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  • EIB Group activity reached €13.9 billion, including €3.6 billion for innovation
  • Two-thirds of EIB investment was dedicated to climate action
  • SMEs received strong support from the deployment of European Guarantee Fund resources

2021 was another record year for the European Investment Bank Group (EIB Group) in France with almost €14 billion in financing provided for investment in the public and private sectors. The breakdown of the EIB Group’s activity in France in 2021 is as follows: €9.2 billion from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and €4.7 billion from the European Investment Fund (EIF), which focuses on financing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

For the first time, France received more EIB Group financing than any other country.

Climate action, support for innovation and the priority given to SME financing were once again the EU bank's main focal points in France in 2021. This sharply increased financing has benefited in particular from the massive deployment of resources from the European Guarantee Fund launched in late 2020 and managed by the EIB. The loans and bank guarantees granted under this framework mobilised €15.2 billion in investment and helped tens of thousands of SMEs affected by the health crisis.

As illustrated by the record levels of activity reached in 2021, the EU bank has provided strong support for investment and the economic recovery in France and elsewhere,” said EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle at the presentation of the EIB Group's annual results. “Investment in the energy transition — representing over two-thirds of activity in France — and increased support for innovation and the industrial and healthcare sectors are concrete examples of how EU funds are helping to move our economies towards a fairer, more resilient and more sustainable growth model. As the EU climate bank, we are fully involved in the success of the European Green Deal, providing the necessary funding for its implementation in all EU Member States.”

With record activity in 2021 and almost €5 billion for French SMEs, EIF operations for the last year focused on the economic recovery, while also laying the groundwork for future growth — growth that we want to be sustainable, green and digital,” added EIF Chief Executive Alain Godard.

France, the main beneficiary of EIB climate finance

After the Climate Bank Roadmap was adopted unanimously by its board of directors (made up of representatives of the 27 EU Member States) in late 2020, the EIB Group accelerated its transformation into the EU climate bank in 2021.

With over two-thirds of its loan volume dedicated to combating global warming compared to 51% last year, France received more EIB climate financing than any other beneficiary in 2021. This involved overall investment of more than €6 billion in the energy efficiency of buildings, clean transport, renewable energy and climate change adaptation.

Decarbonising industry

2021 saw the signature of several major projects supporting the energy transition in the industrial sector. These included €500 million in financing for Safran's research and development efforts into the next-generation of clean propulsion systems for medium-haul aircraft and loans to ArcelorMittal (€280 million) and cable manufacturer Nexans (€200 million) for industrial decarbonisation. The EIB is also providing €400 million to help Enedis modernise its electricity distribution network.

In renewable energy, the EIB participated in the second round of financing for an offshore wind farm near Courseulles-sur-Mer, Calvados, in 2021 (providing €350 million). With a capacity of 450 MW, its 64 wind turbines will cover the electricity needs of 630 000 people from 2024, creating over 1 000 local jobs.

Innovating for the climate

The financing of innovative projects was at the heart of this climate action, for example with a €30 million loan to circular economy SME Carbios, which has developed technology to fully recycle plastic waste. The EIB also invested €44 million in the Euralis Group for research into new climate change-resistant seed varieties and provided €50 million for the Avril Group's research into plant proteins and green chemicals. Partnerships were also set up to strengthen banks’ response to the climate emergency, such as with Crédit Agricole Leasing & Factoring, Groupe BPCE (for the deployment of renewable solar and wind energy) and Crédit Mutuel.

Supporting the public sector transition

As a financial partner of local authorities and social housing associations, the EIB allocated €3.85 billion to investment in greener and lower-carbon public facilities in 2021. The EIB financed the investment plan of Eau de Paris — France's largest municipal drinking water authority — providing €134 million including a component dedicated to enhancing biodiversity. It continued its investments in sustainable public transport with the renewal of rail rolling stock in several regions such as Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Grand Est, Normandy and Hauts-de-France, and is supporting SYTRAL's investment programme in the Lyon metropolitan area. The EIB is also supporting Banque des Territoires (part of the Caisse des dépôts Group) in the thermal renovation of social housing, providing a €1 billion credit line (including €500 million signed in 2021) to complement its Eco loan offer and enable the renovation of around 70 000 social housing units. Improving the learning conditions of young people is an ongoing objective for the EIB, and to this end it continued to finance environmentally demanding programmes to build and renovate collèges (lower secondary schools) in several departments, notably in Gironde and Yvelines.

Increased support for all innovations

Innovation is an essential part of all activity in France. This was reflected in €3.6 billion of investment in 2021, accounting for a quarter of the EIB Group’s financing. These long-term investments aim to support the development and competitiveness of future European champions and large corporates such as automotive equipment manufacturer Valeo, which received a €600 million loan for its vehicle safety research and development.

The EIB significantly expanded its investments in health and life sciences last year, financing various medtech companies like Île-de-France-based Stilla Technologies. A specialist in precision genetic analysis, it has developed an innovative digital PCR test for COVID-19 that limits false negatives. The EIB also financed projects in gene therapies and several surgical robotics companies such as Robocath in vascular robotics, eCential Robotics in bone procedures and Quantum Surgical, which specialises in the surgical treatment of liver cancer.

It continued to finance the digital and digitalisation domains, for example the Toulouse-based startup Alteia, which is developing a platform for applying artificial intelligence to visual data, and a €350 million loan to operator Bouygues Telecom for 4G and 5G.

This action was complemented by a contribution from the EIF (€700 million), indirectly helping to support the development of high-potential startups and SMEs via investment in venture capital funds. The EIF carried out around 40 operations of this kind last year, recently assisting Back Market, the French leader in the resale of reconditioned electronics, via its investments in the Daphni and Eurazeo Growth funds. The EIF also invested (via the Alven fund) in Qonto — the largest French unicorn company in the fintech sector — which creates innovative payment tools for businesses. 

Strong EIB Group mobilisation to help the economy recover following the health crisis and support SMEs

To address the investment financing difficulties linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the EIB Group quickly deployed a support and economic recovery plan for all EU Member States in 2021. Using resources from the €24.4 billion European Guarantee Fund, it was able to meet the needs of French businesses with loans, equity and quasi-equity investments and guarantee tools, either directly or via banking and financial intermediaries.

Since January 2021, five guarantee agreements totalling €1.7 billion have been signed with Bpifrance, enabling it to expand its capacity to lend to companies.  

In total and including all activities, the EIB Group directly or indirectly supported almost 50 000 SMEs in France in 2021, helping to safeguard 423 000 jobs in the country.