The first call of the new 2021-2027 programme of Interreg North-West Europe (NWE), was launched on 22 March. The programme can fund 60% of a transnational project with 3 partners of 3 different NWE countries. The deadline for the first step application of this call is the 15th of June 2022. A grand total of € 287 million of the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) will be available for a wide variety of projects that want to tackle common transnational challenges through cooperation with partners in the NWE territories.
What is the programme about?
Interreg NWE is a European territorial cooperation programme that strives to improve the economic, environmental, social and territorial development of Europe’s regions. They do this by supporting cross-border projects with multiple partners in the NWE area consisting of Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Switzerland. In the new call, several new regions have been added to the already existing list. More specifically, The Netherlands is now completely covered and a significant part of North-West Germany (Bremen, Weser-Ems and Leine-Weser) now also participate in the programme.
The programme supports the implementation of the European Cohesion Policy, which in turn reduces disparities between the different regions and advances sustainable territorial development in the NWE area. The area is highly dynamic and innovative, but this comes with a price. The area faces some key challenges that come with this dense population and urbanisation of the region including but not limited to: energy consumption, GHG emissions, healthcare challenges and employment.
What are the focus areas?
The new Interreg NWE programme has five priorities and nine specific objectives that can be addressed in potential projects. They focus primarily on implementation, roll-out and dissemination rather than research activities.
1) Climate and environment
- The mitigation of natural disaster risks and climate change adaptation.
- The protection and preservation of nature, biodiversity and green/blue infrastructure – water management can thus also be addressed – and the reduction of all forms of pollution.
2) Energy transition
- Reducing overall GHG emissions and promoting energy efficiency in the territories.
- The promotion of renewable energy.
3) Circular economy
- Make the transition towards a circular and resource efficient economy with the aim of becoming an advanced region in material efficiency. Raising awareness is also of importance.
4) Innovation and resilience
- The aim is above all to improve regional capacity and become a leader in many sectors by developing and enhancing research and innovation capacities and the uptake of advanced technologies.
5) Inclusive society
- Tackling disparities by enhancing the effectiveness and inclusiveness of labour markets (rural/urban, income differences, etc.) and access to quality employment (e.g. employability of vulnerable groups) through developing social infrastructure and promoting social economy.
- Ensuring equal access to health care and fostering resilience of health systems, including primary care, and promoting the transition from institutional to family-and-community-based care.
- Enhancing the role of culture and sustainable tourism – which was heavily impacted by the covid pandemic – as a way to support economic development, social inclusion and social innovation.
Next to these priorities and objectives, there are also some horizontal principles that apply for all projects. These are gender equality, non discrimination and sustainable development.
Who can apply?
The programme follows the quadruple helix to define target groups. This means that a wide variety of partners from the private or public sector, academic world and civil society are welcome to apply. It is however not mandatory to have all four represented in a project. The partners should be in line with the specific needs of the project.
Partnerships outside the NWE are allowed but will need to be justified. They should only be part of the project if their specific competences can not be found in the NWE area. The basic rule of minimum 3 partners of 3 different NWE countries -which we will explain further – still has to be followed when onboarding such a partner.
There is also the concept of associated organisations, essentially observers that can also be part of the project. Potential associated organisations can for example be based in the UK.
What is the potential benefit?
The programme can fund 60% of the eligible costs (staffing, equipment, infrastructure, etc.). Beneficiaries are expected to contribute the remaining 40% either themselves or through other financing means. Other EU funds can not be used, but local or regional support is allowed.
Next to the financial benefit, partaking in this programme can expose you to best practices and further learning opportunities, greater visibility and reaching new targets or industries.
Characteristics of a good Interreg NWE project
First and foremost, the project should have 3 participants from 3 different countries in the NWE area. There is no ideal number of partners. This should correspond to the needs of the project. Although it should be kept in mind that larger consortiums are harder to manage and organise administratively and of course financially.
Projects must follow a specific priority and objective. Two overlapping priorities are not possible, one should always be selected.
There are 9 characteristics that can be clearly listed to which a project should adhere.
- Clearly define the needs, explain challenges and opportunities that you want to address;
- Contribute to the programme objectives;
- Have clear and measurable results that fit in the program indicator framework;
- Needs transnational cooperation at its core;
- Go beyond existing approaches;
- A robust partnership structure;
- Lasting chang and long term effects;
- Communicate activities and results;
- Identify and mitigate risks (Identify 3 risks that might influence the implementation process and have a plan B).
How to apply?
The application works in a two-step process:
Step one: After checking eligibility and selecting a specific objective you can contact the regional contact point in the region of the leading partner. Use the online tool to fill in the application and provide an overall budget. This has to be done by the 15th of June 2022.
The project will get a go or no-go, after which you can either go towards step to, or reapply in the next call (november 2022).
Step two: If you receive a positive response, a full proposal draft can be prepared in which you translate the objectives in work packages, appoint deliverables and outputs, prepare a timeline and budget per project partner and of course find match funding. This proposal must be submitted by the 15th of December 2022.
The decision will be communicated in February 2023 after which, if successful, the project can kick-off.
New NWE online community
A new addition to the programme is the online community webpage where applicants and potential partners can share ideas, find interesting projects or find partners for their projects.
Different national and regional physical events are also coming up. In May there will be one in Belgium.
If your company is considering an application to Interreg NWE, the PwC Incentives Hub will happily conduct a first assessment of your project to verify your eligibility, and support you throughout the entire application procedure. Contact us for more information regarding our services.