The European Investment Bank (EIB) is supporting the rehabilitation of railway tracks with a loan of EUR 50m. The EU bank is providing the Austrian company Swietelsky Baugesellschaft mbH funds from the "InnovFin" budget, a joint financing programme of the EIB and the European Commission focusing on the promotion of research and development activities (R&D) in Europe. The loan contract was signed today in Luxembourg.

Swietelsky is seeking to develop new systems to rehabilitate and maintain tracks on standard and high-speed railway sections more rapidly and at lower costs. This will enhance the operability and the overall efficiency of the networks. In addition, the R&D programme is aimed at further reducing downtime on railways due to maintenance. The research project also encompasses the construction of two prototypes for special rail maintenance equipment. The maintenance of railway tracks is a key factor in determining maximum permissible train speeds and axle loads. Swietelsky will carry out the work in its research centre in Fischamend near Vienna.

EIB Vice-President Wilhelm Molterer stressed the importance of the project's contribution to rapid and integrated railway transport. Moreover, substantial manufacturing activities and therefore positive effects on employment were expected. "The railway sector is a core component of European infrastructure policy. This creates an even greater need for reliable and safe tracks, which are vital for smooth and environmentally-friendly rail transport. Swietelsky is a company operating in this area, whose comprehensive expertise in rail track construction, rehabilitation and maintenance reaches far beyond Austria's borders. It will meet expectations as regards innovation and know-how and will also make a significant contribution to Europe's industrial and technological competitiveness", said Wilhelm Molterer at the signing of the contract.

"With the loan from the European Investment Bank, Swietelsky will further consolidate its leading position in the development and application of innovative railway track systems", commented Swietelsky's CFO Adolf Scheuchenpflug. "This cooperation with the European Investment Bank is also a great acknowledgement of our company's achievements".

The Swietelsky R&D project will be supported by "InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators", “InnovFin Large Projects”, with financial backing from the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments. InnovFin is a new range of EIB Group (EIB and European Investment Fund) products designed to facilitate access to finance for innovative businesses. The "InnovFin Large Projects" product has been developed specifically to improve access to risk capital for research and innovation projects in the EU.

Background on InnovFin financial products

Under Horizon 2020, the new EU research programme for 2014-20, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group (EIB and EIF) have launched a new generation of financial instruments and advisory services to help innovative firms access finance more easily.  Over the next seven years, "InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators" will offer a range of tailored products which will make available more than EUR 24bn of financing support for research and innovation (R&I) by small, medium and large companies and the promoters of research infrastructure. This finance is expected to generate up to EUR 48bn of R&I investments.  

InnovFin builds on the success of the former Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), developed under the seventh EU framework programme for research and technological development (FP7), which financed 114 research and innovation projects to the tune of EUR 11.3bn and in addition provided loan guarantees worth over EUR 1.4bn. 

Backed by funds set aside under Horizon 2020 and by the EIB Group, InnovFin financial products support R&I activities, which by their nature are riskier and harder to assess than traditional investments, and therefore often face difficulties in accessing finance.  All are demand-driven instruments, with no prior allocations between sectors, countries or regions. Firms and other entities located in the EU Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries are eligible as final beneficiaries. These debt instruments will be complemented in the near future by a suite of equity instruments managed by the EIF.

InnovFin Large Projects aims to improve access to risk finance for R&D projects emanating from larger firms, universities and public research institutions, R&I infrastructure organisations (including innovation-enabling entities), public-private partnerships and special-purpose vehicles or project promoters (including those undertaking first-of-a-kind projects or industrial-scale demonstration projects). Loans and guarantees from EUR 25m to EUR 300m will be provided directly by the EIB.