A year of REGIO Communities
Publishing 15 November 2018
The fi-compass advisory platform was created for the 2014-2020 programming period by the European Commission, in partnership with the European Investment Bank and widened the scope of the successful technical assistance initiatives of the previous 2007–2013 period: JEREMIE (for enterprises), JESSICA (for urban development and energy efficiency) and JASMINE (for microcredit).
fi-compass was set up to support Member States and their managing authorities, as well as European financial intermediaries, and it provides learning opportunities for developing financial instruments within the scope of European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) and the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) microfinance.
From 2014 to 2018, the platform was run by a consortium led by SWECO, that included t33, University of Strathclyde – EPRC, Spatial Foresight and infeurope. Activities were realised by a team led by four key experts: one for content, one for capacity building, one for communication, and a project leader. From 2016 onwards, three of the four key experts, including the project leader, came from t33: Alessandro Valenza, Giovanni Familiari and Lorenzo Palego.
Source: t33 elaboration
What are ESIF financial instruments?
Financial instruments are an efficient and sustainable way of investing public resources to achieve development objectives, mainly because of their revolving character and potential to leverage private funding.
The five ESI funds work together to support economic development across all EU countries, in line with the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. ESIF financial instruments invest through financial products such as loans, guarantees, equity and other risk-bearing mechanisms, and are suitable especially for financially viable projects, which are expected to generate enough income or savings to pay back the received support.
Moving towards financial instruments
The 2014-2020 policy and legal framework has widened the scope of financial instruments to all thematic objectives and all five ESI Funds – the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The European Commission’s goal is to increase the use of financial instruments under ESIF, from EUR 10-12 billion in 2007-2013 to EUR 30-35 billion in 2014-2020.
The new framework also gives more flexibility to all Member States in selecting their implementation options, as it was essential to build further knowledge and capacity of all stakeholders in order to effectively deliver more ESI funding through financial instruments, which is one of the main goals of the Investment Plan for Europe.
The outputs of the fi-compass advisory platform can be grouped in three main workstreams: content, capacity building and communication.
Source: t33 elaboration
Content (handbooks, factsheets, case studies and videos)
The fi-compass publications provide methodological advice throughout the financial instruments life cycle and aim to address issues faced by ESIF authorities during the design and implementation of financial instruments, covering different stages of the financial instrument life cycle. They raise awareness on relevant practices, help improve the understanding about regulatory and technical requirements and provide advice on the approach to take.
The fi-compass publications feature the following types of reading material:
Manuals and handbooks – provide specific ‘how to’ information or instructions to address the needs of the Member States.
Factsheets and brochures – provide advisory information about financial instruments in a quick and efficient manner.
Case studies – showcase examples of good practice in financial instrument implementation and may concern particular themes.
Capacity building (Trainings, conferences, seminars and e-learning)
The capacity building work stream supports all other fi-compass workstreams and enables stakeholders to help improve the design and delivery of ESIF financial instruments.
The over 70 public fi-compass events (conferences, seminars, and workshops) organised all over the EU in 2015-2018 have been very successful in bringing together stakeholders from the Member States: they attracted over 7000 participants and generated materials, such as presentations, videos and pictures, that are stored in the website and made accessible to everyone. Events were thematic, mainly based on the principal funds (ERDF, ESF and EAFRD) and included training sessions for managing authority and financial intermediaries on the use of financial instruments under ESIF, mainly held by fi-compass experts from t33.
Online registrations of stakeholders of financial instruments generated a significant growth in the contact database of fi-compass and helped promote other available fi-compass resources, such as advisory publications or learning videos. Feedback received from participants confirmed that the fi-compass awareness raising and capacity building inputs had a positive impact in terms of improving knowledge on the use of ESI Funds financial instruments.
Communication (website, newsletters, social media coverage)
Communication is another horizontal work stream that is integrated with all the other work streams and aims to raise awareness of ESIF financial instruments.
A large selection of fi-compass products has thus been communicated in ways that both raise awareness about the potential of ESI Funds financial instruments and at the same time, increase the understanding about the scope of fi-compass operations.
News about ESIF financial instruments was published regularly through a series of short articles on the website and ‘The Beacon’ newsletters were produced to provide a round-up of developments with ESIF financial instruments.
FI Campus – the main event
The three-day event entitled FI Campus was held in Brussels at the end of 2017 and focused on financial instruments under the ESI Funds in the 2014-2020 programming period. The watchword was ‘Financial instruments, powered by you’ and the event was aimed especially at ESIF managing authorities, financial intermediaries, regions, cities and the growing community of practitioners who have set up and are now operating ESIF financial instruments.
With over 30 sessions on offer during the three-day event, nearly 400 participants were able to tailor their individual programme to meet their own specific needs. Sessions on European Commission Regulatory Guidance, ranging from State aid to managing, monitoring and audit were given by Commission experts. Participants were also able to hear case studies related to different thematic objectives and sectors, presented by practitioners from a variety of Member States and regions, as well as by experts from the European Investment Bank. Other stimulating features of FI Campus included roundtables on Regulatory Guidance, thematic forums, and various interactive workshops led by t33 fi-compass experts Michele Alessandrini, Timothy Wills, Giovanni Familiari and Lorenzo Palego.
Experts from managing authorities, financial intermediaries and other stakeholders directly involved in the use of financial instruments from Germany, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain shared their experiences at FI Campus. Fi Campus, due to its success, was replicated in the same format in December 2018.