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Risk Finance Aid:

Facilitating Access to Finance for SMEs, Start-Ups and Small or Innovative Middle-Capitalisation Firms

Gianni De Stefano, Wouter Dutillieux


Keywords: risk finance, risk capital, SMEs, start-ups, mid-caps, access to finance, GBER, Risk Finance Guidelines

SMEs are the backbone of Member States’ economies, and are central to the EU’s economic development and resilience as a whole. Risk finance aid addresses market failures or other relevant obstacles that prevent SMEs and certain other non-large enterprises (ie, start-ups or certain middle-capitalisation firms (mid-caps), namely small or innovative mid-caps) from attracting the financing they require (eg, loans, guarantees or equity) to develop to their full potential. Risk finance aid for SMEs and start-ups, up to €15 million per beneficiary, can be block-exempted under the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER); whereas aid to innovative or small mid-caps, or aid that goes beyond the GBER conditions, can be notified by the Member State and approved by the European Commission under the Risk Finance Guidelines. This article describes the revised Risk Finance Guidelines of 2021 and the ongoing revision of the GBER section on risk finance.
Keywords: risk finance; risk capital; SMEs; start-ups; mid-caps; access to finance; GBER; Risk Finance Guidelines

Gianni De Stefano, qualified lawyer (New York, Italy, formerly Belgium and the Netherlands), LLM NYU, Master College of Europe, is a Policy Officer at the European Commission, Directorate-General for Competition. Wouter Dutillieux, PhD, is a Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission, Directorate-General for Competition. The authors contributed to the revision of the State aid rules on risk finance, and would like to thank Andrea Bomhoff for her comments on a previous version of this article. The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission or other EU institutions. The authors point out that the GBER draft is still under discussion and subject to changes. The description of the current GBER draft proposal is included for information purposes only and cannot serve as legal basis for the design of new measures or for any other purpose.


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