The main objectives of the new EU financial perspective and recovery plan, for which the money will be used, are to combat the economic effects of the pandemic, stimulate economic development, even out disparities between less and more developed countries, and to support innovation and new technologies.
An important issue is also the deepening environmental and climate crisis, which is one of the main challenges the EU will be facing in the coming years. To this end, a special ‘Green Deal’ document was prepared, which sets out a series of actions to be implemented in the near future.
However, in order for the member states to receive the negotiated funds from the European Commission, each of them is obliged to develop a National Recovery Plan.
This document should out the objectives for recovery and building socio-economic resilience following the pandemic and the proposed reforms and investments to be implemented. In addition to preparing the above plan, each member state needs to develop programmes under which support can be obtained for implementing specific projects.
One such tool is the European Funds for Modern Economy programme. In Poland, this will be known as FENG (Fundusze Europejskie dla Nowoczesnej Gospodarki); this acronym will become as well-known; FENG will replace the Operational Programme Smart Growth (Program Operacyjny Inteligentny Rozwój) familiar from previous EU budgets.
Under FENG, many competitions will be organised to provide support to implement R&D projects. A novelty in the new programmes, including FENG, is changes in financial instruments. In the previous budgets, the dominant form of support was non-returnable aid in the form of grants, but now a part of the grants will be transformed into capital and guarantee instruments, as well as instruments combining returnable and grant financing.
According to the assumptions of FENG, non-repayable financing will be available mainly to high-risk projects which are at low levels of technological readiness. In the case of R&D projects carried out by international consortia, there will be the possibility of mixed financing – part of the project will be financed by a non-repayable grant, and the remaining part by equity financing. As for guarantee instruments, they will be addressed to projects implemented by SMEs and mid-caps which want to obtain debt financing for investments and/or increase the working capital necessary for the development of the company and ensuring financial liquidity.
Under the new budget perspective, it is also planned to continue the loan for technological innovations – an instrument combining debt financing with the participation of commercial banks and non-returnable financing in the form of a grant. This financing will allow commercial banks to increase their share in financing innovative undertakings, including green projects.
Another tool within the framework of which numerous competitions will be organised to support projects from various fields, including those related to the introduction of the Green Deal, are the European Funds for Infrastructure, the Climate, and the Environment (in Polish Fundusze Europejskie na Infrastrukturę, Klimat, Środowisko or FEnIKS). These funds will mainly be allocated to projects related to economic transformation, combating climate change and investing in social inclusion. According to the preliminary assumptions of the programme, access to non-repayable grants will be limited. Grants will only be provided for strategic projects, while other investments will be supported by financial instruments. In particular, large enterprises may have limited access to non-repayable grants, hence the share of external sources of financing offered by commercial banks may increase.
Proposing diverse forms of support within the framework of competitions concerns the FENG and FEnIKS programmes and also other national and international competitions. Most competitions assume that non-refundable grants will be provided mainly to R&D projects, while investment and implementation projects will be financed from other financial instruments, which will require obtaining guarantees or bank promises. Increasing the share of financial instruments requiring funds from other sources means that the involvement of the financial sector in obtaining grants will be much greater than in the previous perspective. It is to the financial sector that enterprises will turn in order to obtain additional funds, such as., loans, guarantees, or promissory notes. According to the provisions of the EU and national programmes, the possibility of obtaining non-returnable funds by large enterprises will be significantly limited in the forthcoming competitions.
The new financial perspective is associated with many changes, which include modifications to the structure of project financing through the introduction of new financial instruments. Nevertheless, funds are planned to a large extent for enterprises for the implementation of innovative projects, which will affect the growth of the whole economy, including the financial sector. In turn, the introduction of additional financial instruments will increase the participation of the financial sector in project implementation.
The need for the European Commission to go into debt to obtain recovery funds also shows how much influence the financial sector will have on the improvement of the EU economy in the coming years.