In this guide I try to give some advice on the regional calls available (i.e. indirect funds) with a focus on the specific programmes I follow (e.g. those specific for SMEs or where companies are involved).

In the 2014-2020 programming, cohesion policy interventions at the territorial level are differentiated according to the different social, environmental, and economic characteristics. The partnership agreement between the EU and Italy indicates the thematic objectives for the interventions financed by the various European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) during the 2014-2020 programming period. The resources available for Italy are approximately €44.8 billion (over €33.9 billion for cohesion policy alone).

The integrated approach for territorial development is the basis of the regeneration policies concerning specific places, which are targeted towards local and sustainable development. The main territorial challenges are implemented through the following strategies:

  • Strategy for urban areas (National Urban Agenda), financed by the ERDF.
  • Strategy for the development of inland areas, financed by the ERDF.
  • Strategy for the development of rural areas, financed by the EAFRD.
  • Development of coastal areas dependent on fishing, financed by the EMFF.

Regarding the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027, resources will be concentrated on five strategic objectives (policy objectives), replacing the 11 thematic objectives of the 2014-2020 period, in order to define more flexible and efficient development policies. The strategic objectives are:

  • A smarter Europe, through innovation, digitization, economic transformation, and support for small businesses.
  • A greener and carbon-free Europe, thanks to investments in energy transition, renewable energies, and the fight against climate change.
  • A more connected Europe with strategic transport and digital networks.
  • A more social Europe that supports quality employment, education, skills, social inclusion, and equal access to healthcare.
  • A Europe closer to citizens, supporting locally managed development strategies and sustainable urban development across the EU.

Regional funding

The ROP – Regional Operational Program

The partnership agreement introduces the PON, already seen here, and the POR (Regional Operational Programmes), to be applied to using ERDF and ESF funds. This agreement defines the needs relating to the thematic objectives of the programming, the expected results, and the actions to be implemented.

With the Common Strategic Framework, EU member states adopt an integrated approach to developing policies, as well as concentrating funds and resources, in order to achieve the agreed objectives and results.

ROP 2014-2020, which was developed by regional administrations based on the national approach in pursuing the specific objectives identified in the agreement for each thematic objective, identifies the tools and the actions for each expected result. The Regional Operational Programmes (ROP) and the Rural Development Programs (RDP) are developed by each Italian region, which presents the programming for the use of resources from the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). These resources are distributed among thematic objectives and investment priorities that are pre-defined at the community level, which vary between different regions and programmes.

The ERDF Programme

The ERDF focuses its investments on several key priority areas, which are identified below. This is known as “thematic concentration”.

  • Innovation and research.
  • The digital agenda.
  • Support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • The low-carbon economy.

ERDF resources allocated to these priorities will depend on the category of region.

  • In more developed regions, at least 80 % of funds must focus on at least two of these priorities.
  • In transition regions, 60 % of the funds must focus on at least two priorities.
  • 50 % of funds must focus on at least two of these priorities in less developed regions.

Furthermore, some ERDF resources must be channelled specifically towards low-carbon economy projects:

  • More developed regions: 20% of funds.
  • Transition regions: 15% of funds.
  • Less developed regions: 12% of funds.

Under the European Territorial Cooperation programmes, at least 80% of funds will be concentrated on these four priority areas mentioned above. The ERDF also pays attention to specific territorial characteristics, reducing economic, environmental, and social problems in urban areas, with a special focus on sustainable urban development. At least 5% of ERDF resources are set aside for this field, through “integrated actions” managed by cities.

The ESF Programme

 The European Social Fund (ESF) aims at increasing the employment opportunities of European citizens, through the development of education and training. Furthermore, it aims at helping the most vulnerable subjects, including young people, by pursuing the following thematic objectives:

  • Promoting employment and worker mobility.
  • The promotion of social inclusion and the fight against poverty.
  • Investment in education, skills, and lifelong learning.
  • Improvement of institutional capacity and public administration.

Compared to the previous 2007-2013 programming period, the ESF Programme has been strengthened with regards to:

  • An increase of the budget available.
  • Concentration on a limited number of objectives and investments, which are in line with the Europe 2020 strategy.
  • Promotion of social inclusion actions, through a dedicated budget of at least 20%.
  • Strengthening of tools to fight youth unemployment, to promote active and healthy aging, and to support disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
  • Strengthening of social innovation, through the experimentation and diffusion of innovative solutions.
  • An increase of participation in social networks and civil partnerships (e.g. NGOs), through capacity building tools, local development strategies and simplification of the management system.

For further information, please refer to the websites of the individual regions, to find the open and upcoming calls. To do this, you have to consider the place where you want to carry out the project, as well as the legal and/or operational offices of the proposing organizations.

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