Financial Instruments

What are Financial Instruments and Financial Intermediaries?

Since 1998 the European Union supports small and medium-sized enterprises with dedicated programmes that aim at improving SMEs access to finance. The principle of these financial instruments is easy : backed by funds from the EU budget, the implementing partner, a role that is currently reserved for the European Investment Bank group, hands out guarantees to financial intermediaries such as guarantee institutions. The guarantee institutions in turn use the guarantee from the EIB (European Investment Bank) group as a counter-guarantee to secure guarantees they issue themselves to their banking partners in order to allow them to grant loans to small and medium-sized enterprises.

AECM members are very early partners in the intermediation of EU financial instruments. The Austrian AECM member Bürges that later became part of aws was the first to use EU financial instruments in 1998. Many others followed. The original programme MAP (Multiannual Programme for SMEs) was followed by CIP (Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme) and finally by COSME (Programme for the Competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs). As of today, 20 AECM members are financial intermediaries of COSME that is implemented by the European Investment Fund (EIF). The COSME loan guarantee facility (LGF) had an initial financial allocation of EUR 1.3 billion and was topped up by funds from the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) alias Juncker-Plan.

Besides COSME, several other financial instruments are available at European level. InnovFin that is used by ten AECM members, allows for larger tickets of support to companies with innovative projects. CCS is a guarantee facility that is destined to the cultural and creative sector that is currently used by a few AECM members. The EaSI guarantee instrument that is dedicated to microfinance and social entrepreneurship is not used by AECM members.

For the next Multiannual Financial Framework from 2021 to 2027, it is planned to establish a programme that combines all EU financial instruments under the roof of one single programme with one single rulebook, called InvestEU, with four policy windows: 1) Sustainable infrastructure, 2) Research, Innovation and Digitalisation, 3) SMEs and 4) Social investment and skills. InvestEU is planned to have a financial allocation of EUR 15.2 billion allowing the Commission to provide a guarantee of EUR 38 billion to trigger total investments of EUR 650 billion. 75 % of the programme will be implemented by the EIB group whereas 25 % shall be implemented by NPBIs (national promotional banks and institutions) as well as by IFIs (international financial institutions). Some AECM members plan to become implementing partners themselves, some will be financial intermediaries under the EIF window and some plan to access InvestEU funds through both windows.

Useful links

EIF presentation on COSME Implementation results

Access to finance portal of the European Union

Access to finance portal of the European Commission

Access to finance portal of the European Investment Fund

COSME page on the EIF website

InnovFin page on EIF website

EFSI page on EIB and EIF websites


COSME data hub


Information on InvestEU


In June 2019, the European Commission published the following brochure with interesting COSME case studies in many of which AECM members are mentioned.


AECM Position papers on EU financial instruments 

All papers can be found in the Position Papers Section

  • Joint comments of AECM, EAPB, ELTI and NEFI on the State of Play regarding InvestEU
  • AECM comments on the InvestEU draft Investment Guidelines including Annex
  • AECM, EAPB, ELTI, NEFI and SMEunited joined position paper: Comments on SME-related aspects of the proposed InvestEU Programme 
  • AECM and EAPB joint Statement on current developments concerning the InvestEU Programme 
  • AECM and SMEunited comments on the proposal for a regulation establishing the InvestEU Programme 
  • EU financial instruments under the multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021 to 2027: Comments of UEAPME and AECM on the proposal of the European Commission for a regulation establishing the InvestEU Programme 
  • AECM’s additional comments on the public consultation on EU funds in the area of investment, research & innovation, SMEs and single market
  • AECM, EAPB, ELTI & NEFI Comments on the Interim Evaluation of the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) (2014-2020) 
  • AECM’s comments on the interim evaluation of the programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (COSME) (2014-2020)
  • AECM’s answers to the COSME Evaluation survey 
  • Comments of UEAPME and AECM concerning the design and implementation of EU financial instruments 

Best Practices / Visibility

Please find our AECM brochure on best practice guarantee cases under this link.