The Investment Plan contributes to the objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe and Digital Single Market which helps to maximise the growth potential of the European digital economy. The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) can finance digital projects and businesses in a number of areas:
- Broadband investments
- Digital and digitally driven startups and scaleups
- Trust and data economy infrastructure, for example the commercial use of high performance computing, cloud and data exchange infrastructure, and cybersecurity
- Digital transformation of industry, services and the public sector notably in healthcare, mobility and energy sectors
- Creative industries
- Digital skills and social enterprises
- New emerging priorities, including 5G and connected and automated driving
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The EFSI can contribute to large, greenfield digital infrastructure projects, with deployment of the latest technologies to allow access to ultrafast broadband across the EU. These projects can originate from national broadband plans, regional initiatives or be led by private companies willing to invest in future-proof broadband infrastructure (e.g. FTTx) and digital service infrastructures (cloud services, high-performance computing).
The EFSI can also contribute via investment platforms, vehicles which pool smaller projects by location or sector, making it easier for individual digital projects to unlock financing. Digital projects may not necessarily need large loans. Instead, a number of these smaller projects can be bundled within a larger platform that can be backed by the EFSI, for example:
- The Connecting Europe Broadband Fund ("CEBF") under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will pool resources of the European Commission, the EIB, and three national promotional banks in addition to private sector funding in order to aid the financing of broadband networks in less densely populated areas.
- Similarly, an investment platform could be set up to aid the digital transformation of European industry and to support specific investments in strategic areas like 5G, connected and automated driving, etc.
EFSI in combination with other EU funds
The EFSI is one of many EU financing tools available to project promoters in the digital sector. For example, projects suitable for financing in the digital sector under the EFSI could also benefit from the support of grants and financial instruments from Horizon 2020, European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the Connecting Europe Facility. This funding source may finance part of the project (in the form of a grant or a loan) while an EFSI-backed loan may cover the remaining costs of the project.
Technical support and visibility for projects
The Investment Plan, or so-called Juncker Plan, encompasses far more than the provision of a guarantee to unlock additional investments through the EFSI. The digital economy and the digital sector should significantly benefit from the various elements of the Plan.
As for all sectors, project promoters in the digital sector can seek technical assistance through the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH). The Hub offers a single access point for advisory and technical assistance services to allow promoters get their projects off the ground.
The European Investment Project Portal– the #InvestEU Portal – is a platform to boost the visibility of investment opportunities, including those in the digital sector, across Europe. The aim of the Portal is to bring together project promoters seeking investment with investors seeking projects.
Examples of EFSI projects in the digital sector
The €150 million loan agreement will help to finance Cosmote's plans to enhance and expand its mobile broadband network, significantly increasing the network's performance in terms of speed, capacity and coverage. It will improve the networks performances in more rural and remote areas of Greece.
Iliad – superfast broadband in France
The EIB is providing €200 million of financing to support the rollout of Superfast Broadband (FTTH or "fibre to the home") networks in France. As well as improving service quality, the project will also have very positive economic consequences for the regions concerned, particularly in terms of productivity and job creation.
Heidelberg – digital printing in Germany
A €100 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) is to support the research and development (R&D) activities of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, focusing on digitisation, software integration and expansion of the digital printing portfolio. Another aim is to enable the company’s customers to expand their business models with new digital printing solutions.