The European Investment Bank (EIB) today signed three new Greek finance agreements worth a total of EUR 203m to support the knowledge economy, innovation, enterprise and growth, boosting efforts for economic recovery in Greece and the creation of quality new jobs.

The finance agreements were signed in Athens in the presence of EIB President Werner Hoyer, Greece’s Minister of Education Konstantinos Gavroglu and Minister of Environment and Energy George Stathakis.

On the occasion, EIB President Werner Hoyer stated: "I am very pleased to be back in Athens today for the signature of three more operations which have the support for innovation and enterprise at their core, and will make more than EUR 200 million of new finance available for Greece, helping to boost the Greek economy and its return to growth.”

EUR 138m loan for Hellenic Universities

The EIB signed a EUR 138 million finance agreement for the Hellenic Universities to support tertiary education in Greece, through the financing of new construction, extension and refurbishment of buildings and facilities in 9 Greek universities across the country. This initiative will increase the relevance and quality of teaching, learning and research activities at the respective universities. The investment will benefit students, staff as well as the broader Greek society.

The EIB loan aims to help address the large backlog in the upkeep of the facilities caused by many years of severe underinvestment in Greek university infrastructure, largely due to a lack of liquidity during the crisis years. The new financing should increase the relevance and quality of teaching, learning and research activities at the universities, whose locations include the cities of Athens, Chania, Heraklion, Komotini, Mytilene, Patras, Thessaloniki and Volos. The beneficiaries are students and staff as well as the eventual employers of graduates and in the wider Greek society.

The sub-projects to be financed by the EIB loan consist primarily of the construction but also finalisation of construction, of buildings that will house teaching (classrooms and amphitheatres), laboratory activities and office space, in order to meet the institutions’ additional capacity, the new academic requirements in terms of training methods and technological advancements, improve the space allocation of students and staff, and also to replace ageing and obsolete facilities. In addition, out of the 17 selected sub-projects, one concerns the construction of an on-campus student housing facility and another one the construction of a waste storage and recycling facility.

The project supports the human capital production and research activities of Greek universities. Improving human capital, research and innovation capacity are priorities for the government, consistent with EU policies associated with the European Higher Education Area and Horizon 2020, and supportive of the EU Bank’s Innovation and Skills strategy. The project will also generate significant employment during its implementation phase.

Greece has among the highest entry rates into tertiary education among the OECD countries, with 38% of all 20-24 year-olds enrolled in 2014, indicating that many young Greeks value higher education as a means to get ahead in work-life.

The Hellenic Universities loan signed today will help to further support the knowledge economy as it comes on the back of a EUR 180m loan made available by the EIB in mid-July to help establish the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation. With the EIB’s help, the Institute will transform opportunities for talented Greek scientists, technologists and researchers to undertake the basic scientific study, which provides the basis for innovation.

First EUR 40m tranche of EIB loan for PPC Distribution Network and Smart Metering

The EIB signed the first tranche of a EUR 40 million loan (out of a total loan of EUR 85 million) for the High Voltage Substations & Smart Metering programme with Public Power Corporation (PPC).  With the construction and the extension of 7 high voltage substations, the installation of 40 km of subsea cables and the implementation of a smart (remote-readable) meter pilot involving 170,000 small Low Voltage customers, the PPC programme will improve the reliability of electricity supply to consumers and will support the testing of remote-readable meters for small Low Voltage customers.

On the occasion, Emmanuel Panagiotakis, Chairman and CEO of PPC, stated: “This financing will support the capital expenditure programme for modernisation works and bolster electricity distribution networks in mainland Greece and on the islands. Today is a continuation of the excellent cooperation and relationship of trust between the European Investment Bank and PPC since 1963, that is more than 50 years, which cannot be broken. So far, the EIB has financed group loans to PPC amounting to EUR 2.3 billion, equating to over 40% of total borrowing. The support of the EIB towards PPC over recent years, under particularly challenging financial conditions, is invaluable.”

“The contract signing is very important for HEDNO, since it guarantees the financing of crucial projects for the modernization and strengthening of the Electricity Distribution Network. HEDNO΄s strategic priority, is to realize investments on Smart Grids and all related innovative technologies, in order to upgrade and modernize the “heart” of the Greek energy market, i.e. its networks,” said Nikolaos Chatziargyriou, Chairman and CEO of the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator S.A. (HEDNO).

EUR 25m growth financing for Upstream

The EIB is providing growth financing of EUR 25 million to Upstream, one of Greece’s most innovative companies, with the support of the EU budget guarantee under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the financial instrument of the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe. Upstream is a leading mobile commerce platform, accelerating m-commerce in high-growth markets. Working with both mobile operators and digital service providers, Upstream operates a mobile commerce platform offering localisation, customer acquisition, service delivery, payment, and subscription management services.  Its products range from infotainment and micro-insurance, to gaming and video portals, app stores, language learning services and award winning mobile marketing promotions.

With over 75% of its workforce located in Athens, Upstream conducts business in 43 countries, working with 54 Mobile Network Operators, across four continents. Upstream’s software and infrastructure platform already enables 1.2 billion people to effortlessly receive and pay for the most relevant and affordable digital subscription services on their mobile devices.

The EIB’s financing will provide Upstream with long-term and stable capital to support R&D activities, which will benefit Greece’s economy, while allowing Upstream to continue to positively impact emerging markets.

“We are honoured to have met the EIB’s stringent selection criteria, being chosen to receive financing to support our growth programme for the coming years. The financing will be applied towards further improving our technology platform and innovative product offering, as well as our big data capabilities.

This will help us continue to advance our R&D, along with our operational excellence and global expansion. In addition, we would like to thank the EIB for its collaboration throughout the selection process”, said Marco Veremis, Upstream CEO & Co-founder.

EU Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said: "Today's signature is one of several important steps under the Investment Plan for Europe in Greece. Supporting the knowledge economy will pay off in the medium to long term and will serve the interest of creating jobs and growth.”

“One year ago, in Athens, I announced the establishment of the EIB Group’s Investment Team for Greece, an initiative to reinforce the EIB Group’s commitment to Greece with dedicated people and a mission to support productive investments as the country takes – at long last – its first steps back to sustainable growth. In devising our approach, our objective has been to overwhelmingly focus on supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. Today, we have signed a number of financing operations on behalf of the Group, taking take the value of our support to Greece, committed in 2016, to some EUR 1.5 billion,” EIB President Hoyer concluded.