1. Legal basis
The Interreg Europe programme is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), whose principles and regulations are laid down in Council and Parliament Regulation N° 1303/2013 (Common Provisions Regulation), Council and Parliament Regulation N° 1301/2013 (ERDF Regulation) and Council and Parliament Regulation N° 1299/2013 (ETC Regulation). The principles and regulations for projects developed within the programme are laid down in the Cooperation Programme and in the programme manual.
The European Union works to reduce disparities in the levels of development, growth and quality of life in European regions through its cohesion policy. For the 2014-2020 funding period, cohesion policy concentrates on supporting the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy to promote actions to make the European territory more innovative, more sustainable, and more inclusive.
The Interreg Europe programme contributes to this objective by supporting policy learning among relevant policy organisations with a view to improving the performance of regional development policy instruments.
A policy instrument is a means for public intervention. It refers to any policy, strategy, or law developed by public authorities and applied on the ground in order to improve a specific territorial situation. In most cases, financial resources are associated with a policy instrument (e.g. a funding schemes for energy efficiency in buildings). However, a policy instrument can also sometimes refer to a strategy or a legislative framework with no specific funding (e.g. a smart specialisation strategy; regional law on waste reduction). In the context of Interreg Europe, operational programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and Cooperation Programmes for European Territorial Cooperation (Interreg programmes) are considered as policy instruments, as well as other regional development policies developed at local, regional or national level.
Interreg Europe aims to improve the implementation of policy instruments, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, through exchange of experiences and policy learning among actors of regional relevance. The way partners involved in projects can improve their policy instruments is further explained in section 4.3.1 of the programme manual.
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3. Eligible area
The eligible Interreg Europe cooperation area covers the whole territory of the European Union with its 28 Member States, including insular and outermost areas. In addition, Norway and Switzerland are full members of the programme and organisations from these countries are welcome to participate in projects (organisations from Switzerland cannot be lead partners). Partners from other countries can participate at their own costs.
4. Timing of the call
The third call for proposals opens on 1 March 2017 and closes on 30 June 2017, at 12:00 p.m. (midday) CEST (Paris time).
The Interreg Europe programme is divided into four priority axes related to the Europe 2020 strategy. As indicated in the table below, the four priority axes correspond to four out of the eleven thematic objectives as set out in the first paragraph of article 9 of the Common Provisions Regulation (EU) 1303/2013. Within each priority axis, one or more specific objectives are defined. Applicants are invited to submit their project application under one of the specific objectives listed below.
1 - Strengthening research, technological development and innovation (corresponding to thematic objective 1)
2 - Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs (corresponding to thematic objective 3)
3 - Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors (corresponding to thematic objective 4)
4 - Protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency (corresponding to thematic objective 6)
Priority Axe 1 - Strengthening research, technological development and innovation (corresponding to thematic objective 1)
1(a) - enhancing research and innovation (R&I) infrastructure and capacities to develop R&I excellence and promoting centres of competence, in particular those of European interest.
1(b) - promoting business investment in R&I, developing links and synergies between enterprises, research and development centres and the higher education sector, in particular promoting investment in product and service development, technology transfer, social innovation, eco- innovation, public service applications, demand stimulation, networking, clusters and open innovation through smart specialisation, and supporting technological and applied research,pilot lines, early product validation actions, advanced manufacturing capabilities and first production, in particular in key enabling technologies and diffusion of general purpose technologies.
Priority Axe 2 - Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs (corresponding to thematic objective 3)
3(d) - Supporting the capacity of SMEs to engage in growth in regional, national and international markets, and in innovation processes.
2.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, supporting SMEs in all stages of their life cycle to develop and achieve growth and engage in innovation
Priority Axe 3 - Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors (corresponding to thematic objective 4)
4(e) - Promoting low-carbon strategies for all types of territories, in particular for urban areas, including the promotion of sustainable multi-modal urban mobility and mitigation relevant adaptation measures.
3.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, addressing the transition to a low-carbon economy notably in the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies
Priority Axe 4 - Protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency (corresponding to thematic objective 6)
6(c) - conserving, protecting, promoting and developing natural and cultural heritage.
4.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, in the field of the protection and development of natural and cultural heritage
6(g) - supporting industrial transition towards a resource-efficient economy, promoting green growth, eco- innovation and environmental performance management in the public and private sectors.
Further information on the programme priority axes and specific objectives can be found in the Interreg Europe Cooperation Programme and section 2.5 of the programme manual.
Since the programme has already approved 130 projects, organisations interested in the third call are invited to check the main features of these projects: www.interregeurope.eu/discover-projects in order to demonstrate the innovative character of their proposals in terms of topic addressed and regions involved.
a) Topics addressed
The first two calls for proposals have resulted in a significant number of applications approved under priority axis 1 compared with the three other priority axes, and in particular with priority axis 4. For priority axis 1, the ERDF budget available is therefore limited since 75% of this budget was already allocated to projects.
The following topics have already been particularly successful in the first two calls:
Priority axis 1:
- Governance of RIS3 (7 projects)
- Clusters within RIS3 (6 projects)
- Innovation in the health sector (4 projects)
Priority axis 2:
- Internationalisation of SMEs (6 projects)
- Innovation capacity of SMEs in rural / peripheral regions (6 projects)
Priority axis 3:
- Energy efficiency in buildings (10 projects)
- Urban mobility (7 projects)
Priority axis 4:
It is recommended that third call proposals addressing one of the above topics demonstrate how they differ from (and possibly complement) the numerous projects already approved in these fields.
On the other hand, important topics such as renewable energy or water management are so far poorly represented among the 130 approved projects. The issue of financial instruments2 is also not sufficiently addressed across the different priority axis of the programme. Applications dealing with these topics are therefore encouraged.
As mentioned above, priority axis 4 is slightly lagging behind, representing only 20% of the approved projects. Applications are therefore particularly encouraged under this priority axis (for circular economy, see recommendations above) including unsuccessful applications from previous calls.
b) Partners involved and regions represented
As mentioned in section 4.4.1 of the programme manual, “it is important for the quality of the programme that the origin of the experience and practices exchanges is as wide and varied as possible”. Therefore, third call projects are highly encouraged to involve institutions that are not already involved in running Interreg Europe projects, and regions that are not already represented in these projects (while also taking into consideration the characteristics of small countries where the range of eligible organisations is limited, as well as of the large public organisations, organised in many departments).
The list of partners involved in the 130 approved application is available on the programme website (http://www.interregeurope.eu/discover-projects) and the list of the 69 NUTS2 regions not represented in these projects is available as annex 1 of the present terms of reference.
6. Actions supported
This is a call for proposals for interregional cooperation projects. A detailed description of this action is provided in section C ‘Projects’ of the programme manual.
7. Partnership requirements
7.1 Who can apply?
The following organisations are eligible to receive ERDF or Norwegian funding.
- Public authorities,
- Public law bodies (bodies governed by public law),
Private non-profit bodies cannot take on the role of lead partner. Further details on eligible project partners and legal status can be found in section 4.4.2 of the programme manual.
Only “contributing partners” (those listed in the application form) can incur costs and receive ERDF. It is therefore not possible to participate with an “observer” or “sub-partner” status.
As indicated in the programme manual, the partnership should reflect the project objectives and contribute to its efficient implementation. Due to the programme rationale, policymakers are the main target group. These policymakers can be national, regional or local authorities as well as other organisations having a role in the definition and implementation of regional development policy instruments. The participation of these competent authorities is essential to maximise the impact of the programme on regional and local policies across the EU. The involvement of authorities responsible for the policy instruments addressed by the project is therefore a prerequisite for applying to the programme.
If the relevant authorities are not involved directly as partners in the project, their participation in the cooperation has to be explained in the application form (in section B.2) and a standard letter of support from these authorities must be provided for the participating partners. As far as Structural Funds programmes are concerned, the letter has to be signed by the relevant bodies (e.g. managing authorities), which are listed for each country on the ‘In my country’ page of the programme’s website. This list is regularly updated and in case of doubts applicants are invited to get in touch with their national point of contact whose contact details can be found on the same page of the website.
7.2 Geographical coverage
In compliance with Article 12 (2) of the ETC regulation (EC) No 1299/2013, projects have to involve partners from at least three countries, of which at least two partners must be from EU Member States and financed by the Interreg Europe programme.
7.3 Policy instrument addressed and territorial context
In line with the overall programme objective, all projects should at least partly focus on the improvement of programmes under the Investment for Growth and Jobs goal, and when relevant under the European Territorial Cooperation goal. Therefore, in each project, at least half of the policy instruments addressed by the EU partners must be Structural Funds programmes (e.g. a minimum of two for a project with four instruments addressed; a minimum of three for a project with five instruments addressed). Further information can be found in section 4 of the programme manual.
The number of project partners do not necessarily correspond to the number of policy instrument addressed since several partners from the same country or region can address the same policy instrument.
8. Funding available and co-financing rate
The total ERDF budget after the first two calls for proposal (approximately EUR 145 million) of the Interreg Europe programme is made available for the third call for proposals.
Under the Interreg Europe programme, the eligible project activities are co-financed by the ERDF at a rate of either 75% or 85% depending on the legal status of the project partner. Partners from Norway and Switzerland are not eligible to receive ERDF but can receive co-financing from their respective national funds.
Co-financing rate for Eligible project partner according to legal status and location
85% ERDF <=> Public bodies and bodies governed by public law from all 28 EU Member States
75% ERDF <=> Private non-profit bodies with legal personality from all 28 EU Member States
50% Norwegian funding <=> Public bodies, bodies governed by public law and private non-profit bodies from Norway
Swiss funding <=> Partners from Switzerland are invited to contact the Swiss Interreg Europe national point of contact to receive information on Swiss funding opportunities
9. Application process
The application pack for the third call is available on the programme website (www.interregeurope.eu) and includes the following:
the present terms of reference
the programme manual
the online application system www.iolf.eu the partner declaration template
the letter of support template
Project applicants who would like to submit a proposal must complete an application form in English, as it is the working language of the programme. Applications submitted in another language will be considered ineligible.
The application is an online system programmed with a number of automatic links and formulae. Error messages appear in the form if it is not properly filled in and the application can then not be submitted. Detailed instructions on how to fill in the application form are provided in the form itself. A user guide is also available. All partner declarations and possible letters of support must be uploaded on the iOLF system. The application submitted to the programme must therefore include the following documents:
the application form itself,
the partner declarations for all partners including the lead partner, if applicable, the letters of support from the relevant authorities.
The application has to be submitted online (www.iOLF.eu) at the latest by 30 June 2017, 12 pm (midday) CEST (Paris time).
10. Selection process
All applications will be subject to a two-step assessment procedure, eligibility and quality assessment. Applications that do not meet all the eligibility criteria will not be further assessed.
In the first two calls of the Interreg Europe programme, almost one third of the application failed to pass the eligibility step. Applicants are highly encouraged to carefully study the criteria below and to check before submitting whether they fulfil each of these criteria. The non-fulfilment of one criterion leads to the ineligibility of the whole application.
1. Respect of deadline
Is the application online submitted in due time?
2. Completeness of the application
Is the application complete?
3. Correctness of the application form
Is the application form fully and properly filled in according to the instructions?
4. Correctness of the partner declaration
Are the partner declarations correct?
5. Correctness of the support letter
If applicable, are the letters of support correct?
6. Geographical coverage
Does the project involve partners from at least three countries, of which at least two partners are from EU Member States and are financed by the Interreg Europe programme?
7. Focus on Structural Funds
Are at least half of the policy instruments addressed by the EU partners represented in the project Structural Funds programmes?
The experience of the previous calls for proposals has also shown that the primary cause of ineligibility relates to letters of support. These letters were either missing or not properly completed. Whenever needed, applicants are therefore strongly encouraged to request letters of support as early as possible in the preparation phase.
The quality assessment criteria are divided into two categories:
Strategic assessment criteria – to assess the project’s contribution to the achievement of programme objectives.
Criterion 1 – Relevance of proposal Criterion 2 – Quality of results Criterion 3 – Quality of partnership
Operational assessment criteria – to assess the consistency and feasibility of the proposed project, as well as its value for money.
Criterion 4 – Coherence of the proposal and quality of approach Criterion 5 – Communication and management
Criterion 6 – Budget and finance
Further details on the selection procedure and the assessment criteria are provided in section 5.3 of the programme manual.
Based on the results of the quality assessment, final decisions are made by the monitoring committee of the programme which is made up of representatives from both national and regional authorities within the 30 Partner States. Decisions are communicated to all lead partners via a notification letter.
11. Further information
Full details of the assistance offered to applicants is available in section 5.1 of the programme manual and on www.interregeurope.eu.
A comprehensive description of the programme’s strategy and priorities, together with a socio-economic analysis of Europe are included in the Interreg Europe Cooperation Programme.
Further guidance for project applicants is provided in the programme manual which is available as part of this application pack. All official documents, contact details of the joint secretariat and of the national points of contact are also available on the programme website:
Further information can also be requested at email@example.com.