Access to risk finance

Under the 'Industrial Leadership' pillar, this specific objective will help companies and other types of organisation engaged in research and innovation (R&I) to gain easier access, via financial instruments, to loans, guarantees, counter-guarantees and hybrid, mezzanine and equity finance, which will now be most importantly boosted under the new Commission initiative VentureEU.

The concrete goal is to support and facilitate access to sources of debt and equity financing by innovative companies of all sizes and also by research centres and universities, public-private partnerships, special-purpose companies or projects, and joint ventures.

Particular support is required for innovative SMEs (and in some sectors, microenterprises), especially in the start-up phase or after diversifying into new markets. The availability of early-stage and growth-stage equity finance for innovative firms is being improved thanks to VentureEU, which will help to provide better access to finance to support the concept and proof-of-concept stage of the innovation process, as well as the later stages of development where relevant.




InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators is the name under which the EU promotes a range of debt and equity products and advisory services in order to effectively give a boost to the availability of finance for research and innovation activities in Europe.

InnovFin - EU Finance for Innovators consists of a range of tailored products – from guarantees for intermediaries that lend to SMEs to direct loans to enterprises - helping support the smallest to the largest R&I projects in the EU and countries associated to Horizon 2020, the new EU research programme for 2014-20.

The InnovFin products operates in conjunction with those of EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME).


Financial institutions

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF) play an important role, as entrusted entities, in implementing each financial instrument facility on behalf of and in partnership with the European Commission.

The European Investment Bank provides loans to medium to larger companies, or guarantees to banks lending to them. It also provides a range of technical assistance and advisory services, in order to help project promoters to make research, development and innovation bankable.

In addition, two thematic finance products were launched in 2015, for the support of combating infectious diseases and high-risk energy demonstration projects. An additional product supporting tje development of thematic finance platforms was added to the InnovFin product portfolio in 2017. 

Also in 2017, a specific product supporting investment in research organisations, institutes or universities was launched, as well as a product specifically tailored to innovating entities based in countries that are qualified as emerging innovators according to the European Innovation Scoreboard.

Lastly, a product providing intermediated or direct quasi-equity type of financing to large R&I programmes and innovative mid-caps also drawing from funds provided by the EFSI (see below) was also put on the rails in 2017.

The European Investment Fund from its side provides guarantees to banks lending to small and medium-sized firms and small midcaps and invests in funds providing start-ups and fast-growing firms with equity, including through the new VentureEU initiative.


Accompanying measures

Apart from access to finance mainly through debt and equity instruments implemented by the EIB, Horizon 2020 also support in particular SMEs and start-ups to become more investment-ready via various capacity-building actions, directed at them and their national support organisations:

  • InvestHorizon is a programme designed to increase investments made in Innovative European SMEs through Investment Readiness development and Investor sensitization. The project aims to defragment the SME investment market, helping both SMEs and investors to make better deals by increasing their knowledge about each other, on the crossroads of finance and innovation.
  • Progress TT: Public Research Organisation GRowing Europe through best practice SolutionS for Technology Transfer (TT) is a three-year pilot initiative promoting good practice for the commercialisation of Intellectual Property. Supported TT Offices improve skills in targeted areas of the TT process, increase the Return on Investment and accelerate Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) of the R&D projects they handle.
  • ACCESS4SMEs is a 30-month coordination and support action directed at National Contact Points in the domains of access to risk finance and SMEs, fostering the use of financial instruments (incl. through exchange of best practices) and including the establishment of a community of practice facilating access to cross-border finance.

For examples of more accompanying measures, please consult the Work Programmes on Access to Risk Finance at the bottom of the page.

EFSI Boosts Innovation!

The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is widening the opportunities for finance for innovation support both under its Infrastructure & Innovation and SME windows. The products under EFSI will be implemented by the European Investment Bank group; more information is available here.

RDI is not only a priority sector under the EFSI Infrastructure and Innovation Window (IIW). It is a horizontal dimension, also present in other priority sectors of IIW (like Digital, Energy, Transport, etc.), as well as in the EFSI SME Window (SMEW) where debt and equity finance products are supporting the growth of RDI-driven / innovative SMEs and small mid-caps. For the latest state of play regarding EFSI investments in RDI, please click here.


Some examples of InnovFin beneficiaries