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Access to finance

Improving the financing environment in Europe

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To facilitate small businesses growth and development, the EU has set out a comprehensive system of financial policies and instruments to support SMEs with the most appropriate sources and types of financing at each stage of their life.

Better borrowing environment: loans and loan-equity hybrid funding

The Commission has brought together bankers and small business organisations in order to identify and reduce barriers which the latter encounter when looking for finance. For more information, see the sections on loan finance (guarantees, early stage and microcredit), and Round Tables between Bankers and SMEs.

More risk capital: equity funding

Innovative growth-oriented businesses need equity investment. The Commission in particular is seeking to improve the functioning of the single market for equity investments. For more information, see the section on equity finance (venture capital, business angels and investment readiness and growth stock markets).

Loans, guarantees and equity

CIP Financial instruments : the EU provides funding for small businesses via financial institutions in the Member States. The Financial instruments of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) help SMEs raise equity and debt finance. With a budget of over one billion euro, these instruments should help about 300 000 to 400 000 SMEs to access funding by 2013.

The single portal on EU finance contains a list of financial institutions in each country associated with this programme.

During 2008 and 2009, the European Commission is organising in all EU Member States capitals a series of "EU Finance Days for SMEs" to raise awareness locally about the availability of such funding. These finance days also aim to provide information about debt and equity sources of finance for SMEs, in order to strengthen investment readiness and provide a forum to share good practices with local stakeholders.

Global loans : The European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund also have lending and investment programmes that can benefit small businesses. These programmes can be accessed via financial institutions in the Member States. For a list of the financial intermediaries in each country, please visit the EIB global loans website.

Other EU funding for SMEs

Structural funds: at regional level, the JEREMIE initiative will provide financing from seed capital funds and other types of investor. JASMINE (European Commission Initiative to reinforce development of micro-credit in Europe) is an initiative which seeks to improve access to finance for small businesses and for socially excluded people, also ethnic minorities, who want to become self-employed.

Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7): innovative SMEs can participate in projects using the new Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF) that can support applied research and the commercialisation of results. For further details on how SMEs can participate in FP7, please visit the SME Techweb.

The PROGRESS programme (2007-2013): the European Progress Microfinance Facility (EPMF) provides microcredit to small businesses and to people who have lost their jobs and want to start their own small businesses.

Grants: the EU also provides grants aimed at specific policy objectives like research or education, mostly by funding cooperative projects. Some of these can be relevant for small businesses. All grants are accessed through calls for proposals at specified times. The European Union's grants website contains information about all available grants.

If you are interested in how to obtain any of this funding in practice, please consult our Quick guide to funding. You can also contact the national partner of the Enterprise Europe Network in your country.

Data

In order to make European financial markets more responsive to the needs of small businesses, the Commission has created tools for analysis and monitoring the situation that they are facing when trying to access to finance. The Enterprise Finance Index contains a wide range of figures on access to finance across the EU. For more information, see the section on data.

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