Over 25 million euros is already available in the Enterprise Innovation Fund (ENIF), the first regional venture fund for innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at various stages of business development, and this amount should reach the target of 40 million euros by the end of the year, a press conference was told in Zagreb on Tuesday.

The ENIF was launched on the initiative of the European Commission, the European Investment Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which are the largest investors in the fund.  Funds will also be invested by participating countries, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Croatia is the first country to have invested its share, which is slightly above 2 million euros, said Darko Liovic, chairman of the Croatian Agency for SMEs, Innovations and Investments (HAMAG-BICRO), through which the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Trades is one of the stakeholders.

Funds have so far also been contributed by Macedonia and a number of private investors, the press conference, held to mark the launch of the ENIF, was told.

South Central Ventures (SCV) was selected to manage the ENIF at an international tender in September. One of the partners in this company, Domagoj Oreb, said that the first project to be financed by the ENIF had been selected and that conclusion of the business deal could be expected at the end of this year or the start of the next, adding that about 30 more companies were under consideration.

SCV expects about 800 projects from the region to be evaluated annually. Oreb said that SCV had already scanned projects in the region and that based on the present situation about 30 per cent of the ENIF funds would most likely be invested in Croatia, where SCV would have one of its three offices, along with Belgrade and Skopje.

Oreb said that ENIF funds would primarily finance technological companies at the start-up stage or the early stage of business which showed the highest growth potential, by investing in 25-49% stakes. Investments would average between 500,000 and 1.5 million euros, but could range from 100,000 euros for so-called seed companies to a maximum of 3 million euros for projects with exceptional potential.

Liovic said that the Croatian government was establishing another venture capital fund, in cooperation with the World Bank, adding that these two funds would not be in competition but would ensure an additional possibility for investment in SMEs.

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