The European Investment Bank (EIB) is to provide an 8-year loan facility to the Swedish telecommunications equipment manufacturer Ericsson for a total amount of EUR 400 million. The loan contributes to Ericsson's Research & Development activities at several of its 'Centres of Excellence' located in EU member countries and in Central Europe.

Ericsson has made, through its extensive Research & Development ("R&D") activities, a significant contribution to the definition of global technology standards and the development of the telecommunication sector into one of Europe's leading industries. The EIB loan will focus on the improved management and operations of 'IP' based mobile telephony networks, which will allow the transmission of large data volumes at high speed and enable the deployment of Internet services in mobile telephony.

Centres of Excellence

The R&D activities concerned are to be carried out over the next two years by Ericsson's Centres of Excellence in Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Hungary. Ericsson has a long tradition of developing an international R&D network by setting up local R&D facilities, where the company combines its managerial and technological resources with the skills of well educated scientific staff at those locations. The company's close cooperation with national technology specialists and universities results in important spill over effects into the local economies through the establishment of small and medium-sized companies and industry clustering. Ericsson has given particular attention to the cooperation with universities such as in Budapest (Hungary), which contribute to the long-term research strategies of the company.

The EIB loan will also contribute to the further development of R&D Centres, some located in regional development ("Objective 1") areas in Ireland, Italy and Greece. The technological dimension of the project is fully in line with the recommendations of the Lisbon European Council and the Bank's Innovations 2000 Initiative ("i2i"). The project also helps to achieve the Bank's objectives of preparing candidate countries for accession.

European competitiveness

Commenting on this loan, EIB Vice President Mr Nowotny, who signed the transaction on behalf of the EIB, stated that "support for R&D investment helps to underpin European innovation and competitiveness during a challenging time of worldwide technology transition". He said: "It also demonstrates the EIB's continuing support for the European telecommunications industry and the Bank's confidence in the future of the sector. This R&D network collectively enhances the innovation capacity and international competitiveness of the European telecommunications sector".

The AAA-rated European Investment Bank (EIB), the financial arm of the European Union, contributes by means of its long-term loans towards the integration and balanced development of its Member States as well as in countries outside the Union.

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.