Capital starved EU film-makers are set to grab a share in a Euros12bn boost from the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU's long-term lending arm.

The move - which could shrug off the EU's low-budget image - follows concerns that massive box office potential rests untapped because EU film-makers have struggled to beat their Hollywood rivals in the race to finance production and distribution of their products.

Officials at the Luxembourg-based bank said "content" projects would be added to a fresh round of funding worth up to Euros12bn for the information society sector over the next five years.

The "Innovation 2000 Initiative" would also cover loans to finance traditional infrastructure projects and other efforts to boost research and training. "But for us, the content side is the most noble," said a spokesman.

He said the content side of the "I2I" plan, set to be finalised before Christmas, would target blockbuster movies, but could also cover any entertainment, information and educational projects with money-spinning potential. "It will not just be feature films. The money could go in all directions," he said.

Meanwhile he said the EIB's sister organisation, the European Investment Fund may also channel cash directly into private venture funds which invest in the content sector.

Philippe Kern, secretary-general of the European Film Companies Alliance - the grouping which first led calls for the EIB to step in - welcomed the news, adding that EFCA members would meet with EIB staff to help steer its investment strategy.

"The EIB is lacking experts in this field so at this stage they have asked us to push forward ideas and for them to take it from there," said Kern.

"It seems the EIB is looking for big projects. From an EFCA point of view the money should be to raise finance for companies that want to make not one or two but a slate of international films that can compete on a pan-European basis."

EFCA, whose members include France's StudioCanal and Pathe, Portugal's Lusomundo Audiovisuais and the UK's FilmFour, has been lobbying governments for years to convince them to set up a guarantee fund managed by the EIF using EU money to leverage big-budget film projects.

Kern said the EIF's moves to invest directly in private funds targeting the sector could encourage reluctant venture funds to target the area. He said there was currently only a handful of venture funds investing in the EU film business.