45m were disbursed to about 250 farmers. Alongside mandate management and monitoring, the EIF has developed, in close collaboration with EIB Advisory Services, a digital platform aimed at disseminating the programme throughout the region and enabling potential final recipients (and financial intermediaries) to assess the eligibility of their investments.