Implementation of the national strategy for Higher Education and Research in Finland is being supported with a EUR 300 million loan from the European Investment Bank. The finance goes to Senate Properties, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance, for the construction, rehabilitation, furnishing and equipping of higher education and research facilities throughout Finland.
EIB Vice President Ewald Nowotny underlined that the project will contribute towards developing a knowledge-based society and the formation of human capital, which are EU objectives. "The investment meets the EIB's aims under its Innovation 2000 Initiative (i2i) programme to support new facilities in fields such as biotechnology, microelectronics and information technology, essential for the promotion and take up of the newest technologies", he said.
"The schemes selected for EIB support are expected to focus on intensified cooperation between academics and industry to facilitate research findings transfer for practical use. The project is also expected to generate educational benefits by improving the learning environment and reducing operating costs", said Aulis Kohvakka, Director General of Senate Properties confirmed. He welcomed the EIB loan which, as an additional source of funding, complemented external commercial financing and further improved the affordability of investments for the sector.
Universities are playing an increasingly important role in developing a knowledge-based society in Finland. This has generated a strong demand for investment in universities and research infrastructures, especially in areas specialising in information technology and biotechnology. The project will also contribute to the commercialisation of research findings, creation of new businesses and utilisation of new technologies for the benefit of employment.
Overall, the project consists of the construction of over 100 new buildings or refurbishments earmarked for higher education and research activities, spread over the majority of Finland's University's sites.
The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular: regional development, trans-European networks in transport, telecoms and energy; industrial competitiveness and integration; SMEs; environmental protection; and energy security. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's co-operation external policy. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (AAA issuer). In 2001, the EIB lent some EUR 31 billion within the EU of which EUR 695 million was in Finland.
In response to the guidelines mapped out by the Heads of State or Government in Lisbon on 23 and 24 March 2000 with a view to building a European knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy, the EIB Group started its "Innovation 2000 Initiative", a dedicated EUR 12 to 15 billion programme of medium and long-term loans. Rather than increasing the volume of lending, the "Innovation 2000 Initiative" will mark a qualitative shift of emphasis in the activities of the EIB Group towards cutting-edge, high-tech value added sectors.
"i2i" focuses on five objectives:
- the development of SMEs and entrepreneurship, in particular by expanding venture capital activities encouraging the development of innovative SMEs within the Union. Such operations are the province of the European Investment Fund (EIF), the EIB Group's specialist venture capital arm;
- the dissemination of innovation, by financing projects of all sizes, undertaken by both public authorities and private enterprise, with the aim of propagating and deploying innovation and building up the skills needed to apply the new technologies;
- research and development, by supporting public or private research programmes, especially those bringing together private enterprise and public bodies, promotion of research infrastructure, Centres of Excellence and structures facilitating SMEs' access to research programmes;
- information and communications technology networks, by financing trans-European multimedia and broadband networks, as well as physical or virtual infrastructure providing local access to those networks, notably in the less developed regions of the Union;
- human capital formation, by modernising and increasing computerisation in schools, colleges and universities and through loans for IT training centres.
Senate Properties is a government enterprise tasked with managing the Finnish state's property assets and with letting premises, primarily to government body clients. Senate Properties has three business areas: University, Office and Special Premises.
Senate Properties has 3600 properties. Turnover is 381 million euros and real estate assets 3.8 billion euros.