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) is the only Operational Programme in Bulgaria to be co-funded by both the ESF and the ERDF for the period 2014-2020. Over €673 million (of which €596 million from the EU budget) will be invested to help strengthen research and innovation, general and higher education, and vocational training in Bulgaria.

ERDF will invest over €243 million in the Priority axis 1 - Research and technological development, while ESF will invest some €353 million for education and vocational training.

Main objectives

The Programme has two overall goals: strengthening research and innovation and enhancing education and social inclusion at all educational levels.

The ERDF investment will focus on the following priorities:

The Programme will invest over €243 million 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. Moreover, funding is allocated 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.

The ESF investment has the following highlights:

Investment in education (some €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.

Funding priorities

The Programme is focused on the following priority axes:

  1. Research and technological development
  2. Education and lifelong learning
  3. Educational environment for active social inclusion
  4. Technical assistance

Expected impacts

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): 199,921,329.00 €
  • 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: 650,048,087.00 €

Total EU contribution: 552,540,872.00 €

CCI number: 2014BG05M2OP001