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First Risk Sharing Financing Facility projects focus on energy technologies

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have announced the first round of projects to receive funding under the new Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), which was launched earlier this year.

A total of €359 million has been allocated to seven projects, most of which involve renewable energy technologies or energy efficiency. Renewable energy technologies are one of the bank's priority lending objectives for 2007.

Launched in June of this year, the RSFF was set up with the goal of improving access to financing for the promoters of research and innovation projects. Currently the uncertain, risky nature of these initiatives makes it harder for them to attract financing. The scheme is financed jointly by the European Commission (through the Seventh Framework Programme) and the EIB.

According to the European Commission and the EIB, there has been significant demand for funding in a range of priority sectors under the Lisbon Agenda, as well as from European Technology Platforms (ETPs) and Joint Technology Initiatives.

Two of the projects slated to receive RSFF funds involve solar thermal power plants in Spain. The Andasol Solar Thermal power plant, which lies some 60 km southeast of Granada, will receive €120 million of funding. The plant consists of a field of parabolic troughs along which a vacuum tube circulates a fluid which heats up to over 400°C. This heat is then used to produce power in a vapour turbine.

The second solar plant, the Solucar Solar Thermal power plant near Seville, uses an alternative technology. Here, a field of mirrors will concentrate the sun's rays onto a thermal receiver mounted on the top of a tower. It will receive funds of €50 million.

Meanwhile, Spanish company Abengoa is set to receive €49 million from the RSFF for projects in a range of renewable energy sectors, including bioethanol, hydrogen and fuel cells.

AVL is an Austrian technology and engineering specialist focusing on powertrain/engine and related technologies and is a member of the ETP for embedded systems (ARTEMIS). Its €30 million loan will support the development of clean and efficient automotive power trains. The project also involves research into hydrogen fuel technologies and energy technologies designed to improve energy efficiency.

A €30 million loan also goes to German company Eberspächer, which will use the funds to further develop its work in exhaust technology and heating systems for cars and trucks.

Biotechnology is the subject of one of the projects financed; Spanish firm Zeltia will receive €30 million to develop and commercialise potential cancer drugs. As Zeltia's work focuses on rare or orphan diseases, funding is sometimes hard to come by, making the RSFF loan especially valuable.

The last loan goes to a research and innovation facility for the automotive sector. This facility involves a guarantee scheme which will help automotive suppliers finance their research activities by the sale and lease-back of their intellectual property rights to Deutsche Leasing, a leading leasing institute in Germany.

Virginia Mercouri | alfa
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