By letter D/52015 dated 18 March 2004, theCommission forwarded those comments to the UnitedKingdom, which was given the opportunity to react.
The United Kingdom
s opinion on the third parties
comments was received by letter dated 29 April 2004,registered at the Commission on 3 May 2004.
By letter dated 23 June 2004, registered at theCommission on 24 June 2004, the United Kingdomsubmitted additional information concerning thenotified measure.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE MEASURE
Objective of the measure
The measure is intended to provide risk capital fundingfor small and medium-sized enterprises (
) (SMEs) inNorthern Ireland by establishing a new venture capitalfund.
The Invest Northern Ireland Venture 2003 Fund(hereafter referred to as the fund) is intended toaddress the particular financing difficulties encounteredby SMEs in Northern Ireland.
On 4 February 2003 the Commission approved theSmall and Medium Enterprises Venture Capital andLoan Fund (
), an umbrella scheme for all regions inthe United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.
The Small and Medium Enterprises Venture Capital andLoan Fund regulates the establishment of venture capitalfunds specialising in risk capital funding for SMEs acrossthe United Kingdom and in Gibraltar.
In its decision of 4 February 2003, the Commissionapproved State-aided venture capital in certaineconomic areas qualifying for assistance pursuant toArticle 87(3)(c) of the EC Treaty up to a maximum of EUR 750 000 in a single tranche.
As Northern Ireland is currently classified as an areaqualifying for assistance under Article 87(3)(c) of theEC Treaty (
), investments to SMEs in Northern Irelandunder the Small and Medium Enterprises Venture Capitaland Loan Fund umbrella scheme are restricted to EUR750 000 in a single tranche.
Given the exceptional challenges encountered by Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom authorities, by means of the notified measure, intend to provide riskcapital finance of up to GBP 1 500 000 (EUR 2,2million) in a single tranche to SMEs in NorthernIreland, thereby exceeding the maximum investmentsizes per tranche as approved in the decision concerningthe Small and Medium Enterprises Venture Capital andLoan Fund.
All other material aspects of the notified measure respectthe conditions laid down in the decision concerning theSmall and Medium Enterprises Venture Capital and LoanFund.2.
Description of the measure
Legal basis of the scheme
The legal basis of the scheme is Article 7 of the IndustrialDevelopment (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.
Budget of the scheme
The United Kingdom proposes to establish a GBP 15million (EUR 22 million) to GBP 20 million (EUR 29million) venture capital fund.
If less than GBP 20 million (EUR 29 million) is raised,the government contribution will reduce
If more than GBP 20 million (EUR 29 million) is raised,the fund will accept the additional investments fromprivate sector investors. The government funding willnot be increased to a corresponding level.
Under no circumstances will the public contribution tothe fund exceed 50 % of the total fund volume.
Duration of the scheme
The fund will be newly set up as a 10-year limited part-nership that can be extended with the consent of allinvestors to a maximum of 12 years to facilitatesuccessful exits from the fund.
Beneficiaries of the scheme
The scheme will only apply to small and medium-sizedenterprises in Northern Ireland.
Firms in difficulties are excluded under the scheme.
13.9.2005 Official Journal of the European Union L 236/15
) The definition of small and medium-sized enterprises applied by theUnited Kingdom authorities for the purposes of the scheme is alwaysin line with the definition given in Annex I to Commission Regu-lation (EC) No 70/2001 of 12 January 2001 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the EC Treaty to State aid to small andmedium-sized enterprises (OJ L 10, 13.1.2001, p. 33). Regulationas amended by Regulation (EC) No 364/2004 (OJ L 63, 28.2.2004,p. 22).(
) State Aid N 620/2002
Small and MediumEnterprises Venture Capital and Loan Fund
. Commission Decisionof 4 February 2003 (C/2003/110).(
) State Aid N 265/2000
Regional Aid Map2000-2006
(OJ C 272, 23.9.2000, p. 43).