Tracking progress in
ESI Funds financial instruments 

1. What are financial instruments?

Financial instruments (FIs) provide support for investments by way of loans, guarantees, equity and other risk-bearing mechanisms. They can be combined in the same operation with technical support, interest rate subsidies or guarantee fee subsidies. 
Financial instruments represent a potentially resource-efficient way of deploying public resources to target projects with expected economic viability (investment returns) in pursuit of the Europe's development and investment objectives. 

1.1 The rationale for FIs

Besides the obvious advantages of recycling funds over the long term (i.e. loans are repaid and equity generates returns), financial instruments help to mobilise additional public or private co-investments in order to address market failures in line with cohesion policy priorities. Their delivery structures attract additional expertise and know-how, which helps to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public resource allocation. Moreover, these instruments can provide a variety of incentives for better performance, including greater financial discipline at the level of supported projects.
Financial instruments have been used to deliver investments under the cohesion policy funds since the 1994-1999 programming period. Their relative importance increased during the period 2007-2013.  In the period 2014-2020 they now represent more than 10% of total European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) resources.  With a scarcity of public resources, financial instruments are expected to play a increasing role in cohesion policy in the future.

1.2 Do you need an introduction to the  types of products that are possible?

Check out this video from the fi-compass advisory platform explaining the types of FI products supported by the ESI Funds in the period 2014-2020 to generate social and economic returns.

2. Exploring the investments planned 

Based on the adopted programmes at the end of each year, the chart below presents the total EU amount planned under financial instruments. From this chart we can see the effects of reprogramming. Use the filters to check the reprogramming trends by fund and by country. 

In this chart you can see the total EU amount allocated to FIs from each of the different ESI Funds to approved FI funds over time.
Overall more than EUR 20 billion from the EU budget was allocated by end-2020, with around 93% of that funding under the ERDF.  
The public data also includes information on the total committed amount including national funding. Check the chart below 

2.1 What are the big investment themes?

The largest share of EU funding has been assigned to support small and medium-sized enterprises (around 59%), followed by investments in the low-carbon economy (around 8% – mainly in energy efficiency), research, development and innovation (around 7%), and employment, labour mobility and social inclusion (around 3%). 

2.2 How are the different EU Member States using FIs?

This chart shows the  financial volumes committed in each Member  State with the total and EU approved amounts and the equivalent amounts committed to the final recipients (the main group being SMEs).  Member States committed significant additional funding to financial instruments in the course of 2020, mainly in order to provide a quick liquidity support to SMEs upon the coronavirus outbreak in spring 2020. Moreover, even greater progress was noted at the final recipient level as the financial intermediaries used the amounts to provide financing to the final recipients, which doubled in volume compared to end 2019.   

The filters can be used to see progress over time and by fund.

3. And what about the achievement of these instruments?

Annually the programmes report on the achievement of the financial instruments. Below we present some of the ERDF achievements reported.  The values are cumulative for the period and show the growing scale of achievements expected (target) and already implemented by the approved financial instruments.

3.1 Explore the number of firms benefiting from ERDF FIs 

To see achievements at the level of specific FI funds click on a specific country.  

3.2 Explore the number of jobs created from ERDF FIs

To see achievements at the level of specific FI funds click on a specific country.  

4. Who will be interested in FI data? 

The dataset on FI financial progress will be of interest to a range of cohesion policy stakeholders and researchers.  It facilitates monitoring the use of EU and national financial resources allocated to FIs by ESI fund down to the detail of the specific financial instruments.  It provides an overview and information on average rates of financial progress. Over time there are significant differences across Member States in the rate of progress delivering these instruments. Some EU countries were slow to select financial intermediaries, while some FIs are demonstrating concrete results in terms of leveraging resources returned for further investments. 

5. Need to know more? 

  • Investigate the dataset used to generate the graphs presented above, which has more details on financial implementation by programme, also down to the level of commitments and payments made to the final recipients (i.e. SMEs). 
  • The Commission provides more information and maintains a list of annual data summaries and resources on this webpage
  • The fi-compass platform maintains a library of documents, country pages, examples and events here.   
  • The 2007-2013 ex-post evaluation (work package) on support to FIs is available here.
Find more #CohesionOpenData stories here. For more news follow @RegioEvaluation.
Date of text: Revised 11/2021; 11/2020; 2019.
Authors: Filip Chraska, Krzysztof Kasprzyk