Marco Polo aims to ease road congestion and its attendant pollution by promoting a switch to greener transport modes for European freight traffic. Railways, sea-routes and inland waterways have spare capacity. Companies with viable projects to shift freight from roads to greener modes can turn to Marco Polo for financial support. More than 500 companies have already done so successfully since the programme was launched in 2003. Every year, a new batch of projects qualify for funding. Your project could be among them. The following sections explain how the programme works and how you can apply for funding.
Marco Polo co-funds direct modal-shift or traffic avoidance projects and projects providing supporting services which enable freight to switch from road to other modes efficiently and profitably. The five project categories are set out in the section 'funding areas'.
Funding is in the form of an outright grant. It is not a loan to be repaid later. Applicants must meet a series of conditions to obtain a grant. Grants cover a share of costs associated with the launch and operation of a new modal-shift project, but must be supported by results.
A grant gives financial support in the crucial start-up phase of a project before it pays its way to viability. Grants last from two to five years. Projects should be commercially viable by the time the funding stops. Successful participation in a Marco Polo project enhances a company's green credentials.
Marco Polo is user-driven. If your company has a project to transfer traffic from road to other modes or to avoid road transport, you may qualify for a grant. Your project has to involve a cross-border route. It has to make economic as well as ecological sense. The selection criteria are set out in the grant application documents. See the section 'Getting funds' for details. Commercial undertakings, whether privately or publicly owned, can apply for funding.
The current programme runs until 2013 with an annual grant budget of about €60 million. Marco Polo publishes a call for proposals from potential grant applicants at the beginning of each year on its website.
Go to the In action section of this site to see examples of successful Marco Polo projects.
Marco Polo is run by the European Comission's Directorate-General for Mobility & Transport and the EU's Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (the EACI). The EACI is responsible for the operational side of the programme - putting it into action on the ground and liaising with participants.