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European Commission and EIB launch new instrument to finance research and innovation

Today the European Commission & the European Investment Bank (EIB) sign a cooperation agreement establishing the new risk-sharing finance facility (RSFF) to support research & innovation in Europe.

This new instrument will help to make more financing available for promoters of research & innovation projects, which often face more difficulties than traditional business sectors in accessing finance, due to the relatively high levels of uncertainty & risk inherent to their activity. The RSFF, part of the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7) & EIB’s programme for Research & Innovation, will partially cover the financial risks assumed by the EIB when financing this type of activity. The contribution of €1 billion each from FP7 & the EIB will therefore unlock billions of additional financing in this area.

"Europe needs to find ways to boost investment in research, particularly from private companies" said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik. "The Risk Sharing Finance Facility is one of the most exciting new ideas in the EU's 7 th Research Framework Programme, and through co-operation with the EIB will unlock billions of new investment for research, development & innovation in Europe."

“RSFF is the demonstration of a very effective cooperation between two EU Institutions to support European competitiveness," said EIB President Philippe Maystadt. "By targeting higher risk financing in support of research & innovation projects, the facility will in an efficient way complement the existing support instruments including national & EU grants as well as market debt and equity funding”.

This major initiative is launched simultaneously in Hamburg and Luxembourg. The Agreement was signed in parallel by EU Science & Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik during the 4 th European Conference on Research Infrastructures (ECRI 2007) in Hamburg and by EIB President, Philippe Maystadt, during the annual meeting of the EIB Board of Governors in Luxembourg. ECRI 2007 also saw the launch of the European X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL), identified in the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap . This truly European research infrastructure, supported by 13 partner countries, will be a world leading facility for the production of intense, short pulses of X-rays for scientific research in a wide range of disciplines.

The Risk-Sharing Finance Facility

If the EU is to reach its target of investing 3% of its GDP in research, it is vitally important to boost private sector investment in R&D. An important pre-condition to achieving this is mobilising financial markets. However, financial markets and financial institutions are often reluctant to back research intensive companies or research projects due to the relatively high levels of uncertainty and risk inherent to their activity compared to more traditional business areas. The Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) is a direct answer to these challenges. Its objective is to improve access to debt financing for promoters of research & innovation investments by sharing the underlying risks between the EU & the EIB. This risk-bearing instrument will cover, through capital allocations & provisions, the risks born by EIB when lending directly to the promoter, or when guaranteeing loans made by financial intermediaries (e.g. banks in Member States & Associated countries). Together, both institutions will provide up to €2 billion for the period 2007-2013 (up to €1 billion each). These contributions will translate into billions of additional financing available to innovative companies & the research community as a whole.

Initially, RSFF is likely to benefit mostly medium & large innovative companies & large scale research undertakings such as European or national Research Infrastructures. However, RSFF will also be open to private & public entities of any size and ownership promoting eligible RDI activities, including SMEs, research organisations & Public-Private Partnerships contributing to FP7 objectives.

European Research Infrastructures

Research Infrastructures play a crucial role for the promotion of knowledge and technology in Europe, bringing together a wide diversity of scientists & disciplines. In 2006, ESFRI published its roadmap identifying 35 priority EU-scale infrastructures required in key scientific areas. For a total estimated cost of €14 billion, these major infrastructures will require a coordinated approach from national, private and other sources of funding. The RSFF could boost the emergence of these new research facilities.

Michael H. Wappelhorst | alfa
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