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The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Italian banking group UniCredit have agreed to double the InnovFin SME guarantee aimed at improving access to finance for innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in nine countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), EIF said.

The Headquarters of European Investment Fund in Luxembourg. Photo by nitpicker/ 

“The operation signed today will increase the overall portfolio from EUR 500 million up to EUR 1 billion for the benefit of some 1,300 SMEs and small mid-caps,” EIF chief investment officer, Alessandro Tappi, said in a statement on January 15.

The new agreement will allow UniCredit’s nine banks and six leasing companies to offer an additional EUR 500 mln to innovative SMEs and small mid-caps in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, EIF explained.

The project benefits from EU’s framework program for research and innovation, Horizon 2020, and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the financial pillar of the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe.

In particular, the banks in Serbia and Bosnia and the leasing company in Serbia will be supported by a EIF guarantee backed under Horizon 2020, the EIF said.