Interreg Europe logo

Interreg Europe - 4th call for proposals
Deadline: 22 Jun 2018   CALL EXPIRED

EU logo mono Interreg Europe

 Entrepreneurship and SMEs
 Low-Carbon Economy
 Energy Efficiency
 Natural Resources
 Sustainable Development
 Innovation & Research
 Cultural heritage
 Interregional cooperation
 Business Development

1. Legal basis

The Interreg Europe programme is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), whose principles and regulations are laid down in Council and Parliament Regulation N° 1303/2013 (Common Provisions Regulation), Council and Parliament Regulation N° 1301/2013 (ERDF Regulation) and Council and Parliament Regulation N° 1299/2013 (ETC Regulation). The principles and regulations for projects developed within the programme are laid down in the Cooperation Programme and in the programme manual.


2. Context

The European Union works to reduce disparities in the levels of development, growth and quality of life in European regions through its cohesion policy. For the 2014-2020 funding period, cohesion policy concentrates on supporting the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy to promote actions to make the European territory more innovative, more sustainable, and more inclusive.

The Interreg Europe programme contributes to this objective by supporting policy learning among relevant policy organisations with a view to improving the performance of regional development policy instruments.

A policy instrument is a means for public intervention. It refers to any policy, strategy, or law developed by public authorities and applied on the ground in order to improve a specific territorial situation. In most cases, financial resources are associated with a policy instrument. However, a policy instrument can also sometimes refer to a legislative framework with no specific funding. In the context of Interreg Europe, operational programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and Cooperation Programmes for European Territorial Cooperation are considered as policy instruments, as well as other regional development policies developed at local, regional or national level.

Interreg Europe aims to improve the implementation of policy instruments, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, through exchange of experiences and policy learning among actors of regional relevance. The way partners involved in projects can improve their policy instruments is further explained in section 4.3.1 of the programme manual.


3. Eligible area

The eligible Interreg Europe cooperation area covers the whole territory of the European Union with its 28 Member States, including insular and outermost areas. In addition, Norway and Switzerland are full members of the programme and organisations from these countries are welcome to participate in projects (organisations from Switzerland cannot be lead partners). Partners from other countries can participate at their own costs.


4. Timing of the call

The fourth call for proposals opens on 7 May 2018 and closes on 22 June 2018, at 12:00 p.m. (midday) CEST (Paris time).

The date of opening is the date by when the application form will be available in the iOLF system.


5. Actions supported

This is a call for proposals for interregional cooperation projects. A detailed description of this action is provided in section C ‘Projects’ of the programme manual. Due to the timing of the fourth call for proposals, the two following elements should also be taken into consideration as far as the project’s features are concerned:

a) Project duration

As explained in section 6.4.1 of the programme manual, all activities within projects must be completed before 1 April 2023 at the latest. Since fourth call projects will start their activities in 2019 and that a proper policy learning process often requires three years, phase 2 of fourth call projects is reduced from two years to one year..

b) Project results and impact on the 2014-2020 programming period

Interreg Europe is dedicated to improving the performance of regional development policies and in particular the 2014-2020 Structural Funds programmes. Considering the timing of the fourth call, the achievement related to Structural Funds will be challenging since most of the programmes will be advanced in their implementation. In this regard, the following recommendations should be noted:

  •   As highlighted in section 4.3 of the programme manual, the experience of interregional cooperation projects showed that results are often achieved in the course of the policy learning phase. More than ever, and without undermining the importance of action plans, fourth call projects should not wait for phase 2 to transform learning into actions and to improve their policy instruments.

  •   The funding of new projects is only one way to improve the performance of a regional development policies. There are many other ways which do not necessarily require funding. This can be related to changes in influencing already running projects or in the governance of the policies (e.g. improvement of a monitoring system, change in the composition of the decision making board in charge of the policy). Fourth call projects should therefore still have good opportunity to influence the 2014-2020 programming period.

  •   Only 50% of the policy instruments addressed in a project must be Structural Funds programmes. Regions where the opportunities to influence these programmes have become very limited can tehrefore address other policy instuments as long as the 50% rule is respected in the project.

  •   Even if the programme objective does not change and remains on improving existing policy instruments and in particular the current Structural Funds programmes, the results of Interreg Europe projects can also feed into and contribute to the next structural funds programming period.



6. Priorities

The Interreg Europe programme is divided into four priority axes related to the Europe 2020 strategy. As indicated in the table below, the four priority axes correspond to four out of the eleven thematic objectives as set out in the first paragraph of article 9 of the Common Provisions Regulation (EU) 1303/2013. Within each priority axis, one or more specific objectives are defined. Applicants are invited to submit their project application under one of the specific objectives listed below.


Priority axes

1 - Strengthening research, technological development and innovation (corresponding to thematic objective 1)

1(a) - enhancing research and innovation (R&I) infrastructure and capacities to develop R&I excellence and promoting centres of competence, in particular those of European interest.

1.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, in the field of research and innovation infrastructure and capacities notably in the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies


1(b) - promoting business investment in R&I, developing links and synergies between enterprises, research and development centres and the higher education sector, in particular promoting investment in product and service development, technology transfer, social innovation, eco- innovation, public service applications, demand stimulation, networking, clusters and open innovation through smart specialisation, and supporting technological and applied research, pilot lines, early product validation actions, advanced manufacturing capabilities and first production, in particular in key enabling technologies and diffusion of general purpose technologies.

1.2: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, that support the delivery of innovation by players in regional innovation chains in areas of “smart specialisation” and innovation opportunity



2 - Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs (corresponding to thematic objective 3)

3(d) - Supporting the capacity of SMEs to engage in growth in regional, national and international markets, and in innovation processes.

2.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, supporting SMEs in all stages of their life cycle to develop and achieve growth and engage in innovation


3 - Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors (corresponding to thematic objective 4)

4(e) - Promoting low-carbon strategies for all types of territories, in particular for urban areas, including the promotion of sustainable multi-modal urban mobility and mitigation relevant adaptation measures.

3.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, addressing the transition to a low-carbon economy notably in the framework of Smart Specialisation Strategies



4 - Protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency (corresponding to thematic objective 6)

6(c) - conserving, protecting, promoting and developing natural and cultural heritage.

4.1: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, in the field of the protection and development of natural and cultural heritage

6(g) - supporting industrial transition towards a resource-efficient economy, promoting green growth, eco- innovation and environmental performance management in the public and private sectors.

4.2: Improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes, in particular programmes for Investment for Growth and Jobs and, where relevant, European Territorial Cooperation programmes, aimed at increasing resource-efficiency, green growth and eco-innovation and environmental performance management

Since the programme has already approved 184 projects, authorities interested in the fourth call are invited to check the main features of these projects: in order to demonstrate the innovative character of their proposals in terms of topic addressed and regions involved.

a) Topics addressed
The following topics have already been particularly successful in the first three calls: Table 2: successful topics

Priority axis 1:

  • -  Governance of RIS3 (7 projects)

  • -  Clusters within RIS3 (6 projects)

  • -  Innovation in the health sector (6 projects)

  • -  Innovation in food sector (4 projects)

Priority axis 2:

  • -  Internationalisation of SMEs (7 projects)

  • -  Innovation capacity of SMEs in rural / peripheral regions (6 projects)

  • -  Entrepreneurship (9 projects)

  • -  Support to cultural and creative industries (5 projects)

  • -  Support to tourism sector (4 projects)

Priority axis 3:

  • -  Energy efficiency in buildings (10 projects)

  • -  Urban mobility (11 projects)

Priority axis 4:

  • -  Circular economy (7 projects)

  • -  Biodiversity preservation (4 projects)

  • -  Natural an ccultural heritage preservation (19 projects)


Fourth call proposals addressing one of the above topics need to demonstrate how they differ from (and possibly complement) the numerous projects already approved in these fields. On the other hand, important issues such as renewable energy, water quality or waste management are still underrepresented among the approved projects.

b) Partners involved and regions represented

As mentioned in section 4.4.1 of the programme manual, “it is important for the quality of the programme that the origin of the experience and practices exchanges is as wide and varied as possible”. Therefore, fourth call projects are highly encouraged to involve institutions that are not already involved in running Interreg Europe projects, and regions that are not already represented in these projects (while also taking into consideration the characteristics of small countries where the range of eligible organisations is limited).

The list of partners involved in the approved application is available on the programme website ( and the list of the 48 NUTS2 regions not represented in these projects is available as annex 1 of the present terms of reference.


7. Funding

All the remaining ERDF and Norwegian funds for projects (around MEUR 74 ERDF and EUR 280,000 Norwegian funds) are available for the fourth call for proposals. The chart 2 below provides the ERDF funding available under each priority axis.


8. Partnership requirements

8.1 Who can apply?

The following organisations are eligible to receive ERDF or Norwegian funding.

  • -  Public authorities,

  • -  Public law bodies (bodies governed by public law),

  • -  Private non-profit bodies.

Private non-profit bodies cannot take on the role of lead partner. Further details on eligible project partners and legal status can be found in section 4.4.2 of the programme manual. Only “contributing partners” (those listed in the application form) can incur costs and receive ERDF. It is therefore not possible to participate with an “observer” or “sub-partner” status.

As indicated in the programme manual, the partnership should reflect the project objectives and contribute to its efficient implementation. Since Interreg Europe is a thematic programme, partners must first demonstrate their competence and experience in the issue addressed by the project (e.g. innovation, economic development, low- carbon economy, environment). This is important because the partners are the primary source of experiences and knowledge exchanged within the project.

Due to the programme rationale, policymakers are the main target group. These policymakers can be national, regional or local authorities as well as other organisations having a role in the definition and implementation of regional policy instruments. The participation of these competent authorities is essential to maximise the impact of the programme on regional and local policies across the EU. The involvement of authorities responsible for the policy instruments addressed by the project is therefore a prerequisite for applying to the programme.

If the relevant authorities are not involved directly as partners in the project, their participation in the cooperation has to be explained in the application form and a standard letter of support from these authorities must be provided for the participating partners. As far as Structural Funds programmes are concerned, the letter has to be signed by the relevant bodies (e.g. managing authorities), which are listed for each country on the ‘In my country’ page of the programme’s website. This list is regularly updated and in case of doubts applicants are invited to get in touch with their national point of contact whose contact details can be found on the same page of the website.

8.2 Geographical coverage

In compliance with Article 12 (2) of the ETC regulation (EC) No 1299/2013, projects have to involve partners from at least three countries, of which at least two partners must be from EU Member States and financed by the Interreg Europe programme.

Beyond this minimum requirement, the wide geographical coverage is an important quality requirement as reflected in the third strategic assessment criterion 3 (quality of partnership) and as highlighted in section 4.4.1 of the programme manual (‘Balanced partnership and geographical coverage’).


The quality of a significant number of applications submitted in previous calls was poor due to a poor geographical coverage. An additional requirement is therefore set for the fourth call. In order to be eligible, the applications submitted in the fourth call will have to ensure that at least three out of the four areas below are represented in their partnership with at least one project partner:

Geographical Areas

Countries covered


Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden


Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia


Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain


Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom

For the strategic assessment, the possibility to use the knock-out score is also extended to include the geographical coverage. Partnerships where at least 80% of the partners comes from the same cross border or transnational cooperation area1, or where at least 80% of the funding is allocated to the same cross border or transnational cooperation area will be scored ‘knock-out’ under criterion 3 of the strategic assessment (‘Quality of partnership’).

8.3 Policy instrument addressed and territorial context

In line with the overall programme objective, all projects should at least partly focus on the improvement of programmes under the Investment for Growth and Jobs goal, and when relevant under the European Territorial Cooperation goal. Therefore, in each project, at least half of the policy instruments addressed by the EU regions must be Structural Funds programmes (e.g. a minimum of two for a project with four instruments addressed; a minimum of three for a project with five instruments addressed). Further information can be found in section 4 of the programme manual.


9. Co-financing rate

Under the Interreg Europe programme, the eligible project activities are co-financed by the ERDF at a rate of either 75% or 85% depending on the legal status of the project partner. Partners from Norway and Switzerland are not eligible to receive ERDF but can receive co-financing from their respective national funds.



85% ERDF
Public bodies and bodies governed by public law from all 28 EU Member States

75% ERDF
Private non-profit bodies from all 28 EU Member States

50% Norwegian funding
Public bodies, bodies governed by public law and private non-profit bodies from Norway

Swiss funding
Partners from Switzerland are invited to contact the Swiss Interreg Europe national point of contact to receive information on Swiss funding opportunities



10. Application process

The application pack for the fourth call is available on the programme website ( and includes the following:

 the present terms of reference
 the programme manual (version 5)
 the online application system  the partner declaration template
 the letter of support template

Project applicants who would like to submit a proposal must complete an application form in English, as it is the working language of the programme. Applications submitted in another language will be considered ineligible.

The application is an online system programmed with a number of automatic links and formulae. Error messages appear in the form if it is not properly filled in and the application can then not be submitted. Detailed instructions on how to fill in the application form are provided in the form itself. A user guide is also available. All partner declarations and possible letters of support must be uploaded on the iOLF system. The application submitted to the programme must therefore include the following documents:

 the application form itself,
 the partner declarations for all partners including the lead partner,  if applicable, the letters of support from the relevant authorities.

The application has to be submitted online ( at the latest by 22 June 2018, 12 pm (midday) CEST (Paris time).




11. Selection process

11.1. Eligibility

All applications will be subject to a two-step assessment procedure, eligibility and quality assessment. Applications that do not meet all the eligibility criteria will not be further assessed. The only exception is for criterion 5 where a maximum of one mistake per application can be tolerated in total for this criterion (i.e. two mistakes in the same support letter would still lead to the ineligibility of the application; similarly, one mistake in a letter and a second mistake in another letter would also lead to the ineligibility of the application). This flexibility does not apply to criterion 2 meaning that all support letters must still be provided.

In previous calls of the Interreg Europe programme, a significant number of applications failed to pass the eligibility step. Applicants are highly encouraged to carefully study the criteria below and to check before submitting whether they fulfil each of these criteria. Apart from the flexibility introduced in criterion 5, the non- fulfilment of one criterion leads to the ineligibility of the whole application.

Eligibility criteria

1. Respect of deadline
Is the application online submitted in due time?

2. Completeness of the application
Is the application complete?

3. Correctness of the application form
Is the application form fully and properly filled in according to the instructions?

4. Correctness of the partner declaration
Are the partner declarations correct?

5. Correctness of the support letter
If applicable, are the letters of support correct? (if only one mistake is made, the criterion will still be considered as fulfilled)

6. Geographical coverage
Does the project involve partners from at least three countries, of which at least two partners are from EU Member States and are financed by the Interreg Europe programme?

Does the project involve partners from at least three out of the four geographical areas (North, East, South and West)?

7. Focus on Structural Funds
Are at least half of the policy instruments addressed by the EU regions represented in the project Structural Funds programmes?

The experience of the previous calls for proposals has also shown that the primary cause of ineligibility relates to letters of support. These letters were either missing or not properly completed. Whenever needed, applicants are therefore strongly encouraged to request letters of support as early as possible in the preparation phase. In case of doubts related to support letters, applicants are invited to contact their National Point of Contact or the Joint Secretariat.

Interreg Europe - Fourth call terms of reference | 10 / 16

11.2. Quality assessment

The quality assessment criteria are divided into two categories:

  1. Strategic assessment criteria – to assess the project’s contribution to the achievement of programme objectives.

    Criterion 1 – Relevance of proposal Criterion 2 – Quality of results Criterion 3 – Quality of partnership

  2. Operational assessment criteria – to assess the consistency and feasibility of the proposed project, as well as its value for money.

    Criterion 4 – Coherence of the proposal and quality of approach Criterion 5 – Communication and management
    Criterion 6 – Budget and finance

Further details on the selection procedure and the assessment criteria are provided in section 5.3 of the programme manual.

Based on the results of the quality assessment, final decisions are made by the monitoring committee of the programme which is made up of representatives from both national and regional authorities within the 30 Partner States. Decisions are communicated to all lead partners via a notification letter.


12. Further information

Full details of the assistance offered to applicants is available in section 5.1 of the programme manual and on

A comprehensive description of the programme’s strategy and priorities, together with a socio-economic analysis of Europe are included in the Interreg Europe Cooperation Programme.

Further guidance for project applicants is provided in the programme manual which is available as part of this application pack. All official documents and contact details of the joint secretariat are also available on the programme website:

Further information can also be requested at

Public link:   Only for registered users

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