Operational Programme 'Research and Competitiveness'

Programme under the Convergence objective, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund


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On 21 December 2007, the European Commission approved the multi-regional “Research and Competitiveness” Operational Programme for the Italian regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily for the period 2007-13. The Programme falls within the framework laid out for the Convergence Objective and has a total budget of around €6.2 billion. Community investment through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounts to some €3.1 billion, which represents approximately 10.8% of the total EU investment earmarked for Italy under the Cohesion Policy for 2007-13.

1. Aim and purpose of the programme

The overall objective of the Operational Programme is to improve research and development (R&D) and business innovation and to improve productive capacity in line with the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. Investments will therefore be made in R&D, innovation and new business creation. The multi-regional Programme aims to develop a knowledge-based economy by improving R&D, product and process development and new start-ups while ensuring efficient use of financial resources.

In addition, the programme will promote:

  • business innovation in the knowledge-based sector;
  • networking;
  • aid for new innovation business creation; and
  • services to enterprise and support for financial engineering instruments.

2. The expected impact of the investment

The aim of the Programme is to improve the region's overall performance with regard to research and innovation and to close the existing gap with the rest of the Northern Italian regions and other European regions via high value-added economy by improving knowledge and encouraging innovation. The programme will build business capacity to become more innovative, develop and take-up new and improved products, processes and services. It will also enable businesses to grow and to improve their competitiveness and productivity through technological advances.

In addition, the Programme will provide the framework conditions to:

  • enhance the quality of the environment, while mobilising additional resources for improve skill levels;
  • increase the adaptability of the workforce;
  • networking; and
  • modernising the quality of public services.

The programme aims to create 15 200 new jobs (43% for woman) in industry and the R&D sector, which will trigger total investment of €6.2 billion.

The main impacts expected include:

  • An increase in the levels of GDP per capita, while addressing the imbalance in earnings of women and men.
  • An improvement in the growth rates of the regions involved for R&D expenditure, given the low R&D expenditure/GDP ratio within the business sector. In 2015, 40% of R&D expenditure should be within the business sector;
  • An increase in capacity of patent application, in the order of 300%; and
  • An increase in renewable energy consumption by 2015 to cut collective greenhouse gas emission by 0.5% below 2004 levels (110 million tons).

3. Priorities

The driving principle of this Multi-regional Operational Programme is to bring additional investment to the four regions which it would not otherwise attain. The value of the European Structural Funds’ contributions are themselves significant in real terms, which will act as a catalyst for further investment. This Programme has been designed to ensure that this investment will be utilised in a way that will have material and positive impacts on the four Convergence regions.

In terms of the Programme’s overall aim and objectives, the Structural Funds will complement national policies on research and competitiveness (Research National Programme and Industry 2015) and support a closer alignment with EU level policies for supporting economic development.

The Operational Programme is structured along the following priorities:

Priority 1: Support to structural mutations [approximately 68.6% of total funding]

This priority intends to promote a high value-added economy by improving research and encouraging innovation by Innovation Industrial Projects (IIP). It will build business capacity to become more innovative, develop and take-up improved and new products, processes and services. This will be done by developing the research, technology and innovation capacity and the ability to commercialise and exploit research. It will also enable businesses to grow and to improve their competitiveness and productivity through technological advances, including the spread and utilisation of Information and Computer technologies.

Themes under this priority will focus on:

  • industrial research and experimental development activities;
  • building the region’s research, technology and innovation capacity; and
  • their ability to commercialise and exploit the outcome of research and ideas by fostering research end new technology frontiers.

Priority 2: Support for innovation [approximately 27.7% of total funding]

Low value-added per worker is another factor contributing to Convergences’ poor economic performance, which is partly explained by the region’s historical industrial structure. In the regions of Campania, Apulia, Sicily, and Calabria, per capita productivity is lower than elsewhere in Italy. Convergence regions have lower business start-ups. The Programme area has relatively higher entry barriers and consequently lower demonstrated entrepreneurship and diversification.

The objective of this priority is to strengthen the economy by increasing its size and widening its range of business equity, while simultaneously tackling market failures in relation to business finance. Themes under this priority will focus on:

  • supporting entrepreneurship;
  • assisting the growth and expansion of businesses;
  • supporting and accelerating southern exports; and
  • improving access to finance in clearly targeted areas.

Priority 3: Technical assistance and support activities [approximately 3.7% of total funding]

Funding is also available for technical assistance in support of the programme. Financial resources will be used for administration, monitoring, evaluation, auditing and information and communication.

Financial and Technical information

Operational Programme 'Research and Competitiveness'

Intervention Type

Operational Programme

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Number of decision


Final approval date


Breakdown of finances by priority axis

Priority Axis EU Investment National Public Contribution Total Public Contribution
Support to structural mutations 2 127 000 000 2 127 000 000 4 254 000 000
Support for innovation 860 696 821 860 696 821 1 721 393 642
Technical assistance 115 000 000 115 000 000 230 000 000
Total 3 102 696 821 3 102 696 821 6 205 393 642