The implementation of the five funding instruments usually involves different administrative levels and authorities. The responsibility for the implementation of the Structural Funds often lies with regional authorities, while participation in the programming and monitoring for FP7 and the CIP lies with the national/central/federal authorities. In addition to this multi-level governance structure, the responsibilities are often spread over different departments: for the Structural Funds and the CIP it is often the economics/enterprise/industry administrations that are in charge, while for FP7 it is normally the research/science administrations.
National and regional governments should develop smart specialisation strategies to maximise the impact of Regional Policy in combination with other Union policies. Indeed, to have most impact, R&D and innovation resources need to reach a critical mass and to be accompanied by measures to increase skills, education levels and knowledge infrastructure1.
Pursuing a broad concept of innovation in business models, design, branding and services, the creativity and diversity of our people and the strength of European creative industries offer huge potential for new growth and jobs through innovation, especially for SMEs.
Involving all actors and all regions in the innovation cycle: not only major companies but also SMEs in all sectors, including the public sector, the social economy and citizens themselves (‘social innovation’); not only a few high-tech areas, but all regions in Europe and every Member State, each focusing on its own strengths (“smart specialisation”) with Europe, Member States and regions acting in partnership. The Commission therefore strongly encourages Member States to improve the arrangements for cross-departmental and vertically co-ordinated preparation and use of Community instruments to support research, innovation and cohesion at the national and regional levels. The recommendations made in the Communication "Competitive European Regions through Research and Innovation", mentioned in the Introduction to this Guide, are essential for the creation of the necessary synergies on the ground.
Although it is always necessary, when discussing the three funding sources, to bear in mind their different policy objectives2, the conditions are at the moment very favourable for their complementary use, due to the fact that:
In the 2007-2013 programming period the time frame of the three funding schemes is the same, although the budget, methods and timing for allocating the funds to concrete implementing measures differ substantially.
The Structural Funds are increasingly emphasising the role of research and innovation as a crucial factor for regional development. With the Lisbon strategy and the strategic guidelines on cohesion3 this emphasis has been reinforced. The importance of innovation is also highlighted in the Community strategic guidelines for rural development for the period 2007-20134.
FP7 has been increasingly taking the role of the national and regional levels into account. In FP7, the regional dimension is more important compared to FP6. Under the CIP, key actors from all EU regions are involved in projects and in the Enterprise Europe Network, which consists of about 600 business centres all around the EU and beyond that provides business and innovation support services to enterprises.
In comparison to the previous programming period, the new Structural Fund Operational Programmes are more strategic and open to experimenting with new funding methods that make it possible to set up within the approved programme priorities new innovation support schemes for enterprises and researchers, beyond the more infrastructure-oriented investments in the previous funding periods.
Contrary to the previous programming period, the new Rural development programmes are independently implemented, with a particular strategic focus towards agricultural competiveness, win-win agri-environmental measures and support for the wider socioeconomic business environment, which makes possible the funding of innovative projects.
Economic exploitation of research results. Activities supported by FP7 and its predecessors lead to the production of knowledge and successful projects offer potential for commercial exploitation. There is an obvious possibility for using the Structural Funds, as well as some CIP instruments, for financing the development phase of successful research projects that have been financed under FP7.
Transnational and interregional actions are now also well embedded within the 2007-2013 national and regional Operational Programmes of the European Social Fund (ESF)6 which provide support for transnational exchange and cooperation:
As a result, Member States and regions, in their Operational Programmes under the ESF 2007-2013, plan to use 2 % (€ 3 bn) of the programme budgets for transnational cooperation.
One of the innovations in the 2007-2013 programming period is the creation of a new legal entity. The 'European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation' (EGTC) facilitates cooperation between regions and enhances their capabilities to develop and implement common projects focusing on growth and competitiveness. Besides providing a legal personality for the management body of trans-national Structural Fund projects, it can also be used for instance for managing multi-country research infrastructures.
In practical terms, communication and information are the most important preconditions for fostering the complementary use of the different funding instruments. In effect, the necessary synergies can only be achieved if the different administrative actors delivering FP7, the CIP and the Structural Funds know about the opportunities offered by the other instruments.
Thus, policy makers and those involved in implementation or dissemination of information most know each other. As a next step, answers to basic questions of the type "What support can FP7/CIP/ Structural Funds offer my region/area of activity?" must be widely and readily available. Databases of projects financed by the different funding sources should also be available to all concerned. In addition, the formal monitoring structures for the different instruments (Monitoring Committees for the Structural Funds and Programme Committees for FP and CIP) should establish regular and up-to-date information flows. This means that the relevant authorities should ensure that the national representatives in the FP7/CIP Programme Committees regularly provide information to the Structural Funds Monitoring Committees of their countries, and vice-versa.7
Finally, it is of course the particular responsibility of the Member States and regional authorities to prevent irregularities such as double financing and unauthorised co-financing with another Community instrument. When such abuses are discovered, it is normal to proceed with financial penalties.
Some examples of the possible role of national and regional authorities for combining the different instruments8
The Commission services are exploring, with Member States and regional authorities, how far the co-funded programmes can provide financial support to FP7 for:
The potential impact of these projects on the regional economy should be demonstrated, for instance: partnership with innovative industries, large companies, SMEs and start-ups; links with innovative incubators for the creation of spin-offs. The Commission has recently produced a ‘Smart Guide to Innovation-Based Incubators’ for regional policy makers9.
A further possibility is for Member States and regions to adopt best practices from the management of FP7 projects and, through the use of international peer review, to identify funding priorities for research and innovation in EU Regional Policy programmes.
The Spanish National Strategic Reference Framework has established a coordination committee and thematic networks for ensuring complementarities between the Structural Funds and other national and community financial instruments; as well as fostering exchange of good practice and lessons learned among managing authorities and main stakeholders.
The research, development and innovation (R&D&I) network is being supported under the “Technical Assistance” priority of the Operational Programme “Technological Fund”. CDTI (the Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology) is currently managing an operation called: “Support to the Spanish leadership of European and International projects” (ERDF support: around EUR 150 million) which consists of three main parts:
Moreover, the Spanish Managing Authorities of the ERDF Operational Programme “Knowledge based Economy” are considering the possible funding through ERDF of high quality proposals submitted under FP, but not selected mainly due to a lack of budget (Monitoring Committee, 10/06/2010)
Source: Commission Communication on Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020, COM(2010)553
As explained in Annexes 1 to 3
Council decision of 6 October 2006 on Community Strategic Guidelines on cohesion (2006/702/EC).
Council decision of 20 February 2006 on Community Strategic guidelines for rural development 2007-2013 (2006/144/EC).
See Art. 8 of Regulation No 10812006 of 5 July 2006. For further information see http://ec.europa.eu/esf/main.jsp?catId=56&langId=en and www.transnationality.eu.
See conclusions of Commission Communication "Competitive European Regions through Research and Innovation" COM(2007)474
Source: Commission Communication on Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020, COM(2010)553 and Staff Working
Last updated on: 2012-07-27