European Structural Funds: A smart, sustainable and inclusive Scotland in Europe

An overview of the 2007-2013 programmes and an introduction to the 2014-2020 programmes with case studies from both the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund.

European Structural Funds 2014-2020

The 2014-2020 Programme will focus on meeting the targets set by Europe 2020, the European growth strategy designed to create a smart, sustainable and inclusive European economy. The EC has set five strategic objectives focusing on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy. Each Member State has set its own targets so these objectives are met by 2020.

How does it compare to the 2007-2013 Programme?

The 2014-2020 Programme is more streamlined, simplified and transparent. The 2007-2013 Programme approved more than 800 projects, with organisations applying directly to the Scottish Government.

In the new programme a smaller number of key organisations known as Lead Partners will manage and control areas previously within the remit of the Scottish Government. The Lead Partners have the expertise to successfully deliver groups of projects, known under the new programme as Strategic Interventions. The Lead Partners will select the projects they feel best meet the objectives of the 2014-2020 programme.

What is the role of the Scottish Government in the new programme?

To monitor and check that funds are being allocated effectively and that EU 2020 targets are being met.

Management Structure

Management Structure

How is the funding allocated?

The €985 million of funds will be split into ERDF and ESF.

Who benefits?

  • Individuals - the development of a low carbon economy in Scotland and a stronger mid-sized business base will boost employment and lead to more investment in skills development.
  • SMEs - increased support for small business growth will not only diversify the economy but will also help an increasing number of companies to be 'born global', ready to innovate, export and engage with new markets in Europe and further afield.
  • Communities - activity to improve the health and overall environmental standards of urban areas will make them better places to live and invest in, while improvements in digital connectivity will reduce levels of social exclusion in remote rural communities.
  • Scientists and researchers - Targeted investment will provide new opportunities for research and innovation, and the associated increase in job opportunities.

How will the programme work in Scotland?

The 2014-2020 programme is structured around Strategic Interventions - groups of interlinked projects designed to be mutually supportive. The projects will fall into three growth categories to meet the following aims:

1. Smart Growth

  • Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs: Providing support for small companies to grow their business at local, regional and national levels through innovation centres and business development agencies. Enabling SMEs to build a stronger mid-sized business base.
  • Strengthening Research, Technological Development & Innovation: Increased collaboration between high growth potential SMEs and academic research centres. Technological innovations that will improve urban infrastructure, connection between cities and attract foreign direct investment.
  • Enhancing Use, Quality and Access to ICT: Increasing the availability of broadband and digital technology to individuals and businesses in remote and rural areas of Scotland so that rural business activity can flourish.

2. Sustainable Growth

  • Supporting the shift towards a low carbon economy: Promoting research, innovation and adoption of low carbon technologies such as the funding of regionalised pilot projects of low carbon refuelling services. Promotion of active and public transport is also key.
  • Promoting resource efficiency: Support of accelerator programmes to encourage businesses to adopt resource efficient processes and products.
  • Protecting the environment: Investment in green infrastructure and transforming vacant and derelict land.

3. Inclusive Growth

  • Promoting employment and supporting labour market mobility: Improve access to employment for job-seekers and inactive people and encourage the sustainable integration of young people, in particular those not in employment, education or training.
  • Promoting Social Inclusion, Combating Poverty and any Discrimination: Targeting those who are socially excluded and/or living in poverty. Measures include improving employability through encouraging social entrepreneurship.
  • Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning: More vocational options for training and entering employment.


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