Competitiveness & Growth

As the economy rebounds from last year’s contraction, our intention is to make every effort to boost the competitiveness of European businesses locally, and the European economy globally. Throughout 2021, we have channelled growth financing to European entrepreneurs and SMEs, fuelling the recovery and helping them keep up with the pace.

Ensuring that European businesses are not obliged to look outside Europe for financial support when it comes to scaling and internationalising is a major challenge and one that the EIF is tackling with zest. We are committed to building and improving the financing ecosystem for European scale-ups and have been making tangible progress in that direction across Europe and via bespoke instruments to support specific regions.

This has been pursued using a wide array of different instruments in our arsenal, ranging from EU guarantee instruments, strong backing from the EIB using Risk Capital Resources (RCR) in equity transactions, close cooperation with NPIs on both the debt and equity fronts, and of course through the use of the Asset Management Umbrella Fund (AMUF) resources to attract private investors into the SME financing space, which is starting to yield good results.

At the same time, strengthening the securitisation market remains a priority for the EIF and an important way to help mitigate the negative economic effects of the pandemic and facilitate the flow of funds to the real economy.

Financing growth

Addressing the so-called second valley of death - when a company reaches the scale-up stage in its lifecycle - is something that we have been focusing on alongside our partners at the EC.

Last year we launched the European Scale-up Action for Risk Capital (ESCALAR) initiative that aimed specifically at providing financing for companies in the growth stage of their trajectory, to allow them to scale successfully. The aim was to provide additional funding to VC and lower mid-market intermediaries investing in scale-ups, to support the continued growth of their portfolio companies.

Throughout 2021 we deployed €150m in four growth-stage VC funds covering various European regions, leveraging up to €750m in scale-up financing.

In Spain, we invested €30m of ESCALAR resources into Suma Capital Growth II Plus FCRE, a generalist private equity fund focusing on supporting businesses in the scale-up phase of their development. The transaction has helped build a total fund size of €88m that will in turn support Spanish founders and entrepreneurs in their growth and professionalisation plans.

And in Poland, we invested EUR 30m in bValue Growth Fund, a private equity fund focusing on latestage venture and growth investments in scale-up companies active in the technology, software, business services and digital transformation sectors. This investment will support an emerging manager dedicated to improving access to finance for companies looking to scale-up their business model via the digitalisation of processes, in a region where the private equity market remains underserved.

Several other mandates and transactions have had a specific focus on businesses in the growth stage of their life-cycle. For example, we committed €40m of EGF resources in DeA Sviluppo Sostenibile, an Italian fund providing equity financing mainly to Italian companies active across a wide range of high-growth sectors, supporting them in their internationalisation and M&A processes. The fund has placed ESG topics at the core of its operational strategy and internal processes and the EIF cornerstone investment helped catalyse other LPs so that DeA Sviluppo Sostenibile could realise its ambition to create a long-lasting positive social impact through sustainable growth, digitalisation and internalisation.

In November, we committed €50m to the Austrian Growth Capital Fund, drawing €35m from EGF resources and €15m from the Central Europe Fund of Funds (CEFoF). The Austrian Growth Capital Fund is a private equity fund investing in the lower mid-market in the DACH and CEE regions, with a main focus on Austria. Its objective is to invest in majority or significant minority equity stakes in 10-12 asset-light companies across healthcare and medical technology, IT and software, industrial technology, energy and resource efficiency, digitalisation and automation and B2B services.

German Future Fund (GFF)

In March 2021, we joined forces with the German government to secure growth- and later-stage financing for German start-ups, in an effort to tackle the over-reliance on funding from outside Europe when it comes to scaling-up and internationalising.

The GFF-EIF Growth Facility is a new equity mandate deployed by the EIF and forms part of the €10bn GFF launched and backed by the German government. It has a volume of up to €3.5bn, funded from the GFF administered by KfW and KfW Capital, with systematic co-investments from the European Recovery Programme (ERP) Special Fund and the EIF.

The programme is designed as part of the broader ambition to sustain the development of a pan-European ecosystem that is able to back European businesses as they seek to internationalise and take to the global arena.

By the end of the year, the GFF-EIF Growth Facility had already provided €212m to seven portfolio funds for investment in German growth companies. Including other mandates advised or managed by the EIF, total commitments to these funds stand at €405m.

As the successor programme of the ERP-EIF Growth Facility, the GFF-EIF Growth Facility will be able to invest in new growth funds with relevance for Germany for a period of 10 years.

Dutch Alternative Credit Instrument

Meanwhile in the Netherlands we launched the Dutch Alternative Credit Instrument (DACI), a joint initiative with Invest-NL to support private credit in the country. It is a fund of funds investing in both selective and diversified debt funds, thereby providing access to alternative sources of financing for Dutch SMEs. The initial commitment is €200m, comprising contributions by Invest-NL and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of €50m each, matched by EIF resources. DACI aims to provide growth financing and working capital to SMEs in the Netherlands. By working with non-bank financiers, DACI seeks to bring further diversity and to strengthen the resilience of the SME financing landscape in the Netherlands. Especially for smaller loans, non-bank financiers often have an important role in the market.

AMUF: connecting with institutional investors²

AMUF has proven very successful in meeting growing institutional demand for access to the European private equity market, enabling institutional investors to gain exposure to strong European private equity and VC managers, ultimately boosting investment in innovative start-up and scale-up companies across Europe.

In 2021, the first three AMUF compartments (Growth; Tech VC; and Life Science VC) completed their deployment following successful fundraising. With €613m raised, they are now fully committed to 49 private equity/venture capital funds. These have in turn invested in over 850 underlying portfolio companies, of which 77% in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), generating an impressive performance with, notably, an IRR well above 30% for the Tech VC compartment.

The AMUF investment strategy of selecting fund managers that will generate strong returns and attract institutional investors is starting to bear fruit. Several unicorns and IPOs already feature across the portfolio, including Wolt, the Finnish food delivery scale-up, acquired by DoorDash for €7bn. These portfolio company successes are enabling funds in which the EIF participated to see huge uplifts on their initial investments.

In parallel, a first detailed AMUF Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report, based on questions answered by the fund managers, has been provided to AMUF investors. This report highlights our ESG commitment and is expected to play a key role in developing impact measurement going forward.

Finally, secondaries are an integral component of an effective private equity strategy. Since 2015, the EIF has been an active player in the secondary market, on both sell- and buy-side transactions. Secondary transactions have also been pursued through AMUF, which saw its European secondaries compartment reach a first closing totalling €42m in October 2021 and complete its first investment in December.

2. The Asset Management Umbrella Fund (AMUF) offers institutional investors the opportunity to invest in the most promising venture capital, private equity and secondary funds in the EIF’s portfolio. By channelling private investment into our best-performing funds, we are ensuring the sustainable, long-term supply of capital to European SMEs.

“The AMUF/SDUF funds are a challenge for us in the sense that it’s still a relatively new, nascent type of business. But I think there’s a very interesting future in such blending of public and private resources. It gives access to the European PE/VC scene to institutional investors who are very happy with the exposure, and of course it means fresh injections of support for European businesses.”

Rémi Charrier EIF

Behring: pure for sure


Grenoble, France

Financial Intermediary


EIF financing


Financing purpose

growth, product development

Number of employees


“A bottle of water could travel 800km to reach you, and even if you opt to recycle it, it will have to travel 800 more. Our products bacteriologically purify the water that reaches your water dispenser, with no need for plastic.”

Xavier Pellet



The RCR mandate, a core pillar in the EIB Group’s equity strategy, has continued to play an instrumental role in expanding the EIF’s activities and in helping to bridge market gaps in SME finance.

In 2021, we supported 45 funds in all four corners of the continent with €739m from the RCR mandate. This includes transactions in Belgium, with Vortex Capital Partners Fund III, a fund that targets the technology and technology-enabled sectors, and the Czech Republic, with Genesis Private Equity Fund IV, a generalist lower midmarket fund.

Going forward, RCR will be key to achieving our PPGs. The mandate will have a stronger policy angle with increased focus on sustainability and green transformation. Our intention is to direct a significant portion of new RCR investments over the next few years towards clean-tech and climate action-related equity funds. For this purpose, €1bn has been set aside to support the EIB’s Climate Bank Roadmap.

In December we signed a €20m transaction with Verdane Idun I, the first impact fund raised by this established manager. The fund is focusing on growth and impact investments in tech-enabled scale-ups based in Northern Europe. Investee companies must be aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and address thematics such as energy transition, sustainable consumption and resilient communities.

Continued cooperation with NPIs

The EIF has a long history of institutional and operational cooperation with National Promotional Institutions, with whom we share similar public policy objectives.

One of the most recent developments in our relationship with NPIs concerns a new model of cooperation called “partial delegation”. In 2021 Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) became the first partner for the new model. Back in 2016, the EIF had established a tech transfer partnership with CDP on a full delegation model basis with the launch of the ITAtech platform. This new first partial delegation agreement with CDP is a continuation of that partnership but on different terms: CDP will act as LP in its own right alongside the EIF and in that way be more directly involved in supporting tech transfer in Italy.

Guarantee instruments

Since the beginning of the crisis, guarantees have emerged as one of the preferred credit-support instruments within government-SME support programmes. The total number of supported SMEs also reached the highest-ever registered level. Unsurprisingly, as for most products offered by the EIF, the demand for debt has continued to increase sharply throughout 2021.

It would have been difficult to predict how successful COSME LGF would be when we first launched it. Seven years down the line, it has gone far beyond expectations as the programme has now guaranteed over 1,000,000 loans to SMEs.

By year-end, over €67bn worth of financing had been generated through 128 financial intermediaries in support of higher risk SMEs in 35 countries.

The Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) will be one of the largest programmes under the new Next Generation EU instrument amounting to €50.6bn. It aims to provide additional resources to support Member States and regions most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

In Région Occitanie, with more than €900m of support already provided to 6,000 SMEs, the region decided to add €25m from the REACT-EU facility to the Fonds Occitanie de Soutien Territorial aux Entreprises Régionales (FOSTER) fund of funds as extra support. At least 50% of this amount will be deployed through subordinated loans.

Elsewhere in France, an increase of €60m of new loans to farmers and small agricultural SMEs was added to the Région Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie agricultural mandate, showcasing good absorption and strong market appetite for the resources.

And in the Grand Est region, the EIF will be managing a new €60m Prêt Participatif instrument launched in 2021 to support the key priority of the regional flagship COVID-19 recovery programme while also strongly contributing to SMEs’ competitiveness and growth in the region.

Further south, the Cyprus Entrepreneurship Fund (CYPEF) programme, which was set up in Cyprus to implement a national scheme for facilitating access to finance and improving funding conditions for entrepreneurs and SMEs, has been a success. Absorption is currently at 98.5% of the assigned funds, mobilising more than €136m in disbursements to 456 Cypriot businesses. In the context of the crisis and related public finance intervention, the Cypriot government approved €200m of additional resources as a top-up to CYPEF, entrusting the EIF to continue its successful implementation and to contribute to the competitiveness and growth objectives of local SMEs. The mandate size will reach €270m with the additional funds, envisaging a total portfolio of €540m worth of financing for Cypriot businesses.

Strengthening the securitisation market

The EIF has continued to bolster its securitisation activity, expanding in particular to new geographies. Through the EGF’s securitisation mandate, we were able to help originate new, riskier lending by financial intermediaries to SMEs through four initial agreements concluded in December, namely with BBVA (Spain), Banco BPM (Italy), Santander Leasing (Poland) and Eurobank (Greece). Aiming to free up lending capacity and ensure that resources are shifted towards SME loans, these first four pioneer transactions represent €370m worth of commitments from the EGF’s total €1.4m securitisation envelope and constitute useful precedents to guide us towards full deployment by mid-2022.

This year we also concluded a transaction with Aquisgrán, a securitisation fund promoted by SGR-CESGAR and also supported by the Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), to improve access to credit for Spanish self-employed professionals and SMEs, diversifying their sources of financing beyond traditional banking channels. Aquisgrán opens a new approach to SME financing in Europe that could be scaled to allow investors to achieve direct exposure to SMEs. SMEs will have access to loans of around €100,000 on average, guaranteed by SGR and benefiting as well from a counter-guarantee from CERSA. The loans will be funded by the issuance of €150m in bonds, progressively subscribed by ICO and fully guaranteed by the EIF. This platform will also specifically provide support to SMEs contributing to sustainability and green transformation, reaffirming the EIF’s fundamental climate-focused objectives going forward.

CGTrader: global 3D model marketplace


Vilnius, Lithuania

Financial Intermediary

Karma Ventures

EIF financing

Baltic Innovation Fund

Financing purpose

scale-up; hiring staff

Number of employees


“We needed a big boost to develop our platform further and most importantly to attract top level talent.”

Dalia Lasaite

Co-founder and CEO

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