The Innov Invest Fund is an initiative launched by Morocco Guarantee and SME Finance Corp (CCG) and supported by the Moroccan Government, the World Bank and the European Union to enhance the access to finance for SMEs and start-ups and make Morocco a regional hub for innovative entrepreneurs. The 3rd Policy Lab organised by INSME in the context of THE NEXT SOCIETY project was the occasion to explore how this fund operates, all the achievements reached till now and the replicability of this inspiring initiative.
SMEs are the backbone of the Moroccan economy, representing 95% of the private sector and creating 50% of the job offer. That said, even though the Moroccan financial system is open and competitive, the funding mix addressed toward SMEs and start-ups is still dominated by the bank sector (bank loans represent the primary funding source for Moroccan SMEs – around 68% according to the International Finance Corporation –
IFC). In order to overcome this issue, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF) of Morocco and CCG, signed an agreement in 2016 called the Innov Invest Fund that provided CCG with the mandate to operate a seed, early-stage, and VC financing programme through public funding.
The Innov Invest Fund strives to create opportunities and jobs through the development of a more robust private sector by increasing the sources of financing and supporting entrepreneurial innovation.
This initiative offers a comprehensive package of financial instruments to sustain innovative projects and the initial stages of the start-up life cycle through grants, soft loans, equity, quasi-equity, cash advances and technical assistance. The objective is to enable new and existing innovative SMEs to access risk capital, other types of financing (e.g. soft loans) and critical non-financial support.
The Innov Invest Fund is managed by CCG and sees the partnership of Venture Capital Funds and Programs (SEAF, DGCF), DFIs (KfW, AfDB), Moroccan banks and Pension Funds, incubators and accelerators.
2017, no ending date.
The Innov Invest Fund was launched in 2017 and became operational during 2018 with the selection of the first bunch of accelerators/incubators and the establishment of 4 early-stage/venture capital funds.
The programme targets start-ups operative in the innovation field for less than five years.
CCG, as an innovation finance enabler is enhancing Marocco’s plans to boost technology SMEs and innovative start-ups by pursuing the following targets:
- Fund innovative start-ups through Public Private Equity Funds;
- Support existing Funds for innovative start-ups;
- Strengthen the ecosystem, ensuring a good quality deal flow.
- Grants: This activity is aimed at supporting young innovative start-ups or potential entrepreneurs to evaluate the feasibility of their idea;
- Soft Loans: This activity is addressed to finance the commercialisation of the innovative products/services of nearly created start-ups and their establishment;
- Entrepreneurship Support: this activity foresees funding to deliver mentoring, specialised technical assistance for incubators and accelerators and the creation of a business angel network. The Business Angel component is the latest one built.
- In the framework of the Innov Invest Fund, CCG has launched three funds in private/public partnership together with key international players.
- They have also raised $70 million of equity funds to be earmarked for start-ups investments.
- They have funded already 230 start-ups and projects, mainly through grants and soft loans.
- More recently they have also started to invest in Equity Tickets, targeting individuals (health care) and IT startups.
- The legal framework on bankruptcy is rigorous in Morocco, and in the event of company failure, it imposes consequences also for the investor’s capital. This legal context leads to the fear of funding start-ups and other initiatives well-acknowledged as risky investments.
- The high level of risk related to start-ups and venture capital companies also explains the limited investments coming from banks, pension funds and insurance institutes.
- The lack of tax incentives is another hurdle to face, which is expected to be overcome by offering an asymmetrical return distribution on investments in order to attract private investors.
- The need to enhance partnership among start-ups and universities has been addressed by allowing grants to enable the purchase of R&D services from universities.
- Another challenge that hinders start-ups from thriving is the lack of partnership among them and larger companies belonging to the private sector.
- Public standards requirements (paperwork, prior references, financial capabilities) also limit the access to the market.
- Another challenge to be faced is the need to promote the bonds between incubators and venture capital funds to ensure a good quality deal flow (creation and scaling of financially viable enterprises). In order to achieve this target, the Innov Invest Fund offers incentives to foster incubators working with funds also not managed by CCG.
- The last problem to point out is the lack and the relevant cost of technical expertise to support start-ups and venture capitals in their development process.
Given the success of this initiative, it will be maintained without a limited time horizon.
Some start-ups that benefitted from the programme achieved a strong development and have been able to expand themselves in overseas markets arousing the interest of banks which offered them technical support.
The replicability of the programme and its feasibility to be implemented in other countries have already drawn the attention of other nations of the MENA region, like Jordan.