ESIF – European Structural and Investment Funds - comprise ERDF – European Regional development Fund (supports all TO but main focus on TO1-4), ESF – European Social Fund (Support all TO but main focus on TO5-11), the Cohesion Fund (supports TO4-7 and 11); the European Agricultural fund (EAFRD) and the European Maritime Fund (EMFF). For the purpose of LT, main fund is ERDF (with ESF potentially in the education area, e.g. multilingualism in SMEs in the ambit of lifelong learning). Their scope is to add to European cohesion and improve the national/regional performance - hence a totally different scope than for example Horizon 2020 that looks for European value and novel research and innovation solutions through international consortia.
ESIF will be allocated to priority areas, in accordance with the strategic programming documents: the Partnership Agreement and the Operational Programmes that are the result of a process of consultation between the European Commission and the EU Member States. Partnership Agreements are high-level documents that indicate with statistics and other documentation why countries decided on which priorities, and give an indication about the total sum of EUR that will be used to implement the programme. They are most often in the official language of the country and not always translated (summaries and press releases are also in English). The Commission (DG REGIO) negotiates the PA and each Operational Programme which lays down the priorities by country and/or region.
Operational Programmes: On this page, one can search Operational Programmes by country, region and thematic objective!
Operational Programmes can be national, regional or topical (that are cross-regional). Some countries mix these options which results in complex and fragmented programmes.
The 11 Thematic Objectives for the period 2014-2020 are:
TO3 SME competitiveness
TO4 Low carbon economy
TO5 Climate change
TO6 Sources efficiency
TO7 Transport and infrastructure networks
TO8 Employment and mobility
TO9 Inclusion and equality
TO10 Education and lifelong learning
TO11 Public administrations
For details, see "Priorities"
In the Thematic area of R+D+I (TO1), the Member States/Regions had to indicate “smart specialisations” priority areas that will make the region more competitive, more innovative for regional development and growth.
Smart specialisation platform
ESIF funding goes over the same period as Horizon2020, i.e. 2014 to 2020 (7 years). Rules to obtain ESIF funding are quite different from Horizon 2020 funding, due partially to the different scope: regional development and growth as opposed to research and innovation at EU level for Horizon 2020. ESIF funding are subject to competition rules which often results in lower % of funding for companies. In an attempt to enhance the impact of activities, DG REGIO issued a “Synergies guide” (http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/guides/synergy/synergies_en.pdf) that point out the possibility of “joint funding” or complementary funding of actions that could fall under a Horizon2020 topic and at the same time, for one or more partners, into ESIF funding. While this is an interesting option, the implementation means careful timing and a good overview of which region foresees “windows of opportunities”. The country web pages should help to find out where some potential funding for LT from ESIF is possible.