Operational Programme Science and Education for Smart Growth


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Programme description

The Bulgarian Operational Programme "Science and Education for Smart Growth" (SESG) for the implementation of the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the period 2014-2020 outlines the priorities and objectives to invest over €673 million (of which €596 million from the EU budget) to help strengthen research and innovation, general and higher education, and vocational training in Bulgaria. This is the only Operational Programme in Bulgaria to be co-funded by both the ESF (nearly €353 million) and the ERDF (over €243 million) in the period 2014-2020.

The programme has two overall goals: strengthening research and innovation and enhancing education and social inclusion at all educational levels. Investments will focus on the following priorities:

  • Up to €243 million will be invested in developing centres of excellence and centres of competence, as hubs of high-quality research and innovation in the areas defined in the Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation. Funding will be dedicated to research infrastructure of regional and national significance, as well as to support the specialisation of researchers and their involvement in the European Research Area.
  • Investment in education (around €220 million) will aim at improving key competences of students and children, including through innovative teaching methods. It will promote the quality of higher education with a view of obtaining better outcomes on the labour market, as well as the modernisation of vocational education and life-long learning. Significant focus is put on measures investing in the qualifications of researchers, teachers, lecturers improving their mobility and career opportunities.
  • A dedicated funding of €110 million will finance the integration of children at risk of exclusion from education, on account of belonging to marginalised ethnic groups or to groups with specific educational needs. The programme will thus be a key instrument for reducing the share of early school leavers.

Over the funding period, the programme is expected to create 11 new centres of excellence and competence, support 20 regional laboratories and pilot centres and involve over 1 500 researchers in activities under the programme. The programme will give 1 500 schools and 160 000 students the opportunity to develop specific knowledge, skills and competencies. Some 30 000 students will receive scholarships while 850 students will be involved in mobility programmes. Thousands of students will be included in practical training in real work environment, including career guidance activities. Students and childcare institutions for children with special educational needs will receive targeted supported under the programme.

Programme text

OP Science and education for smart growth 2014-2020 - Final Version English


  • Bulgaria


  • Regional Development Fund (ERDF): 243,381,138.00 €
  • European Social Fund (ESF): 352,619,543.00 €

Thematic priorities

  • TA - Technical Assistance
  • TO1 - Research and innovation
  • TO10 - Education and training
  • TO9 - Social inclusion

Financial information

Total OP budget: 701,177,274.00 €

Total EU contribution: 596,000,681.00 €

CCI number: 2014BG05M2OP001