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Regional policy

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Innovative actions of the ERDF

Aid for the socio-economic adjustment
of the disadvantaged regions of the European Union


Official title

"Guidelines for innovative actions funded by the ERDF in 2000-2006".

Legal references

Article 22 of Council Regulation (EC) no 1260/99 laying down general provisions on the Structural Funds (OJ no. L161 of 26 June 1999) states that, according to the procedures of Article 4 of Regulation 1783/1999 relating to the ERDF (OJ no L213 of 13 August 1999), the Commission may use the Funds to finance innovative actions that contribute to the development of innovative methods and practices improving the quality of interventions as covered by Objectives 1, 2 and 3.
Commission communication to the Member States "The Regions in the new economy", COM/2001/0060/final of 31/01/01.


The aim of the innovative actions is to help the least favoured regions craft a regional policy that effectively tackles the new challenges of the future, in particular the global economy and fast-changing technologies.

Improving the quality of the interventions of the Objective 1 and 2 programmes co-funded by the ERDF
The primary objective of the innovative actions is to enhance the quality of the interventions of the Structural Fund programmes part-funded by the ERDF in Objective 1 and 2 areas. To develop closer links between innovative actions and operational programmes, mechanisms need to be established encouraging the testing of innovative approaches to regional policy. For this, it is essential that those in charge of innovative actions work more closely with the authorities managing the ERDF-funded Objective 1 and 2 programmes.

Developing and strengtheningthe partnership between the public and private sectors
As in the case of the Objective 1 and 2 programmes co-funded by the ERDF, the Commission would like the relevant authorities in the regions to be as actively involved as possible in the innovative actions. This involvement consists in setting up a stronger regional and local partnership that includes the authorities responsible for the ERDF-funded Objective 1 and 2 programmes and the private sector. This partnership will work to develop regional programmes for quality innovative actions and encourage the sharing of experiences and networking among regions.

In combination with other Community policies
The innovative actions 2000-2006 must show pioneering ways of combining regional policy with other Community policies, in particular those aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and innovation at regional level, implementing the eEurope initiative, and encouraging the creation of a European research area. Consequently, the innovative actions will have to be better coordinated with the actions of the ERDF-funded Objective 1 and 2 programmes in order to have a greater impact on cohesion. Wherever possible, the actions must complement the actions funded by the ESF for the same Objectives.

Helping regions share and learn together
The innovative actions are a particularly advantageous tool to facilitate exchanges of ideas between regions and encourage collective learning through the comparison and dissemination of best practices. While respecting the distinctive features of individual regions, the new innovative actions must be a source of enrichment for the regions working in a theme-based network. Indeed, innovation is by nature closely connected with the notion of risk and change. The new generation of innovative actions offer the regions the opportunity to better manage change and to take the necessary risks to test certain new important directions of tomorrow's regional policy.


Target public - Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries will be regions with a zone or part of their region listed as an Objective 1 or 2 area and regions benefiting from transition support under these Objectives. The entire region may benefit from the regional programme of innovative actions, including areas not covered by Objectives 1 and 2.


The Commission proposes that the relevant authorities in the regions submit the proposed regional programme of innovative actions to the Commission.

The regions will be responsible for the management and implementation of the programmes. Each region must appoint a management authority to oversee implementation and a payment authority to manage the finances. A steering committee including the main regional players will be responsible for the selection of individual projects and monitoring the programme's progress.

The authorities in charge of the Objective 1 or 2 programmes part-funded by the ERDF and/or the authorities in charge of other Community programmes in the region as well as other public and private actors concerned at the regional level should be part of the steering committees.


The relevant authorities in the regions may submit a proposal for a programme until 31 May of each year for the years 2001 to 2005.
A programme may not last more than two years. Community support is limited to a maximum of two programmes for the period 2000-2006. A second programme may be presented, provided that the Commission has approved the financial and final reports for the first programme.

Eligible measures - Nature of the activities

The Commission proposes a programme-by-programme approach rather than a project-by-project approach. It is also interested in seeing a smaller number of strategic themes and would like structured collaboration between those responsible for the management of the innovative actions and those in charge of the Objective 1 and 2 programmes co-funded by the ERDF.

The new generation of innovative actions will have three strands:

  • Co-funding of regional programmes of innovative actions and the pilot projects that result from this.
  • Accompanying measures: support for the sharing of experiences and the creation of networks between regions.
  • Organisation of competitions to identify and develop best practices.

Strategic themes of the innovative actions 2000-2006

Each proposal for a programme must contain a strategy, which the different players of the region have agreed on, to define innovative actions. This strategy is the framework for the implementation of individual projects, the transfer of results within the Objective 1 and 2 programmes co-funded by the ERDF in the regions concerned and the exchange of experiences between regions. The strategy may be based on the strategic themes proposed by the Commission or a combination of these themes, whichever is best suited to the specific needs of each region.

The Commission has reduced the number of strategic themes from eight for the period 1994-1999 to three for the period 2000-2006. These three themes are:

Regional economy based on knowledge and technological innovation: helping the least favoured regions raise their technological level

For example:

  • Creation or strengthening of networks of cooperation between businesses or business groups, research centres and universities, organisations responsible for improving the quality of human resources, financial circles, specialised consultants, etc.
  • Mutual exchanges of personnel between research centres, universities and businesses, SMEs in particular.
  • Dissemination of research results and technological adaptation to SMEs.
  • Establishment of technological strategies for regions including pilot projects.
  • Support for business incubators linked to universities and research centres; encouragement of spin-offs of businesses created by academic centres or large firms geared towards innovation and technology.
  • Support systems for joint scientific and technological projects between SMEs, universities and research centres.
  • Contribution to the development of new financial instruments (risk capital) for start-up companies.

eEuropeRegio: the information society at the service of regional development

For example:

  • Establish innovative strategies for the region and promote the creation of information society partnerships;
  • Improve digital and mobile services for young people, the elderly, the disabled and health-care;
  • Encourage SMEs to include electronic commerce in their development strategy and find solutions suited to their personnel's information technology training needs;
  • Identify and develop specific areas to test innovative ways of using information society technologies;
  • Provide public access to the Internet and to digital applications and multimedia resources (eg. concept of public Internet access points);
  • Use and test advanced digital technologies (eg. access to the Internet by radio or satellite) for isolated or remote rural areas.

Regional identity and sustainable development: promoting regional cohesion and competitiveness by introducing an integrated approach to economic, environmental, cultural and social activities

For example:

  • Support for micro-businesses in the non-industrial sector or in the sector of traditional production, with a view to improving their technological level in order to achieve better integration in the market;
  • Development of cultural and ecological tourism;
  • Support for small business start-ups in the innovative fields of the media and culture;
  • Development of new forms of local services;
  • Establishment of new relations between the public and private sectors in order to make optimal use of existing resources and infrastructures;
  • Assistance for micro-businesses interested in benefiting from research activities in their region;
  • Development of systems for environmental management, the adoption of clean technologies, the recycling of waste and the economic use of energy.


Nature and amount of the aid

The budget foreseen for the innovative actions 2000-2006 corresponds to 0.4 % of the annual ERDF budget.

In total, the budget allocated to innovative actions for the entire period 2000-2006 amounts to some 450 millions euros.

The annual amount of funding for the ERDF innovative actions for the period 2000-2006 is determined on the basis of the appropriations agreed at the European Council in Berlin and in accordance with the budget appropriations approved each year.

A maximum of 6 % of the total amount may be used for the sharing of experiences, the creation of networks between regions and the organisation of competitions. The remainder of the budget is to be used to co-fund regional programmes for innovative actions.

Financial contribution from the European Union

The Commission is funding up to 50% of the cost of the selected regional programmes for innovative actions. However, in the Objective 1 areas, the Commission may fund up to 80%, and in Objective 2 areas in duly justified cases where the programme is of special interest to the Community the Commission may fund up to 60% of the cost.

Selected regional programmes will each be allocated between 300,000 and 3 million euros.
The Commission is funding up to 50% of the cost of specific programmes for the creation of network activities involving at least five regions in at least five Member States.

Communication means

The guidelines for the ERDF innovative actions are available on the Internet:

Innovative actions 1994-1999 and documentation on the new innovative actions on the Internet:

"Inforegio Panorama" Magazine, DG Regional Policy, April 2001, in 11 languages.

Additional sources of information

For the "Information Society" strand
Jean-Bernard Benhaiem
European Commission, DG REGIO CSM2 01/112
Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels
Fax: +32 2 296 24 73

For the "Technological Innovation" strand
Mikel Landabaso
European Commission, DG REGIO CSM2 01/158
Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels
Fax: +32 2 296 24 73

For the "Regional Identity" strand
Colette Fitzgerald
European Commission, DG REGIO CSM2 02/124
Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels
Fax: +32 2 296 24 73


last update: 07/01

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