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Programme: European Regional Development Fund

European Regional Development Fund
Acronym ERDF
Description of programme
"European Regional Development Fund"

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) aims to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions. In 2021-2027 it will enable investments in a smarter, greener, more connected and more social Europe that is closer to its citizens.

The ERDF finances programmes in shared responsibility between the European Commission and national and regional authorities in Member States. The Member States' administrations choose which projects to finance and take responsibility for day-to-day management. In 2021-2027, the fund will enable investments to make Europe and its regions:

  • More competitive and smarter, through innovation and support to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as digitisation and digital connectivity (Policy Objective 1 - PO1)
  • Greener, low-carbon and resilient (Policy Objective 2 - PO2)
  • More connected by enhancing mobility (Policy Objective 3 - PO3)
  • More social, supporting effective and inclusive employment, education, skills, social inclusion and equal access to healthcare, as well as enhancing the role of culture and sustainable tourism (Policy Objective 4 - PO4)
  • Closer to citizens, supporting locally-led development and sustainable urban development across the EU (Policy Objective 5 - PO5)

The European Regional Development Fund will support investments of all five policy objectives, but based on their prosperity, all regions and Member States will concentrate the support on a more competitive and smarter Europe (PO 1), as well as greener, low-carbon transitioning towards a net zero carbon economy and resilient Europe (PO2), through the mechanism known as 'thematic concentration'.

All regions and Member States will concentrate at least 30% of their allocation to PO 2 and:

  • More developed regions or Member States will dedicate at least 85% of their allocation to PO1 and PO2;
  • Transition regions or Member States at least 40% to PO1;
  • Less developed regions or Member States at least 25% to PO1.

All regions and Member States will also concentrate at least 8% of their allocation to urban development that will be delivered through local development partnerships with different tools. Operations under the ERDF are also expected to contribute 30 % of the overall financial envelope to climate objectives.

European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), better known as Interreg,  provides a framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local actors from different Member States. The overarching objective of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) is to promote a harmonious economic, social and territorial development of the Union as a whole. Interreg is built around four strands of cooperation:

  • cross-border cooperation between adjacent regions to promote integrated and harmonious regional development between neighbouring land and maritime border regions (Interreg A)
  • transnational cooperation over larger transnational territories or around sea basins, involving national, regional and local programme partners in Member States, third countries and partner countries and OCTs, with a view to achieving a higher degree of territorial integration (Interreg B)
  • transnational (Interreg B)
  • interregional cooperation to reinforce the effectiveness of cohesion policy (Interreg C)
  • outermost regions’ cooperation among themselves and with their neighbouring third or partner countries or OCTs, or regional integration and cooperation organisations, or several thereof, to facilitate their regional integration and harmonious development in their neighbourhood (Interreg D)

In addtion to the five policy objectives of ERDF, the Interreg programmes have two additional policy objectives at their disposal, i.e. “A better cooperation governance” and  “A safer and more secure Europe”.

Link Link to Programme
Thematic Focus Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Competitiveness, SME, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Green Technologies & Green Deal, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity, Administration & Governance, Regional Development & Regional Planning, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Mobility & Transport/Traffic , Employment & Labour Market, Demographic Change, Migration, Tourism, Community Integration, European Citizenship, Shared Services, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Art & Culture, Cultural Heritage, History, Media, Urban development
EU Macro-Regions
Adriatic and Ionian Region, Alpine Region, Baltic Sea Region, Danube Region
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Candidate Countries
EU Neighbourhood Policy Countries
Potential Candidate Countries
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Candidate Countries
EU Neighbourhood Policy Countries
Potential Candidate Countries
Project Partner No
Eligible applicants Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, Research Institution, Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, International Organization, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), NGO / NPO, Public Services, Other, National Government, Start Up Company, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Association
Type of Funding Grants

Subprogrammes of European Regional Development Fund

Interreg Central Europe Programme 2021-27

Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE envisions a united central Europe that cooperates - to become smarter, greener and better connected together. Based on shared needs and a common identity in an area long divided by the ‘Iron Curtain’, the programme aims for a trustful culture of cooperation beyond administrative borders.

The programme mission is to bring regions and cities together beyond borders to find fitting solutions for their citizens – in a fair and equal way everywhere. It encourages and supports transnational cooperation to make regions more resilient to common challenges that know no borders and which cannot be solved alone. These challenges include among others economic transition processes, climate change, and the long-term socioeconomic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The programme priorities and specific objectives form the backbone of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE funding strategy in 2021-27. In line with the thematic fields, transnational cooperation actions are expected to address the development and implementation of strategies, action plans, tools, training, pilot actions and related solutions. All actions will have to respect the horizontal principles of sustainable development including environmental protection as well as equal opportunities, non-discrimination and gender equality.

Priority 1:  Cooperating for a smarter central Europe

SO 1.1 Strengthening innovation capacities in central Europe
Strong innovation capacities bear enormous relevance for central Europe considering its strong industrial base and the importance of sectors such as agriculture and food, or tourism. Innovation is also central for strengthening central Europe’s economic resilience. Capacities for innovation need to be fostered especially in regions that are struggling with the transition to a more globalised, digitalised and green economy. Knowledge and technology transfer, especially for SMEs, is a critical need.

SO 1.2  Strenghtening skills for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship in central Europe
The strong industrial base of central Europe and its dependence on adequate skills underlines the strategic relevance of this specific objective. SMEs have been identified as the main providers of employment in central Europe and it is important to foster locally available human skills, especially for the transition to Industry 4.0, digitalisation and a green economy. Capacities for an efficient entrepreneurial discovery process need to be improved as well as for the preparation or updating of smart specialisation strategies. Place-based development of skills is also crucial for reducing urban-rural disparities. Overall, there is the need for a just transition process that is socially responsible.

Priority 2:  Cooperating for a greener central Europe

SO 2.1  Supporting the energy transition to a climate-neutral central Europe
Central Europe needs to speed up its performance related both to energy efficiency as well as the production and use of renewable energy to meet EU targets and climate objectives of the European Green Deal. Significant regional disparities between central European regions have to be tackled. Energy efficiency and renewable energy need to be promoted and exploited to reach a wider geographical coverage.

SO 2.2. Increasing the resilience to climate change risks in central Europe
Resilience to climate change risks represents an important need for central Europe, especially in view of its significant environmental and socio-economic impacts. A specific territorial aspect is the need for integrated and cross-sectoral approaches to best adapt to climate change. In order to build up climate resilience, general approaches need to be locally adapted towards workable and manageable, integrated solutions which can be proliferated across the entire central Europe area.

SO 2.3. Taking circular economy forward in central Europe
A climate-neutral, resource-efficient and competitive economy requires up-scaled circular approaches. This economic transformation has to pay attention to the fact that a circular economy will often require a re- arrangement of value chains, changes of interdependencies and the creation of new profit options. It is important that this socio-economic transformation happens across the entire territory of central Europe and does not concentrate on only a few regions.

SO 2.4. Safeguarding the environment in central Europe
The economic and environmental significance of natural assets and landscapes in central Europe calls for a co-ordinated valorisation and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. There is a strong need to counteract negative effects of human action through integrated environmental management approaches.

SO 2.5. Greening urban mobility in central Europe
A reduction of transport emissions is one of the key targets of the European Green Deal. Smart and greener urban mobility will need an integrated response. Many functional urban areas in central Europe face similar challenges when greening their mobility. The specific territorial need lies in the vast diversity of topics (e.g. pollution and congestion) that need to be addressed in an integrated approach. Furthermore, the topic does not only include different ways of mobility, but also urban as well as urban-rural logistics.

Priority 3:  Cooperating for a better connected Europe

SO 3.1. Improving transport connections of rural and peripheral regions in central Europe
The programme area is a relevant junction in Europe. This can strategically facilitate the participation in trade and increase competitiveness. Accessibility to larger transport corridors is, however, comparatively weak. There is a need to link especially peripheral regions to the nodes of the TEN-T core network corridors (CNC), to remove bottlenecks and to bridge missing transport links in order to ensure good accessibility across central Europe. Furthermore, there is the need to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050, which calls for smart and sustainable approaches to cross-border mobility, intermodality and the introduction of IT-supported solutions for mobility management.

Priority 4:  Improving governance for cooperation in central Europe

SO 4.1  Strengthening  governance  for  integrated  territorial  development  in central Europe
Central Europe is highly heterogeneous both in territorial as well as in socio-economic terms. A multitude of challenges and barriers hinders the economic, social and territorial development in central Europe, which are not necessarily bound to specific administrative units. They rather relate to areas with functional ties that are characterised by economic, social, and environmental linkages. Addressing these territorial development challenges calls for integrated multi-level and multi-sectoral governance processes that consider functional linkages at the territorial level. There is a need to improve capacities of public authorities on all territorial levels for setting up and implementing integrated territorial development strategies. Cooperation should be encouraged within and between territories that are sharing functional ties.

Interreg Alpine Space programme 2021-2027

The Alpine Space programme is a European transnational cooperation programme that funds alpine-wide projects. It provides a framework to connect stakeholders from various sectors and different policy levels from seven Alpine countries. Key players from academia and administrative, business and innovation sectors, as well as policy-makers work together to tackle common challenges and develop joint solutions for the Alpine area. Sharing their experiences and expertise, they strive towards improving the quality of life for the Alpine citizens.

The programme will concentrate on green, CO2-neutral, innovative and governance related topics. The mission statement of the programme is also an expression of this focus and intends to make this approach broadly visible. Following priorities are defined for the period 2021-2027:

Priority 1: “Climate resilient and green Alpine region”

Specific objective: “Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and disaster resilience”
The signs of climate change require urgent action. Adaptation to climate change is one element of a possible reaction, mitigation is another. Within this specific objective, measures that foster the adaptation to climate change, “the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects.” as the IPCC puts it, should be covered. Actions supported within these specific objectives should have an integrated character, foster co-benefits for mitigation and avoid lock-in-effects by adaptation.

Specific  objective:  “Enhancing   protection   and   preservation    of   nature,   biodiversity   and   green infrastructure,  including in urban areas, and reducing all forms of pollution”
The Alpine region marks a transnational biodiversity hotspot; even though it is situated within one of the most densely inhabited and connected areas in Europe. This particular context calls for urgent action. Alpine biodiversity and ecological connectivity have been under pressure for many decades, especially since the second half of the last century. Human activities, land use, exploitation of natural resources and pollution lead to habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity and cultural landscapes. Additionally, consequences of climate change (e.g. heat, drought) as well as certain climate mitigation and adaptation measures (e.g. the reinforced use of wind- or hydropower in sensitive regions) pose threats to Alpine biodiversity. The on-going and predicted reduction of living space and biotope fragmentation causes high los ses in biodiversity and reduces ecosystem services. The need to reduce biotope fragmentation and loss as well as to foster the connectivity of ecosystems is therefore high.

Priority 2: “Carbon neutral and resource sensitive Alpine region”

Specific objective: “Promoting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse  gas emissions”
The European Union aims at becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 with no net greenhouse gases in 2050 and economic growth decoupled from resource use. The ambitions with respect to carbon - neutrality have been reflected in different strategies (e.g. the Alpine Climate Target System 2050 (Alpine Convention) as well as in implementing various measures in the Alpine region in the last years. However, in order to reach the global and European targets, the efforts must be increased in the next years.
The two sectors currently showing the highest per capita end-use of energy in Europe are mobility and transport and the building sector. Mobility and transport is one of the sectors that is highly relevant in the Alpine region. Although progress towards energy efficiency has been made throughout the Alpine region and in different sectors, high levels of final energy consumption are still observable in certain areas. Road transport, next to the residential or the tourism and leisure sector, remains one of them. Efficiency concepts alone most probably will not be sufficient to manage the transition to a carbon neutral or even a post carbon society. Innovative steps therefore should go beyond efficiency and foster integrated, sufficiency -oriented concepts of well-being and post-carbon lifestyles. This should be coupled with the use of renewable energy sources broadly available within the Alpine region (e.g. water, wind, solar power, etc.).
The promotion of energy efficiency measures is closely linked to tackle climate change, as well as to implement circular economy-approaches. In this context, this specific objective should be seen as a “supporting objective” to “Promoting climate change adaption” and “Promoting the transition to a circular economy”. The interventions in this specific objective should be complementary but not overlapping with these specific objectives.

Specific objective: “Promoting the transition to a circular and resource  efficient economy”
Fostering circular economy is one of the main thrusts of the European Green Deal. Circular economy refers to sustainable systems that treat resources as particularly valuable and attempt to close the resource loop. The principles of avoiding “waste” and trying to keep resources in use for as long as possible are relevant for the entire production-cycle. In this regard, circular economy is a far broader approach than just recycling or waste management. It strongly supports sustainable development, the mindful use of resources, climate- neutrality and both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Concerning the situation with COVID 19, circular economy is also widely assumed to be a suitable approach to tackle the crisis, strengthen resilience and support a “sustainable restart” of the social and economic system. In this global crisis, the importance of regional and local value chains became clearly visible. Circular economy approaches appear to be very suitable for supporting the needs of sustainable economic development, climate-protection and social adaptation in the Alpine region.

Priority 3 “Innovation and digitalisation supporting a green Alpine region”

Specific objective: “Enhancing research and innovation capacities and the uptake of advanced technologies”
Cooperation on innovation capacities is a transversal activity that can strengthen the programme’s impact in particular thematic fields by increasing the innovation potential of Alpine actors. Enhancing research and innovation capacities in the Alpine region should effectively be fostered by cooperation between actors and stakeholders in different regions. Better alignment and coordination of policy-making in the transnational context is necessary in order to help regions overcome barriers in cooperation on innovation and uptake of advanced technologies. This will lead to establishing and strengthening existing synergies and functional links, reducing polarisation between urban and rural regions, for example by diffusing innovation services, capacities, linking key actors and fostering resilience. At the same time, the programme should further ensure involvement of diverse actors from research, innovation, academia, private sectors, public sector and civil society. Its focus should not only be result - oriented innovation seeking particular solutions, but also innovation concerning processes and with a view to reducing territorial imbalances. It is important to observe that the innovativeness of solutions sought in the programme refers not only to the objective of making business actors more competitive, but to making other actors, such as public bodies and other organisations, more capable of applying innovative solutions and technologies.  Given by the programme`s mission, innovation includes a “green” character of activities, impacts of projects as well as methods and practices of project management.

Specific objective: “Reaping the benefits of digitisation for citizens, companies, research organisations and public authorities”
Digitalisation offers opportunities to address joint challenges, which are particularly prominent in mountainous areas such as the Alpine region. New digital tools can be developed to increase resilience of Alpine regions and mitigate the impacts of accessibility problems and remoteness coupled with negative demographic situations in many regions. Such increased flexibility can be particularly attractive in the context of the territorial specificity of the Alps as well as its ambition to become climate resilient, carbon neutral, green, inclusive and resource sensitive. Due to the emergence of COVID-19, the need to support digital transition in these fields in an inclusive way in all regions became even clearer. Individual lives as well as working modes in both public and private sector have been transformed as more location-flexible. This has created a “window of opportunity” for strengthening and making use of digitalisation to support life and work of citizens to enforce sustainable development even in the face of external challenges. Digitalisation can contribute to finding solutions for more efficient, innovative and effective solutions that support a shift to climate resilience, carbon-neutrality, green and resource sensitivity. In the context of the private sector, it also facilitates the implementation of greening practices by businesses and associations as well as ensuring consideration concerning the exclusion of negative impacts of digitalisation on the environment. Principles that should be pursued in these activities are the inclusion of appropriate groups, such as policy-makers or the civil society, as well as safeguarding that any activities have a positive environmental impact.

Priority 4 - Interreg Specific Objective – “A better Cooperation governance”

The Alpine region is characterised by a long tradition of international and inter-regional cooperation on governmental and non-governmental level. Cooperation in this sense takes place on a wide variety of levels and in a wide variety of formats, ranging from local to macroregional level, from international to regional agreements, or from professional funding programmes to voluntary work. Cooperation activities are implemented through a wide range of formats, e.g. by funding programmes such as EU-transnational or bilateral cooperation programmes, as well as by international agreements such as the Alpine Convention and its protocols or regional cooperation frameworks. In order to take governance and multi-level-cooperation in the Alpine region to a new level, an important step has been taken in recent years: With the establishment of the EUSALP (European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region) a new perspective for governance cooperation at macro -regional level was launched. Multilevel-governance in the Alpine region has to be evolved further and institutional capacities of public authorities and stakeholders have to be enhanced accordingly. To this end, the Interreg specific objective represents a tailor-made possibility to deepen and evolve cooperation and governance structures in the Alpine region. To meet the above-mentioned needs, the Alpine Space Programme aims on further clarifying, deepening, supporting and improving cooperation structures, with placing a particular focus on the professionalisation of governance and stakeholder structures as well as on preparing the ground for innovative projects and stronger involvement of the civil society.


Published on 23.09.2022

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