Leading European funding opportunities for the Public Sector in 2017

Smart growth, inclusive growth and sustainable growth are the three strategic priorities that form the basis for the leading European funding programmes in 2017 and beyond. In an interview with Marnix Smit, European Grant Specialist at Vindsubsidies, we uncover the latest funding opportunities available for the public sector from the European funding pot.

“The largest grant opportunities for public sector organisations lie in related topics such as sustainable urban development, smart mobility and energy efficiency,” Smit commented. He added, “threats from large international investment programmes and Brexit will have a profound influence on future funding opportunities for those operating in the public domain”.

What funding is currently available and what are the anticipated changes for the public sector in 2017?

What’s hot on the funding agenda? 

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Energy efficiency seems to be the key funding focus of the moment. Smit stated: “Projects and investments that contribute to the European '20-20-20 target' (20% less CO2, 20% less energy and 20% of total energy consumption must come from renewable sources) have a good chance of being supported by national and international funding programmes. Think of projects in the field of renewable energy sources, reducing CO2 emissions, and supporting sustainable urban development (smart eco-cities).’’

Sustainable urban development –  what alternative grant opportunities are available?
”Within the context of sustainable urban development, one of the major challenges that governments face is the responsibility for preserving cultural heritage. Investment to sustain old buildings and historic districts can be an expensive undertaking and one that is highly dependent on the political climate. These factors impact the opportunity to obtain traditional financing from national funding programmes or bank loans. To cover these kinds of projects, European funding programmes can provide a solution,’’ says Smit.

“Within the European framework programme Horizon 2020 there are several funding schemes in the field of sustainability and energy, but they mostly focus on the research and development of new technologies. Another opportunity is a loan from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), also known as the Juncker Fund.’’

What about wider regional and urban development?
Smit remarked: "The public sector should also explore the funding opportunities available from the European structural funds, like the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) for urban development. The UIA programme provides urban authorities with more than 50,000 inhabitants with the resources to test new and unproven solutions to address urban challenges in various fields like circular economy, integration of migrants and refugees and smart mobility.’’

What impact will Brexit have on the funding available for UK organisations?
Smit noted: “We can only speculate on the consequences that Brexit will have on future participation in European subsidy programmes and international money flows. A lot depends on any special covenants being put in place with the UK which would enable them to continue to participate in European framework programmes. Similar agreements to those with Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, have worked out well. I assume that Brexit has no major impact on ongoing programmes, but how the European landscape for the UK will look after 2020? No one knows.

“For the latest information on Brexit and how it will affect local government funding, our dedicated post-referendum FAQ pages are on hand to report the facts as they’re announced.’’

Investment programme or funding programme?
Smit went on to say that in practice, large investment funds were not always attractive to government organisations due to the compulsory co-financing required to cover any ambiguities at the time of application. “In many cases, it is unclear as to what private investment is required, how the financial model looks, what the interest rates are and what the duration of a loan is. When a large investment is required, it isn’t surprising that organisations fear to make this investment when the financial outcome is so unsure.”

“Before commencing a project, it is essential for organisations to identify the risks associated with large investments and to have a strategy in place to address them,’’ says Smit. “For grant programmes such as structural funds, the financial contribution from the EU is made clear before the commencement of the project or any investment made. This provides a level of security and makes funding programmes more attractive to participate in, as compared to investment programmes.’’

How can organisations finance large investment programmes?
“The European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) grant is an example of a large funding scheme available to local authorities,” noted Smit. “ELENA is an element of the European Commission’s Intelligent Energy Europe II (IEE) programme and covers up to 90% of the technical support cost needed to prepare, implement and finance the investment programme, including market studies, energy audits and tender preparation. ELENA funding helps local and regional authorities to develop project plans to execute large investment projects (valued at over £20 million) in the field of climate and renewable energy.”

How can Vindsubsidies and GRANTfinder help public organisations utilise grants in 2017?
Smit commented: “The role of our advisors is to provide more insight into the funding opportunities that are available, and how public sector organisations can access them. We offer project management support during the application process and can also provide advice on forming a consortium or on setting up the financial accountability of a grant project. Our consultancy services, combined with our knowledge, expertise and professional funding products, support organisations at all stages of their funding journey – from identification to application and fund management.’’

Looking for further information about the funding opportunities available for the public sector? Contact: grants.marketing@idoxgroup.com.