Europe’s 25 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are our focus. They represent over 99% of businesses in the EU. They employ two out of every three employees, create 85% of all new jobs and generate about three-fifth of the EU value-added. Tailor-made support to help them grow and innovate is essential. At all stages of development, small businesses struggle more than large enterprises to get finance. To stay competitive, both start-ups and scale-ups rely on external finance for innovation, digitalisation, internationalisation and upskilling.
EU financing programmes are generally not provided as direct funding. We channel support through local, regional, or national authorities, or financial intermediaries such as banks and venture capital organisations that provide funding with financial instruments.
EU financial instruments are risk-sharing schemes. Examples are guarantees to financial intermediaries who provide lending, lease finance, or co-investments with venture capital funds, backed by EU funds. Reputable financial intermediaries such as banks, lessors, mutual guarantee societies, microfinance providers and venture capital funds provide the final support. They are closer to the final beneficiaries and qualified to assess their needs and risks. Decisions to provide loans, guarantees, or venture capital are made by the local financial institutions. The exact financing conditions (such as the amount, duration, interest rate, and fees) depend on the financial institution.
EU financial instruments are market-driven, there are no country allocations and the availability of funding depends on the interest of local financial institutions taking part in the scheme. The financial intermediaries create individual products suited to the needs of SMEs in their market.
We use financial instruments and helps EU countries share good practice in the following policy areas
The SME envoys network's forum of national financing experts regularly analyses and discusses issues and solutions around improving access to finance for small businesses.
The joint European Commission/European Central Bank survey on the access to finance of enterprises (SAFE) monitors developments in access to finance for small businesses.
Data and surveys - SAFE