The EU and Business in Italy
The European Union (EU) is facilitating access to financing through various programmes. Direct and indirect financing backed by the EU is provided through local, regional and national delivery partners or intermediaries. Businesses in Italy may access a range of financing products through these programmes, including grants, loans, guarantees, equity and venture capital.
European Union grants are available directly from the European Commission and its executive agencies. Grants are the only form of direct funding for SMEs provided by the EU. Italian businesses are eligible to apply for grant funding, which supports activities that contribute to advancing the EU's policy objectives. Calls for proposals are issued by the Commission and businesses are assessed through a competitive process. For an up-to-date listing of available grants, visit http://ec.europa.eu/contracts_grants/grants_en.htm.
Italy combines Structural Funds from the European Union (for example, the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund) with national funding to support a range of programmes, including initiatives that support business development. National, regional and local delivery partners use funding to improve access to financing and provide other business supports for Italian companies. Individual delivery partners are responsible for establishing criteria and making funding decisions.
Structural Funds support financing programmes in regions across Italy, with specific programmes in Piedmont, Mezzogiorno, Marche, Sardinia, Puglia, Basilicata, Campania, Lazio, Sicily, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Catania, Calabria, Abruzzo, Veneto, Tuscany, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria. Most financing programmes support business activities in the technology, cleantech and life sciences sectors, in addition to supporting start-up and early stage businesses in a variety of sectors. National programmes include support for microcredit products for through PerMicro (www.permicro.it) microenterprises in all stages of development.
EU funding supports has been largely consolidated under Horizon 2020, the EU's framework programme for research and innovation. From 2014 to 2020, the programme will inform supports for businesses in Italy and throughout the EU. Information about Horizon 2020 and associated initiatives is available at http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020.
European Investment Bank
In addition to Structural Funds, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Innovation Fund (EIF) are major sources of indirect EU funding for SMEs in Italy. The EIB and EIF offer EU-backed financing products to a range of businesses. Financing is available through local and national intermediaries across Italy. These delivery partners are responsible for making individual investment decisions on how financing is approved.
Financing primarily in the form of loans and guarantees of up to €7.5 million is available for research, development and innovation through the EIB (www.eib.org). Financing is also available through the EIB's Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), which targets mid-sized businesses and supports research, development and innovation. EIB-backed financing may be used for any tangible and intangible investment. Generally, investments support high-risk and high-potential projects that contribute to job creation, economic growth and increased competiveness in Europe.
Financing through the EIF (www.eif.org) and its financial intermediaries in Italy aims at facilitating access to financing for SMEs. Investments primarily in the form of equity and venture capital generally support start-up and early stage businesses. Higher risk financing is also available through the EIF's Risk Sharing Instrument (RSI), which increases access to debt financing for SMEs with fewer than 500 employees. The RSI also supports activities and businesses that are focused on innovation, research and development.
Introduced with Horizon 2020, The Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) helps businesses get off the ground. The programme also increases access to financing and provides tools and supports for business development and economic growth. The programme largely replaces the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), which ran from 2007 and 2013. Similar to the CIP, COMSE facilitated financing for business and is delivered in partnership with local and national intermediaries. The CIP provides guarantees to Italian businesses for medium- to long-term financing for investments and working capital. The CIP also provides loans, equity and guarantees for research, development and innovation in targeted sectors, including the information and communication technology sector.
The European Progress Microfinance Facility (Progress Microfinance) facilitates access to loans of under €25,000. Loans for starting or development a microenterprise are available for entrepreneurs and small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Financing primarily provides start-up and seed funding for start-up and early stage microenterprises. It also targets disadvantages and underrepresented individuals who have traditionally faced difficulty accessing financing. Delivery partners in Italy include Finmolise (www.finmolise.it) in Molise, Banca di Credito Cooperativo Emil Banca (http://istituzionale.emilbanca.it) in Emilia Romagna, and Banco di Credito Cooperativo Mediocrati in Cosenza.
EU Financing Resources
Information on indirect EU financing available to Italian companies, including programmes supported by Structural Funds, EIB and EIF backed financing, and CIP and COSME funding, is available at http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/funding-grants/access-to-finance.
Information on financing, as well as free advice and support on a range of business and EU issues, is available from the Enterprise Europe Network. For more information, visit www.enterprise-europe-network-italia.eu.