Last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that the UK will pledge £6 billion to projects accessing funds from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

The UK is the 9th country to contribute, and it represents the largest amount of money contributed by a Member State to the Fund so far. Indeed, the first UK project has been announced: the European Investment Fund and Santander UK signed an agreement to increase lending to innovative SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and small and mid-caps (capitalisations) in the UK.

The EFSI is one pillar of the EU Commission Investment Plan for Europe, and aims to unlock €315 billion to kick start investment, jobs and growth into Europe’s economy. It seeks to do this by using public funds to stimulate private sector investment across a range of infrastructure and innovation projects, as well as SMEs.

The European Investment Bank has already announced projects that it will pre-finance as part of the Investment Plan for Europe, including investments in energy efficiency and improvements to gas transmission.

European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen

European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen. Image credit: European Parliamant CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, visited the UK last week to discuss EFSI. As part of his visit, I attended an event at Chatham House where he spoke on ‘Reviving Investment in Europe’, which is available as an audio recording.

The EFSI initially raised concerns among the science community. The original proposal, was for a raid of €2.7billion from Horizon 2020 to the EFSI guarantee fund. However, following interventions from the science community this was eventually reduced to a €2.2billion cut, with funding protected for the European Research Council and Marie Slodowska Curie Actions.

Now that the EFSI has been agreed by the Commission, Parliament and Council, the focus is on making it operational. On Wednesday, the European Commission published a series of measures to ensure that the EFSI will be operational by autumn 2015, including the announcement of appointments to the EFSI Steering Board.

The role of research and innovation in this Fund is an important consideration. After all, the EFSI wants to stimulate long-term economic growth and competitiveness, and research is fundamental to this.

Discussing the UK’s contribution, the Chancellor said

“The UK is determined to make the most of the European Fund for Strategic Investment, which will see EU funds being spent in a way that will promote growth and create jobs in the UK and across Europe.”

When Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas spoke at the Royal Society in March, he said that the EFSI would “mean more money for European research and innovation, not less”.

We will be looking at how the EFSI develops, and how research and innovation can play a role in the pipeline of projects proposed in the UK.