The European Fund for Regional Development (ERDF) is intended to support the (regional) economy. It contributes to the improvement of the competitive position, economic growth, increased quality of life, and more sustainable development in Europe. In the Netherlands, the EFRO focuses on improving regional competitive positions and increasing employment opportunities.
Target audiences and objectives
The investments of the programme focus on several priority fields. For the Netherlands, these are
- Innovation and research
- The low-carbon economy
The Netherlands has established four operational EFRO programmes (OPs), each linked to a Dutch region. The four operational programmes focus on promoting innovation amongst SMEs and developments within the low-carbon economy. Each region has control over its own part of the budget and the management authorities have the option of gradually open the programme to applications and divide the budget based on tenders or on a “first come, first served” basis with variable funding percentages (± 35%).
The main target group of the four OPs are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Knowledge institutions and social organisations are also eligible.
It is important that there is cooperation in a regional context and that the objective of the applicant(s) and the innovation is in line with the policy objectives and the RIS3 (Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation). Financing is always a combination of funding provided by EFRO, the provinces, the Dutch government, and the project partners themselves.
OP-West (Opportunities for West III)
OP-West is intended for the western provinces of North and South Holland, Utrecht, and Flevoland, and the four major cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. The programme also has its own name: Opportunities for West. (‘Kansen voor West’, in Dutch).
The various calls that will be published over this period will relate to the following themes:
- Energy efficiency;
- Renewable energy;
- Energy systems;
- Circular economy; and
- Sustainable urban development.
The total budget is €237 million, of which €200 million is funded by ERDF and €37 million by the Dutch state.
The most recent round of openings opened on 15 November 2022. Over €54 million is available in this round, divided between the different themes and locations.
Opportunities for West II is also awarding funding made available by the European Just Transition Fund (JTF), specifically in the regions IJmond and Rijnmond, the aim of which is to accelerate the energy transition in European industrial regions. The first call is expected to be published in December 2022, with an expected second and third round in 2023 and 2024, respectively. Both new and existing industrial chains are eligible. The total budget for the upcoming year comprises € 31.1 million, with a maximum of € 2 million per project and a funding rate comprising 50% of eligible costs.
Also some money is still available from the previous programme: Opportunities for West II. At the moment, several small vouchers (varying from € 5000 – € 50,000) are available for SMEs. The Incentive Scheme for Biobased Industries provides an impulse for SMEs or mid-caps that have a knowledge question for knowledge partners DSM , TU Delft, and CE Delft pertaining to the techno-economic bottlenecks of a biobased business case (deadline 30 June 2023). Whilst, the Incentive Scheme Smart Industry is intended for SMEs in the manufacturing (maintenance) industry who want to gain insight into the possible digitisation applications in the manufacturing process or to develop such applications (deadline 31 December 2022).
Last year, Opportunities for West II launched a few calls pertaining especially to REACT-EU. These have already been awarded, and at the moment no extra budget is available. However, it is possible that the programme will be given a new financial incentive over the coming year. We will keep you updated via our website and social media channels.
ERDF North Netherlands covers the provinces of Drenthe, Friesland, Groningen and the municipalities of Assen, Emmen, Leeuwarden and Groningen. The programme is administered by Co-operation Association Northern Netherlands (SNN) and aims to provide the region with innovative economic benefits from innovations. The scheme is aimed at regional SMEs to strengthen new development opportunities and smart specialisations and contribute to a future-proof economy and labour market.
The programme aims to increase the innovation capacity of SMEs and strengthen the innovation ecosystem in the Northern Netherlands through three action areas linked to the policy goals of a smarter and greener Europe:
- Exploiting opportunities: The improvement of the Northern Netherlands innovation ecosystem is driven from the four transitions through development projects:
- a. Circular (from a linear to a circular economy)
- b. Energy (from fossil to renewable energy)
- c. Health (from care to sustainable health)
- d. Digitalisation (from analogue to digital)
- Innovation ecosystem: improving the innovation ecosystem through initiatives that are smart, green and impactful.
- Preconditions: human capital initiatives, innovative entrepreneurship, cross-border cooperation and digital skills.
The total budget is €232 million, of which €108 million is financed by ERDF and €124 million by the state.
OP-Zuid covers the provinces of Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland. It is deployed and managed by Stimulus Programme Management. The Southern Netherlands region has acquired a strong competitive position thanks to the large number of top technological companies located there. The favourable business climate also attracts innovative SMEs. The aim of the grant is to boost competitiveness in this region. The scheme is intended for all types of organisations in the region where a project is carried out by at least two cooperation partners. Preference is given to cooperation with one or more SMEs.
The scheme focuses on strengthening the economy, entrepreneurship and innovation by creating new jobs, developing technically innovative projects and reducing carbon emissions. This will improve the social and economic impact of the region. Projects must fall within 5 of the following societal transitions:
- Energy ((higher share of renewable energy and future-proof & reliable energy system)
- Climate (water, soil quality, air quality and heat stress)
- Raw materials (biobased economy, circular economy and smart industry)
- Agriculture and Nutrition (healthy & safe food, agriculture in balance with environment, combating waste / using and valorising residual flows, alternative crops and protein transition)
- Health (prediction, prevention, personalisation, participation and regenerative medicine)
The total budget for OP-South 2021-2027 is estimated at €312 million, of which €110 million comes from the EU. The grant can reach up to €1 million per project. The maximum grant rate is 35% (plus any provincial co-financing). The first opening round of 2021-2027 has now closed.
OP-East covers the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel. It is deployed and managed by Operational Programme (OP-East). With numerous dynamic SMEs, several international companies and three renowned universities, East Netherlands (Overijssel and Gelderland) is characterised as an innovative region.
The following two priorities define the new programme:
- Innovation: achieving an innovative, smart and economic transformation by strengthening the research and innovation capacity of SMEs and deploying advanced technologies through cooperation between business, knowledge institutions and civil society organisations.
- Greening: innovation, demonstration and acceptance of smart solutions in the energy transition.
The total budget for OP-East 2021-2027 is €126 million, of which €82 million is financed by ERDF and €44 million by the state and the two provinces. For the first priority, the following applies: Collaborations consist of three independent parties of which at least one is an SME. The lead partner does not have to be an SME. The grant percentage is 40% and for SMEs it is 50%. The grant contribution amounts to a minimum of €350,000 and a maximum of €750,000.
During the first opening of the new programme, the focus was on market-oriented innovations with a lower TRL level. The second round has been open since 15 September 2022 and closes 15 March 2023. This round offers more scope for demonstration projects with a higher TRL level. Applications are processed on a first come, first serve basis. It is therefore important to submit grant applications immediately after the call opens.
Whilst the rest of the programme is yet to be published, since 15 December, it is possible to apply for a new REACT-EU call. Two types of projects are eligible for this programme, namely development projects and so-called ‘shared facilities’. Per group, there are the following focus points:
- Experimental development TRL 5 to 8;
- Investment in technologies for environmental protection; production and distribution of renewable energy sources, energy storage, energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in industry, public buildings and housing; reduction or re-use of raw materials and minerals; or replacement of raw materials with bio-based alternatives.
- Strengthening of the economic structure through targeted investment in shared facilities aimed at enabling SMEs to test, develop, and scale up innovative ideas and products in an accessible way.
Projects can receive a minimum of € 600,000 and a maximum of € 5,000,000 subsidy, with a financing rate of 70% of total project costs. A total of € 32 million is available for development projects (€ 19.5 million for Gelderland; € 12.5 million for Overijssel) and € 20 million for shared facilities (€ 13 million for Gelderland; € 7 million for Overijssel).
The deadline for submissions is 15 February 2022.
Would You Like to Know More?
Do you have an SME, knowledge institute, or social organisation that wants to cooperate and invest in (technological) innovation? Then the EFRO OPs may offer new possibilities, also in 2022. Please feel free to contact us to explore the options.
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