The Italian lender UniCredit has signed an agreement with the European Investment Fund (EIF) to boost innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) throughout the CEE region, via the InnovFin SME guarantee facility, which has now increased to half a billion euros.
“Innovation is in the DNA of the region and by making this new agreement with the EIF we will be able to enhance access to finance for our clients’ growth projects,” Carlo Vivaldi, head of the CEE Division of UniCredit, tells Emerging Europe.
According to the EIF, more than 500 disruptive SMEs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Serbia will benefit from an additional 340 million euros support from UniCredit.
“UniCredit has a vast and long-lasting expertise in handling multi-country state and EU-supported programmes in the CEE region and runs, through its banks, European competence centres to advise clients and structure products dedicated to them. This has resulted in more than 2 billion euros approved facilities dedicated to EU-funded projects,” Mr Vivaldi says.
“The geographical reach of the European Fund for Strategic Investments is of paramount importance and under today’s agreement with UniCredit, six central-eastern EU countries will benefit,” commented the European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness.
The InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility was launched within the Horizon 2020 program, providing guarantees and counter-guarantees on debt financing of between 25,000 and 7.5 million euros in order to improve access to loan finance for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises and small mid-caps (up to 499 employees).
“Flows of EU funds to CEE will remain significant in the coming years (between 1.5 per cent and 3 per cent of GDP per year on average), and this will represent a driver for economic activity. For us it will also represent an opportunity to support access to both grants and financial instruments through dedicated banking products and services with better pricing,” Mr Vivaldi adds.