20 March 2015

Welcome to a Special Partner Update for the England 2014 to 2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme.

As we near the start of delivery, the ERDF and ESF Operational Programmes (OPs) are close to final agreement with the European Commission and we have now launched the first calls for projects.  Final adoption of the ERDF and ESF OPs will be a little later. The most up-to-date version of the ERDF OP is available here and the ESF OP will be available soon.

For the ERDF OP, we are able to launch the programme having reached agreement with the European Commission after detailed negotiations on the major points of principle in all areas. This means that in addition to there being substantial resources to support innovation, SMEs and a low carbon economy, there will be targeted support for investment in broadband, climate change, the environment and, in Cornwall, transport. Final details of each of the Priority Axes in the ERDF OP are being negotiated with the Commission. The Commission should be able to formally adopt the OP in May or June, after work to amend part of the EU budget regulation has been completed.

The ESF OP should also be adopted formally by the Commission in May or June.  Since December, negotiations have focussed mainly on the OP targets and informal agreement has now very nearly been reached.

DEFRA negotiated and resubmitted the EAFRD Operational Programme late last year, and this was formally adopted on 13th February 2015.  A copy of the EAFRD OP can be found here.

From today calls will be launched for ERDF against Priority Axes 2 and 4, with calls for Priority Axes 1, 3 and, in Cornwall only, Priority Axis 7 following next week. In addition we will be launching calls covering those priorities in the OP which are relevant to the business support, including the Business Growth Service (including of Growth Accelerator and the Manufacturing Advisory Service) and UK Trade & Investment. This will happen towards the end of next week. The DCLG local Growth Delivery Teams have been developing the content of the calls, talking with partners over the last 6 weeks to seek their advice on local development needs and match funding opportunities. 

DWP will be publishing calls against their ESF OP covering employment, social inclusion and skills next week also. In addition, the ESF Opt In organisations will be submitting their applications covering activity agreed with LEPs and local partners.

There will also be two Technical Assistance calls covering both ERDF and ESF which will invite applications from projects looking to operate at both a local and national (England wide) level to support the delivery of the ERDF and ESF Operational Programmes.

Based on discussions with local partners, Defra will also be publishing locally-specific calls for projects for a small number of LEP areas in late March. The first EAFRD calls under the Growth Programme will be published on 23rd March, Based on local partner advice, initial calls for applications are planned to cover five LEP areas, with an approximate call value of £3.3 million. The initial calls will focus on business development grants for small and micro-businesses in rural areas; and on capital investment support for the food processing sector.

All the calls can be found on our new ESIF Funding Finder on GOV.UK.

A variety of channels will be used to promote the launch between the 20th and 27th March including social media and some press activity. We are also keen to link up with and help to promote any local activities surrounding the launch of the Programme so please contact us at with the details.

To support the calls a number of assessment and selection documents and project requirements guidance have been published on the GOV.UK website today including:

  • ERDF State Aid Law Requirements
  • ERDF Eligibility Rules
  • ESF Eligibility Rules
  • ERDF/ESF  Selection Criteria
  • ERDF/ESF Branding and Publicity Requirements
  • ESIF Logos and Publicity Templates
  • ERDF / ESF Technical Assistance Guidance and timesheet example
  • ERDF / ESF Outline Application Form and Guidance

Attached to this update is the Glossary, of terms, which for the time being will only be available as part of the special partner update. We plan on publishing this on the website in the next couple of weeks.

Further material will be published on the Rural Development Programme pages of GOV.UK to coincide with the publication of EAFRD Growth Programme calls in March. This will include:

  • EAFRD Growth Programme Handbook – this provides advice to applicants who may wish to apply for grants through the early calls.
  • The early calls – setting out the types of projects to be funded.
  • Application form – an initial EAFRD outline application will be available.
  • Project selection criteria – this will inform applicants of the basis for ranking of applications and how their project will be assessed.

These documents can be found here.

Over the coming months we will add more material as it is developed.

As you know, all applications for ERDF and ESF will be made on-line. The first calls for ERDF and ESF will be via a system called LOGASnet. Applicants will need to register on the system to submit their applications. Once registered the outline and full applications will be submitted via LOGASnet with accompanying documents. Details on how to register on the IT system and the information to provide can be found on the GOV.UK via the Funding Finder on each call page.

Applications for EAFRD funding through the Growth Programme will need to be made using a PDF application form, available online, which must be submitted by email. Details regarding this are also available on the EAFRD call pages found via Funding Finder. Farmers, land managers and others should register on the new online service before they apply for any of the new RDPE schemes. They should register even if applications for the schemes will not be made online in 2015. Applicants can also contact the RPA for more advice and information. They can call the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301 and choose the ‘Rural Development’ option.

Next steps

After the initial round of project calls in March further project calls will be developed on an on-going basis to address the range of development needs set out in the OPs and supporting ESIF strategies.

For EAFRD, further calls will be made from the summer onwards covering the areas set out above, as well as support for tourism, renewables and rural broadband projects. The LEP areas and local partners will advise the Rural Payments Agency’s Rural Development Directorate (RDD) on the focus of their local calls, based on local evidence-based needs as set out in their local ESIF strategies. In addition to calls, RDD will commission localised provision of business advice and skills in response to the needs identified in individual local areas. The RDD will receive and assess applications, taking advice from LEP areas and local partners on the strategic fit of funding applications received based on local ESIF strategies.

We continue to work with the core cities and London on the next stages of developing plans for Sustainable Urban Development (SUD). After a meeting earlier in the year kindly hosted by partners in Leeds and supported by Professor Michael Parkinson, we are now setting out the key stages for the further development of SUD strategies.
We expect revised strategies to be completed by the summer.

We will issue a call for Local Development Strategies for Community Led Local Development in the summer. 

On ESF, the Managing Authority will be undertaking appraisals of Opt-in applications in late March and early April and will seek advice from local ESIF Committees on the strategic fit of applications, and then similarly for responses to non opt-in calls for proposals as they close. A second round of activity will be launched in the summer covering all investment priorities in the ESF OP. This will include further opportunities to undertake opt-in activity and launch calls for proposals to respond to local priorities.

Once the ERDF and ESF OPs are formally adopted by the commission, we will be formalising the Growth Programme Board as the formal Programme Monitoring Committee for these OPs as soon as possible. Underpinning governance arrangements for GPB sub-committees continue to be progressed meanwhile and will be shared as soon as available.

ERDF Financial Instruments will follow in due course; we anticipate these coming on line towards the end of the year.

We should like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your contribution to the huge amount of work that has gone into getting the Growth Programme to this launch stage.  We are now very close to the point when funding will reach projects on the ground, stimulating growth and creating jobs across all of England.

Julia Sweeney, Director, European and Local Growth
Department for Communities and Local Government

Angus Gray, Head of European Social Fund Divison
Department for Work and Pensions

Andrew Robinson, Programme Director,
Rural Development Programme for England
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Tim Courtney, Head of ESI Funds Team, European Reform Directorate
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Please note - A number of the links contained within this Update will be made live during Friday 20th March and Monday 23rd March.

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