Smarter Europe, smarter funding? (Analytical work) Smarter Europe, smarter funding? (Analytical work)


To identify difficulties and opportunities in utilising EU funds for innovation in regions and cities, centred on RIS3 and the combination of different funds to achieve the optimum results.


Work organised

  • Workshop at the European Week of Regions and Cities (10 October 2017, Brussels), in collaboration with Interact, explored the difficulties and opportunities in utilising EU funds for innovation in regions and cities within a RIS3 context, and the combination of different funds to achieve optimum results.
  • Internal workshop (13 June 2017, Seville) within EU Institutions aiming to map the European funding landscape for low-carbon energy, including DG REGIO (ESIF), EIB ( EFSI, Marguerite, other instruments, including technical assistance from ELENA and JASPERS), DG RTD (H2020, InnovFin, financial instruments and state aid), EIT, EIT InnoEnergy, Climate-KIC, DG ENER (The energy funding landscape (incl. CEF)), DG CLIMA (NER300/400; LIFE climate).


Lessons learned

Strategies to overcome problems in utilising EU funds for innovation in regions and cities can be grouped into three categories:

1- Quality of governance

For the potential beneficiaries: the development of a good funding strategy at regional level, a communication and lobbying plan, and connecting to international networks are considered crucial.

For the funding managers: options to improve take-up include greater flexibility of regulations, solutions to cover a possible funding gap between the start of the implementation phase and receipt of the first funding (e.g. through pre-financing, a seed money facility or a way for governments to guarantee credit arrangements for the projects implementation), a greater coherence between different funding sources, a mechanism to help navigate the funding options in systematic manner (a GPS system to identify funding sources), as well as support to build partnerships around EU initiatives and an international partners search function to help create transnational consortia.

2- Capacity building

Address the lack of qualified support staff, in particular in smaller countries/regions with fewer resources, to deal with administrative complexity, making it sometimes not worth applying for funding; organise more technical support; learn from good examples (e.g. Bilbao has a specific team working to attract EU funding); learning by doing with room for failures; better involvement in EU networks (and related match-making assistance).

3- Innovation and commercialisation

Identify and engage partners along the value chain instead of doing everything in-house; connect to other initiatives also in commercialisation (such as JUs and EIT KICs).

In supporting stakeholders to better navigate the funding landscape, two issues are of key relevance: mapping the funding landscape; and communication and guidance building on this mapping. The case of European funding for low-carbon energy shows that a thematic mapping of the European funding landscape is complex, and no single DG has a complete overview. This case focused on the initial stages of the mapping exercise through an internal workshop within EU Institutions.

The event improved the understanding of the EU funding and financing landscape for supporting energy projects, improved the understanding between funding providers and illustrated possible combinations of the various instruments for some concrete examples.


Related reports

  • Conclusions from the European Week of Regions and Cities workshop: Smarter Europe – smarter funding? – 10 October 2017 (Internal report).
  • Internal workshop on EU funding supporting Energy Projects (Internal report)