ESF at 100%

June 3, 2009

The European Commission has formally announced today its proposal to allow European Social Fund grants for the next couple of years to be used to finance 100% of project costs.

Contrary to our report earlier this week, the European Regional Development Fund has not so far been included in this rule change.

This is, nonetheless, a big rule change in EU funding terms & is a response to the economic crisis.  The decision awaits formal approval by the EU national governments on 18-19 June.  If approved as expected, then it may mean a rapid acceleration in take-up of ESF grants in the next couple of years.

ESF is the main EU funding instrument for training; its total budget for the current EU programme period 2007-13 is €75billion.  Although part of the EU budget, ESF is mainly managed at national, regional & local levels. Whereas Leonardo & EQF are about transnational cooperation and innovation, ESF is much more about actual training delivery.  The cliche used is Leonardo is a small research lab & ESF is the big factory.  The allocation of ESF, like the Regional Fund, is prioritised in favour of the poorest regions. There is also a small pot of ESF for transnational cooperation.

Normally ESF requires match-finance, usually from a public authority.  This can be a stumbling block.  100% is obviously a lot more attractive & should generate a lot of project activity.  But national govts are extremely unlikely to add to the overall ESF pot before 2013.  The strong possibility is that ESF availability will be severely diminished post 2010.

Now really is a good time for organisations looking to access grant aid for training purposes to consider the ESF.

Links for further info:
today’s European Commission decision

intro to ESF

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