The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was established to support Central and Eastern Europe’s transition towards market-oriented, well-governed and resilient economies. As the engines of sustainable economic growth, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at the core of this mandate. Under the remit of the Small Business Initiative, the Bank deploys dedicated programmes to help SMEs address their barriers to growth, adopt innovative technologies and make their own breakthroughs in the market.

EBRD programmes

The EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses (ASB) Programme in the Western Balkans taps into a vast network of local and international consultants to deliver world-class advisory projects that help companies innovate in a wide range of areas, including green and digital infrastructure, financial reporting and organisational development among many others. The programme targets SMEs with growth and export potential, as well as those that receive financing under the Western Balkans Enterprises Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) at the pre- and post-investment stage, while working in synergy with smaller national programmes.

The EBRD Women in Business programme promotes women’s entrepreneurship and participation in business through a holistic approach, combining financing with advisory. The EBRD partners with local banks in the Western Balkans to provide them with credit lines for on-lending to women-led SMEs. The programme complements the credit lines with technical assistance designed to help banks understand and serve their women clients better. When finance alone cannot fill all the gaps in know-how, Women in Business also facilitates women entrepreneurs’ access to advisory in order to help them build the knowledge, techniques and skills that are critical to their development and competitiveness. Since launching the programmes in 2014, the EBRD has reached more than 90,000 women entrepreneurs across the EBRD’s regions. In the Western Balkan, the Women in Business programme is supported by Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden.

EBRD Star Venture programme identifies and supports innovative early-stage companies with a high potential for growth. The programme harnesses the combined impact of know-how, access to finance and networks to help start-ups remove their barriers to scale and compete on the international stage.

The programme works across the start-up ecosystem, engaging world class experts, mentors, consultants, accelerators, as well as a network of investors to help accelerate start-ups’ lifecycle. Tailored advisory services, combined with training, workshops and other capacity-building interventions help start-ups understand both the opportunities and obstacles to growth, while deepening their skill-set and strengthening their performance. At the same time, Star Venture supports young companies’ access to finance by connecting them to a network of investors with a strategic interest in the early-stage space. By building the capacity of accelerators, consultants and local advisers to support start-ups, the programme bolsters local and regional start-up ecosystems, encouraging their participation in global markets. In the Western Balkans, the Star Venture programme is supported by Luxembourg through the EBRD’s Small Business Impact Fund (Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA).