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December 09, 2011

New financing stream for SME research & innovation

A new guarantee facility to assist innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with accessing finance for investment in research and innovation activities was launched by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) on 5 December. The risk-sharing instrument (RSI) for SMEs is modeled on the success of the large-scale Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) under the 7th Research Framework Programme as a means of unlocking significant new investment for firms.

The RSI version will be managed by the European Investment Fund (EIF) which will provide participating banks with
guarantees covering specific lending to SMEs undertaking research, development or innovation, for investments in assets (tangible or intangible) and/or working capital. The loans and leases may amount to between EUR25,000 and EUR7.5 million (an average of EUR2.4 million is estimated in each case with repayment periods over two to seven years. This will have the effect of freeing up more affordable lending. It is being particularly aimed towards enabling dynamic and fast-growing start-up SMEs to grow their businesses.

It is intended to expand the scheme from 2014 onwards as part of the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research & Innovation. In the meantime, up to EUR1.2 billion is expected to be unlocked by banks for SME use over the next two years.

Additionally, the EIB and the Commission will provide EUR300 million for research infrastructure.

Further details: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/1505&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Posted by iroronan at December 9, 2011 12:01 PM

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December 05, 2011

Maritime & Fisheries fund unveiled

On 2 December, the European Commission proposed that, of a total budget of EUR7.5 billion to be directed to fisheries and maritime affairs for 2014-2020, EUR6.5 billion would be earmarked for the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The new fund expands the range of the current European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which will run its course in 2013.

The EMFF is geared to address the ambitious sustainability requirements recommended in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which is currently under negotiation, as well as taking account of the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. As such, with the intention of contributing to vibrant employment creation, it will prioritise investments related to incentivising the transition to sustainable fishing practices to reverse declines in stocks; energy efficiency and reduction of the carbon footprint; environmental protection of marine ecosystems including through scientific input; improved product quality; and quality of life in coastal areas.

Almost EUR5 billion of the total is reserved for supporting fisheries, aquaculture and the bottom-up local development of coastal communities. This is to cover social and economic activities in the form of aid for small-scale fishing; training and investments in safety and improved working conditions; and diversification of maritime activities, including tourism, catering and added-value products. By contrast, a number of previously-supported activities will no longer be eligible. These are: increases to fishing vessels' capacity; the building of new vessels; dismantling or import of vessels; temporary cessation of fishing activity; experimental fisheries; transfer of ownership of fishing companies; and (most) stock recovery operations.

A little over EUR1 billion has been earmarked for control measures, data collection and implementing the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). The latter will provide support for activities where greater cooperation and coordination across national jurisdictions and sectors can help avoid duplications and reduce costs such as maritime spatial planning, maritime surveillance and marine knowledge. In its current form, the establishing of a support programme for the development of an IMP for 2011-2013 has recently been granted a EUR40 million budget by the European Parliament.

The EMFF will be better aligned than its predecessor with the regional, social and rural development funds under a regulation establishing common rules and implementing arrangements and enabling a blending of the different sources of EU support where necessary without overlap. The total budget will be allocated to the Member States based on the importance of the fisheries sector in each country. Each Member State will design an operational programme for approval by the Commission, specifying how they intend to spend the money allocated. Decisions on precisely which projects or activities are to be financed will be made nationally.

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/damanaki/headlines/press-releases/2011/12/20111202_en.htm

Posted by iroronan at December 5, 2011 04:54 PM

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December 04, 2011

Cohesion Policy Energy Efficiency Workshop

Papers and presentations from a 29-30 November conference and workshop on 'Cohesion policy investing in energy efficiency in buildings’ have been made available online. The event brought together experts from Member States, civil society, the academic world and the EU Institutions to discuss EU-level developments on this issue which will impact on the implementation of funding programmes in the 2014-2020 period.

These include a prospective ring-fencing of Structural Funds ERDF allocations to be used for low carbon economy actions as well as the need to use EU support to leverage extensive private funding. The event examined the current use of Financial Engineering Instruments such as the JESSICA programme for investment in sustainable urban development as well as the prospect of better linkages between regional programmes and with the Horizon 2020 research & innovation programme.

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/conferences/energy2011nov/index_en.cfm

Posted by iroronan at December 4, 2011 12:57 PM

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December 03, 2011

COSME: future enterprise competitiveness programme

According to a Commission announcement on 30 November, the current enterprise aspects of the Competitiveness & Innovation Programme (CIP) are set to be largely replaced in 2014-2020 by COSME, ''the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs''. The main concern of this EUR2.5 billion support initiative will be with promoting easier access to business finance. This is to be provided through two forms of investment: an equity facility for growth-phase investment will give SMEs access to commercially-oriented reimbursable equity financing primarily in the form of venture capital through financial intermediaries, while a loan facility will provide SMEs with direct or other risk-sharing arrangements (again, through financial intermediaries) to cover loans. Until recently, this element was being tentatively referred to as the 'Business Competitiveness & SME Programme' (see September's Bulletin).

Additional aspects of COSME will revolve around improving access to EU and global markets (including continued support of the Enterprise Europe Network to facilitate business expansion abroad), and encouraging an entrepreneurial culture, including the creation of new firms. Its particular target audience will comprise established firms, in particular SMEs; entrepreneurs, particularly citizens who want to become self-employed yet face difficulties in setting up or developing their own business; and Member States' authorities, who will be better assisted in their efforts to elaborate and implement effective policy reform.

A strong emphasis is being placed on simplified procedures to enable small businesses to benefit from the financing.

Further details: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/852

Posted by iroronan at December 3, 2011 03:46 PM

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December 03, 2011

Horizon 2020 structure: Focus on enterprises, products and societal challenges

To judge from the package of measures released on 30 November, Horizon 2020, the eight framework programme on research and innovation, will be based around a philosophy of more business-oriented approach, favouring actions aimed at creating innovative products and services that provide business opportunities and change daily life for the better.

Its EUR80 billion budget for 2014-2020 will stretch across three priorities:

1) 'Excellent science'' (EUR24.6 billion)
- The European Research Council (ERC), responsible for innovative frontier research (EUR13.2 billion);
- Development in future and emerging technologies (EUR3.1 billion);
- Marie Curie Actions to fund training, mobility and career development of researchers (EUR5.75 billion);
- Developing priority research infrastructures (EUR2.4 billion).

2) 'Industrial leadership' (EUR17.9 billion) - to facilitate investments in innovation and key enabling technologies including nanotechnologies, biotechnology, space, photonics, microelectronics, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing and processing - as well as greater access to capital and support for SMEs.

3) 'Better Society' - tackling major societal challenges relating to:
- Health, demographic change and well-being;
- Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy;
- Secure, clean and efficient energy; - Smart, green and integrated transport; - Inclusive, innovative and secure societies; and
- Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials.
Prospects for local and regional authorities would seem to rest with the third priority which is valued at EUR31.7 billion. This will be particularly true if the Regions of Knowledge sub-programme is transferred to Interreg as being suggested (see October's Bulletin).

In a bid to address major issues for society, a EUR2.8 billion package has been set aside for the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) to bring together the expertise of higher education institutions, research centres and businesses on a cross-border public-private-partnership basis. This will expand the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) hubs approach beyond the current focus on sustainable energy, climate change and ICT to six new themes: innovation for healthy living and active ageing; sustainable food supply chain; raw materials including recycling; added value and sustainable manufacturing; innovative ICT solutions to security issues; and urban mobility.

Major simplifications in the application and project management procedures, should mean that funding proves easier to access thanks to this simpler programme architecture, a single set of rules and reduced red tape. A 100-day goal for the time needed from application to start-up payment is envisaged.

Synergies with the instruments of EU Cohesion Policy are also to be explored in a bid to widen the range of participants - particularly among innovative businesses. This model will in part be based on Horizon 2020 providing policy advice and support to potential centres of excellence in underperforming regions while the Structural Funds assist with the upgrading of infrastructure and equipment.

The Commission proposal will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption before the end of 2013.

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/index_en.cfm?pg=home

Posted by iroronan at December 3, 2011 12:19 PM