The EIB has been providing support to SMEs since 1968. In 2005 this activity was made one of the Group’s five “operational priorities”. With a view to refining the ways in which it operates in this area, the EIB directly consulted – for the first time throughout the 27 Member States – all the interested parties: SMEs, public authorities, commercial banks, chambers of commerce, and professional and employers’ associations.
This consultation revealed that even in our highly developed financial markets, four types of company often have difficulty gaining access to credit. In particular:
- micro-companies with fewer than 10 salaried employees have difficulty finding financial products that suit their specific circumstances;
- “gazelles” (i.e. SMEs in a high-growth and/or transfer phase) have to manage, simultaneously, the need both to increase their equity capital and to secure medium-term financing;
- innovative SMEs have difficulty financing intangible acquisitions with a view to supporting their R&D or using new technologies; and
- SMEs’ investment in “eco-technologies” or sustainable development (e.g. in order to reduce CO2 emissions) are regarded by banks as having an abnormal risk profile.