For this week’s episode of Business Planet, Euronews touched down in Gozo, the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago.
We spoke to with Mark here about access to European funding for SMEs , and in particular a system, a tool called the SME Initiative.
EU financing for small and medium-sized enterprises
- Access to finance can still be a problem for entrepreneurs whether starting up or scaling up. Although the situation is improving, 9% of SMES still see it as a problem.
- The EU is working on making access to finance easier for businesses though loans, loan guarantees, microfinance, venture capital and other types of interventions.
- One of the tools to help SMEs access funding is the SME Initiative – a joint instrument of the European Commission and the EIB group.
- Alongside the European Structural and Investment Funds resources contributed by the Member States, the SME Initiative is cofounded by the EU though COSME and Horizon 2020 resources as well as EIB Group resources.
- It is currently available in Bulgaria, Finland, Malta and Spain, but it may be extended to other countries in the future.
Euronews – Serge Rombi
So, your job involves making the connection between your bank – which is the Bank of Valetta- and European institutions. Tell us how it all works.”
EU Affairs, Bank of Valletta – Mark Scicluna Bartoli
“At the Bank of Valetta, we have a strong working relationship with the European Investment Fund, which basically allows us to ease access to finance for Maltese or Gozatian SMEs through the provision of European Union guarantees to business loans which we provide.”
“Well, listen, let’s see a concrete example from right here in Gozo.”
We headed to one of the most innovative SMEs in Gozo.
The aluminium and PVC windows manufactured at this plant meet the strictest European environmental standards and the machines used are the most efficient on the market.
It was thanks in particular to a loan secured by Mark’s bank that this SME was able to invest in this equipment. The bank guarantee for this loan was obtained through the SME Initiative.
Our reporter caught up with Margie Saliba, the CEO of Technological Innovations.
“Margie, why accessing to this guarantee was so important for your business?”
CEO of Technological Innovations – Margie Saliba
“It was very important. It’s our key element to access finance, and to develop really faster…”
Today this company markets its windows throughout the Maltese archipelago, but a quarter of its turnover comes from the rest of Europe. New markets, new customers, but also employment for the people of Gozo.
“Currently, the level of employment counts up to 50 persons. And it is expected to be doubled by 2018.”
We left Margie to find out more about what this initiative has meant to Gozo and its inhabitants.
“So Mark, we’ve just seen this type of European tool takes on a very special meaning on an island like Gozo.”
Mark Scicluna Bartoli
“Yes. Actually, enhancing access to finance to Gozatian SMEs is key to ensuring that an entrepreneurial and startup culture within Gozo is sustained.”
The SME Initiative is a system that currently exists in 4 European countries. Here in Malta, as well as in Spain, Finland and Bulgaria.
But this bank guarantee tool could well be extended to other countries in the Union.
There are, by the way, other types of European funding available for SMEs . For example via loans, microfinance, or venture capital.
“Mark, in concrete terms, how could an entrepreneur benefit from this type of European funding tool?”
Mark Scicluna Bartoli
“I think the first point would be, he would need to find his local financial intermediary in his country, such as a bank. And I would say the second point is to present a strong business case.”
“Thank you very much, Mark.” More on the business planet’s webpage and on our social networks. We’ll see you again very soon for the next episode.