In this guide I try to summarize what European Projects are, including some links and my suggestions, to better discover this sector which is full of opportunities.    

The European Union provides funding for different types of projects and programs in different sectors, for example from urban and regional development to employment and social inclusion; from agriculture and rural development to maritime and fisheries policies; from research and innovation to humanitarian aid.

The funds, which contribute to the implementation of European strategies and policies, are managed in various ways. Essentially, we can differentiate between: direct management funds (i.e. managed directly by the European Commission) and indirect management funds (i.e. funds managed in collaboration with national and regional administrations with a shared management system).

As we have already seen in my previous article, funds managed directly by the European Union are divided into: 

  1. Calls for tender: this method consists of participating in a tender which is launched by a European institution. The company that submits the best proposal receives the amount established by the Call. 
  1. Calls for proposal: this modality foresees the presentation of a specific project which must be drawn up according to precise guidelines and parameters as regards both the program and the partnership. 

Indirect funds are essentially made up of structural and investment funds:

  • European Regional Development Fund – regional and urban development
  • European Social Fund – social inclusion and good governance
  • Cohesion Fund – economic convergence of the less developed regions
  • European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
  • European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

Who can participate?

Participation varies according to the type of specific call. Therefore, it will be necessary to carefully verify the targets from time to time. 

In general, we can say that there is funding for: 

  • SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES: loans and guarantees, which are generally managed at national or regional level, and grants, for which funding can be applied through direct support.
  • NON-GOVERNMENTAL AND CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS: through funding, if they operate in the non-profit sectors of the EU.
  • YOUNG PEOPLE: through funding for education and training (g. through the Erasmus+ program) and through co-financing of projects to encourage citizen participation, volunteering and a more multicultural atmosphere.
  • RESEARCHERS: through the provision of grants for co-financing research projects
  • FARMERS AND RURAL BUSINESSES: through the provision of direct income support payments in exchange for ecological agricultural practices; the use of environmentally friendly agricultural methods on the land, preserving biodiversity, water and soil quality; and limiting emissions. 

What does a European Project look like?

First of all, we always start by analyzing the idea or the innovative project of the company / organization to understand its feasibility and the possibility of achieving financing; scouting possible calls to participate in; and taking into account the needs related to the project proposal. It is important to understand, depending on the type of company and proposal, if the most appropriate call is direct or indirect as described above. 

Once the appropriate call has been identified, the construction of the proposal will start, identifying as well suitable partners if requested. 


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In principle, we can say that participation in regional and national calls is allowed to the company / organization individually (unless the calls underline the need of a consortium or a network of companies, a factor that is increasingly encouraged).

In contrast, the participation in direct European calls almost always requires the establishment of a consortium with different partners (except for some specific calls such as the EIC – Sme Instrument, where the participation of a single company is allowed).

Where can I find information on the Calls available?

The funding possibilities are many, so it is sometimes easy to get discouraged or not immediately find the right opportunity. 

I certainly recommend monitoring the official websites in which the calls are periodically published. For direct European calls, the portal to be monitored is the Funding&Portal; for national calls, government and ministerial sites (e.g. for SMEs and large Italian companies, the site to refer to is that of MISE – Ministry of Economic Development – and also that of Invitalia – National Agency for the attraction of investments and business development); for regional calls, the sites of the individual Regions.

There are also very useful websites that act as collectors and where it is possible to make a general search for tenders by inserting either keywords, the type of funding requested or the type of beneficiary. 

Among these sites, I find very useful and well-structured: both EuropaFacile and FirstAster. Obviously, the identification of a tender is only the beginning of the work, after evaluating the design idea. Then we need to understand the methods required for the presentation as well as administrative, economic and technological requirements.

What are the approved projects?

The question that I must always ask myself during the feasibility assessment – and during the drafting of the project idea is this: is my idea really innovative or do similar solutions already exist on the market? Has my idea or similar projects already been funded in the past? 

Project Tree

It is important to proceed with this for two reasons: first of all, it is necessary to carry out a state-of-the-art analysis and secondly, to complete an analysis of the position of my product / service in comparison with potential competitors. This is due to the fact that for regional, national and European projects, it is necessary to describe clearly how the company/organization wants to launch the new product or service onto the market. 

To this end, I must be clear if there are already similar products on the market and if there are direct but also indirect competitors, as well as understanding whether similar projects have already been financed in the past, perhaps by the institution to which we are applying for funding. 

My advice is to proceed in various ways for this search:

Using the internet through keyword search (also using the search function for images and videos, sometimes very useful for immediately identifying projects in line with our idea)

Using the official databases referring to specific programs (I point out as examples the database of the European Commission Cordis, the database dedicated to Erasmus+ projects and the one dedicated to  Life projects)

Using sites of strategic stakeholders or players active in specific areas in which we want to implement our solution (where the approved projects are often reported and in which the stakeholders / players themselves actively participate).


The search for approved projects is also very useful for several reasons:

ACCELERATING MY INNOVATION: If my project idea has already been partially funded, I can start from the state of the art and the results already obtained from previous projects and accelerate the innovation of my product / process / service.

FINDING POTENTIAL PARTNERS, SUPPLIERS, STAKEHOLDERS: From the projects already approved in line with my project idea I can identify potential technological and / or commercial partners and maybe insert them in my project consortium (if required), especially considering the dissemination part and market exploitation.

PROVIDING MORE REASONS TO SUPPORT MY PROJECT: If ideas or similar projects have already been funded, it means that they are in line with the strategies of the institution we are applying to. Most likely my idea/innovation will respond to needs that have not yet been met. Therefore, my project will be focused on reaching those objectives not achieved before by other projects. 

So where do I start?

The starting point is always the need that I want to solve. So, I have to answer the questions:

Is there a solution that already solves this need?

Does my project idea solve the need in a different way? How does it differ?

These questions are the guidelines both to find the appropriate funding, and to monitor any projects that have been already realized or are currently running, and to find potential partners to be involved. 

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