The EU and Business in Finland
The European Union (EU) facilitates access to financing for business in Finland through various programmes. Financing is available directly from the European Commission and indirectly through Finish intermediaries, including banks and other financial institutions. The goals of EU financing for small and medium businesses include promoting regional development, competitiveness of member state economies, and the growth of business and employment.
While the EU does not provide direct loans and equity, the European Commission does offer direct grants to businesses in EU member states. These grants are open to all EU businesses, including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Finland. Applicant businesses must submit proposals and meet eligibility requirements set for individual opportunities. Calls for proposals are issued by the European Commission and posted online at ec.europa.eu/contracts_grants/grants_en.htm.
To support business development and employment, the European Union provides funding and guarantees to local and national intermediaries in order to increases SME access to financing. Structural funds may also be used by member states to provide grants and loans to SMEs. Financing applications are made directly with local/national financial intermediaries in Finland, including Finnvera, the Federation of Finnish Financial Services (FK), the Finnish Venture Capital Association, and Finnish Industry Investment Ltd. For a listing of intermediaries, visit http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/funding-grants/access-to-finance/.
From 2007 to 2013, indirect EU financing for SMEs was provided through the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). Funding for scientific and technological research supported cooperation and collaborative research, ideas and frontier research, people, and the development of research and innovation capacities. The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) also provided funding for start-up and early stage companies. Delivered through financial intermediaries in Finland, the CIP made equity and venture capital available to SMEs in mainly the ICT sector.
The EU's new research and innovation programme is Horizon 2020 (ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020). EU member states will have access to an estimated €79 billion over seven years from 2014 to 2020. Horizon 2020 combines research and innovation funding previously made available through Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development (for example, FP7), the CIP, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. In addition to direct grants from the European Commission, Horizon 2020 funding is also available from structural funds, the European Investment Bank Group and local/national intermediaries in Finland.
The Eurostars Joint Programme (www.eurostars-eureka.eu) supports research SMEs that are developing innovative products, processes and services. Funding helps ensure businesses undertaking research and development programmes gain a competitive advantage to ensure products are commercialised quickly. Eurostars in Finland is delivered by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (www.tekes.fi). Grants and loans are provided to SMEs, large companies, universities and research organisations. All projects must be completed within three years and involve at least one partner from another Eurostars member country.
COMSE (ec.europa.eu/enterprise/initiatives/cosme/) promotes SME competitiveness by facilitating access to financing and markets. The programme also supports entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, including supporting EU programmes that promote entrepreneurship education and networking. It also aims to create favourable conditions for business creation and growth. A new initiative under Horizon 2020, COSME provides guarantees, venture capital and equity financing through financial intermediaries.
European Investment Bank Financing
A major source of indirect financing is the European Investment Bank Group (www.eib.org), which is made up of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF). To qualify for financing, a business must generally have fewer than 250 employees. Financial intermediaries in Finland set eligibility requirements and review financing requests based on the merits of individual applications.
Intermediated loans and other debt financing options guaranteed by the EU are available from the EIB. Additional financing products offered by the EIB include project-specific loans, structured finance, guarantees, project bongs, equity and fund investments, microfinance, venture capital, and debt financing for risky long-term research, development and innovation projects. Financing aims to support EU economic policy objectives, with particular attention paid to innovation, research and development. Applications for EIB financing are made directly with an intermediary financial institution, which includes Aktia Savings Bank and Pohjola Bank in Finland.
The EIF (www.eif.org) supports innovation in high-potential sectors and companies, including start-up and growing SMEs. Financial intermediaries offer various financing instruments, including venture capital and equity. Major focus area for EIF financing in Finland include the information and communications technology (ICT) and life sciences sectors. SMEs may also access financing through the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) programme. Financial supports are provided using EU structural funds. Instruments may include guarantees, equity, microloans, venture capital, matching funds, securitisation, and others. JEREMIE is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the EIB, and is mainly delivered by the EIF.
Where to Find More Information
The Enterprise Europe Network (een.ec.europa.eu) works with local and national agencies in Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Vantaa, Lappeenranta, Oulu and Espoo to provide guidance on business related issues, including business planning, financing and procurement. The free service also provides SMEs with information on EU issues, including related programmes, policies, legislation and regulations, and funding sources.
Information on EU programmes in Finland is available from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (www.tem.fi/en). Enterprise Finland (www.yrityssuomi.fi/en also offers a wealth of information on starting a business and doing business, as well as community-specific EU and non-EU business supports and services.