European Regional Development Fund/European Social Fund

The European Union gives financial aid to less-developed regions of Europe in the form of European Structural funds.

European funds are targeted on specific problems or areas of economic need and make a real difference to our city.


The funds are delivered through three objectives. Different parts of the European Union are designated as eligible to receive funds under one or more of these objectives.

Salford is covered by the North West Competitiveness Programme (ERDF) and can also apply for objective three European Social Fund (ESF) and many of the Community Initiatives.

Objective one: helps to develop regions seriously lagging behind the EU average. There are no longer any objective 1 areas in the north west (previously Merseyside). Objective 1 covers both ERDF and ESF.

Objective two: North west European Regional Development Fund: seeks to revitalise regions affected by serious industrial decline. The Lisbon agenda provides the overarching driving force for the ERDF programme and the two broad aims of the Lisbon agenda are central to the north west ERDF programme:

  • Generating stronger, sustainable economic growth. Achieving this goal requires a significant increase in emphasis on competitiveness, innovation and knowledge-intensive activities.
  • Creating more and better jobs. A stronger economy will drive higher quality job creation in the EU and policies that promote social inclusion will facilitate faster economic growth by increasing the effective labour pool.

Objective three: European Social Fund: helps to improve the situation of the existing and potential workforce through training. The north west objective three programme covers the entire region. This programme includes the European Social Fund.

Community initiatives: target funds either spatially or thematically and aim to promote an integrated approach across Europe to tackling social, environmental and economic problems to promote sustainable economic development. Community initiatives have to involve more than one member state.

How are European Regional development funds managed?

European funds are seen as the last piece of the financial jigsaw for a project. That means the funds are used to part-finance projects that could not go ahead without financial support from Europe.

Projects must have all other sources of funding in place before applying for support.

The north west ERDF programme 2007 to 2013 was submitted by the government to the European Commission (EC). Following negotiations with the EC and the national government the plan was amended and published in December 2007. The programme laid out the aims and objectives of the funds in the region, established action areas under which projects were to be funded and indicated the types and amounts of financial support that were available.

A programme management committee (PMC) has been formed to monitor, oversee and advise on the delivery of the programme. It is comprised of 25 senior representatives from across the region including GONW, NWDA, NWRA, Communities and local government, sub-regional partnerships, local authorities, higher education, trade unions and the private and voluntary sector.

The ERDF funding will be administered by the NWDA through the European programme team, led by the Director of European Programme, David Malpass.

The process for application will be aligned fully with the NWDA's current grant application procedure, i.e. no separate ERDF application form.

The NWDA has a website to access information on the programme. An expression of interest pro-forma is available on the website.

What is the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and what can it support?

The ERDF Programme has five priorities and 11 action areas. Beneath each action area sits a more detailed investment framework which will identify the type of activity that could be supported under the ERDF programme and the types of organisations that are best placed to deliver these projects. Each investment framework has been developed in consultation with local, sub-regional and regional partners and approved by the PMC.

The programme is focused on supporting and enhancing the competitiveness of the region, with a secondary focus on the creation of the right conditions for growth. However, there are relatively limited resources in the Programme so it is therefore focused on areas where it can make the biggest impact, in conjunction with other funding for economic development.

North west European Operational Programme - the priorities and action areas can be downloaded below.

Priority five - technical assistance (Supporting the management of the Programme)

At a glance:

  • Total north west ERDF is £521 million (for the period 2007 to 2013).
  • North west ERDF (excluding Merseyside) is £308 million - Merseyside has transitional 'phasing in' status and a ring fenced allocation to allow the area to adjust from objective one status gradually.
  • Merseyside ring fenced phasing in ERDF is £212 million.

What is the European Social Fund and what can it support?

ESF supports training and learning for people working in the region and people looking for jobs. It is intended to particularly help:

  • People who are already in the workforce as well as those who are unemployed
  • Young job seekers and
  • People excluded from the labour market

The Department for Works and Pensions (Jobcentre Plus), and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) are co-financing bodies responsible for the management of ESF funding throughout Greater Manchester. Projects are 100% funded through a contractual delivery arrangement with the appropriate co-financing body. Generally bidding rounds are held annually and dates are posted on the relevant organisations web pages. Further information can be obtained from Jobcentre Plus.

2007 to 2013 Programme ESF funding is £222 million with £222 million national match funding, total funding of £444 million.

The north west objective three regional programme has two priorities:

Priority 1 - extending employment opportunities

There are a range of groups that are under-represented in the labour market and within which a higher proportion of people are economically inactive. These include lone parents, black and ethnic (BME) communities, people with disabilities and health conditions and low skilled people. These groups are often concentrated in deprived areas. There will, therefore, be a strong focus on these key groups in the north west ESF plan.

The following groups will be targeted: offenders, ex-offenders, substance abusers, refugees and the homeless. There will also be a specific targeting of young people in order to increase participation in learning and training.

Priority one also includes scope for spatial targeting of resource to support city employment plans and other area-based strategies and initiatives designed to tackle worklessness in urban areas, and activities that seek to tackle barriers to work faced by people in rural areas. This will also link to neighbourhood renewal strategies and local area agreements.

Priority two - developing a skilled and adaptable workforce.

Has a less explicit targeting of resources than priority one (in terms of disadvantaged groups), although these groups are likely to be disproportionately represented in the cohort of north west residents who lack qualifications/skills on which priority two will focus. There is a specific focus on gender and BME communities in sectors in which

There are skills shortages at level three. The regional priority sectors at level three for 2007 to 2010 as published by the Regional Skills Partnership are:

  • Advanced engineering and materials (e.g. aerospace engineering, automotive, chemical)
  • biomedical
  • care/healthcare
  • construction
  • digital and creative industries
  • education and training
  • energy and environment technologies including nuclear decommissioning
  • food and drink
  • retail
  • visitor economy (specifically tourism)

What are European Community Initiatives?

The commission awards money in the form of grants in order to implement projects or activities in relation to European Union policies. These grants may be awarded within fields as diverse as research, education, health, consumer protection, protection of the environment, humanitarian aid, etc.

Who can request a grant?

The grant beneficiaries are mainly private or public organisations, and exceptionally individuals, chosen by the European Commission for their capacity to implement the projects concerned. Since grants cover a very diverse range of fields, the specific conditions that need to be fulfilled vary from one field to another. It is therefore important to consult carefully the rules of each grant programme. However, some basic principles apply in every case.

  • Grants: are a form of complementary financing. The EU does not finance projects up to 100%; only projects taking place outside the European Union have the possibility to be financed in full;
  • enable a given operation to break even financially and cannot lead to a profit for their beneficiaries;
  • cannot be awarded retroactively for actions that are already completed. In addition, only one grant may be awarded for the same action.

Grants are not awarded on a case-by-case basis. Instead, they are subject to annual programming. Before 31 March each year, those departments of the commission that manage grant programmes publish their annual work programme on their website. The work programme fixes the broad outlines of the grants that are envisaged over the year (area of activity, objectives, timetable, available budget, award conditions, etc.).

Subsequently, the commission's departments publish calls for proposals on their websites; the calls for proposal invite candidates to present, within a given deadline, a proposal for action that corresponds to the objectives pursued and fulfils the required conditions. These calls for proposals can also be published in the Official Journal of the European Union - C series.

All applications are examined and evaluated on the basis of criteria that have clearly been announced in the calls for proposals, while ensuring equal treatment; candidates are individually informed of the final decision concerning their proposal.

Some grants are exceptionally awarded directly to certain beneficiaries without a call for proposals. This may be due to their specific competences or characteristics which meant that they are the sole beneficiaries for certain actions (situations of monopoly), or to the emergency nature of the action (humanitarian aid in particular).

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This page was last updated on 18 November 2015

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