On 19 July, France's Finance Minister Laurent Fabius joined forces with Francis Mayer, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Daniel Lebègue, Managing Director of Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC) to unveil a new umbrella fund, "Fonds de Promotion pour le Capital-Risque-2000". Dubbed FPC-R 2000 and designed to promote innovative venture capital schemes in France, this fund will take forward action initiated under the earlier"Fonds Public/BEI pour le Capital-Risque".

To date, the latter fund has built on capital injections of FRF 600 million and FRF 300 million provided by the French State and the EIB respectively in 1998 to gear seven times and to invest the equivalent of FRF 816 million, or 91% of its initial endowment, in 19 venture capital funds with a combined capital worth of FRF 5.6 billion. These funds have in turn already invested FRF 1.5 billion in 205 fledgling firms currently offering an aggregate capitalisation of FRF 19 billion.

With the clear intention of consolidating the successful performance of the earlier fund, the French Government decided to set up a second fund ("Fonds de Promotion pour le Capital-Risque 2000") in partnership with the EIB and Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations. All three partners, the French State, the EIB and the CDC are participating to an equal extent, namely as to EUR 50 million each. Equipped with this start-up capital of EUR 150 million, the new venture capital fund will, in fact, be an umbrella fund operating in accordance with recently approved streamlined investment procedures.

The umbrella fund will be acquiring minority stakes in venture capital funds targeting investment in innovative small and medium-sized French firms under seven years old and active in sectors (such as life science, information, environmental and sustainable development technologies) where private finance is extremely difficult to mobilise, or in funds promoted by new teams.

The French Government, acting in partnership with the European Investment Bank and Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, is thus signalling its proactive policy of promoting development of a professional and structured venture capital market in France.