ERDF funding: making the most of the latest opportunities

The Smart Specialisation Hub Team have organised and attended a number of ERDF information and brokering events over the last month. Here are some key messages and feedback we heard on the ground.

The implications of Brexit on access to ERDF funding

Despite some rumours to the contrary, we’d like to clarify and emphasise that up to the point at which the UK is no longer a Member of the EU, nothing changes with regards to the availability of ERDF funding to UK organisations nor with regards to their ability and right to apply for ERDF projects.

UK government has issued a clear commitment that it will guarantee funding for any ERDF project which has a signed funding agreement in place before the UK leaves the EU. Funding will be honoured even if the project continues beyond that cut-off date.

So, if you have a suitable project idea, now is the time to make the most of it and apply to use the remaining ERDF budget wisely. Various LEPs currently have a number of calls open in the latest round of ERDF. You can see what’s applicable to you and your area here.

The government will guarantee EU funding for structural and investment fund projects where a funding agreement is signed before the UK leaves the EU, even where projects continue after we have left the EU. Funding for projects will be honoured by the government, if they represent good value for money and are in line with domestic strategic priorities.

HM Government
3 October 2016

What does a typical ERDF project involve?

A typical ERDF project needs to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Minimum project size: £1 million;
  • Match funding: The maximum Contribution Rate is up to: 50% (in more developed regions); 60% (in transition regions); and 80% (in less developed regions), of the total eligible project costs subject to State Aid regulations;
  • Maximum Project duration: 3 years;
  • The project can be based on and benefit a single or multiple LEPs;
  • The expected outputs and results are different for each call and prescribed and clearly stated in the individual call texts. Usually, they focus on number of enterprises supported, number of new jobs created, etc.

We advise any applicant to get familiar with relevant EU guidance as soon as possible, in particular in relation to Procurement, Document Retention Requirements, Publicity Requirements and State Aid. All the relevant guidance documents are available online.

Another thing to be aware of from the start when you plan your ERDF project is that it does involve a quite rigorous audit and compliance regime, which requires good reporting and document retention discipline.

It’s not rocket science, but it does entail robust processes and procedures to be in place, to keep on top and to ensure everything runs smoothly. To quote one of our presenters, you need to always think that you have “a little auditor sitting on your shoulders”, whenever you work on an ERDF project.

Barriers and solutions to ERDF

The most common barrier our stakeholders face, which prevents in particular smaller companies from applying, is the level of match funding required. The amount of red tape and bureaucracy involved also often becomes prohibitive to potential applicants. More private sector participation in particular by larger companies should be encouraged.

The latter often have the expertise, capacity and logistical infrastructure already in place, allowing them to deal with an ERDF project. ERDF investments used and implemented smartly, can have a huge impact and benefit to a local area. Whilst ERDF funds are still available, let’s make the most of them and utilise them to get maximum value out the funds.

The Hub will keep a close eye on future developments and stay close to news and progress of a potential replacement for ERDF post-Brexit.

How can the Hub help you with your ERDF application?

The Hub Team is available and delighted to discuss your ERDF proposal ideas in utmost confidence. To demonstrate alignment with Smart Specialisation is a prerequisite for ERDF. We can give feedback on your idea and its fit with ERDF; we can give advice and help with strategic alignment of your proposal with Smart Specialisation; we can provide relevant insight and data to you which will help you to make a stronger case for funding in your proposal; and finally, we can potentially help identify collaborators, if you are still in need for partners.

Get in touch

The Smart Specialisation Hub is happy to advise on any projects that fit the criteria above. Please get in touch if you would like to arrange a call or a meeting to discuss your ideas.

About the author

Viola Hay joined the Hub in October 2015. She is mainly responsible for the smooth running of stakeholder engagement activities throughout the East of England.

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