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Structural Funds

The European Commission allocates ‘Structural Funds’ to the Welsh Government to drive economic investment and growth across Wales. The Welsh Government sets out how it will use these Funds in ‘Operational Programmes’ which usually span a six-year period and cover different regions of Wales:
• West Wales and the Valleys (‘Convergence area’ under 2007-14, and ‘Objective1 under 2000-6)
• East Wales (‘Competitiveness area’ under 2007-13, and Objective 2 under 2000-6)

Different Funds operate in each region, including:
• European Social Fund (ESF) – which focuses on skills development and training, and tackling poverty through sustainable employment, increasing skills and youth employment
• European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – which focuses on research and innovation, helping businesses to start up and grow, supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and strategic infrastructure projects.

The Wales ERDF and ESF programmes 2014–2020 form part of a wider ‘UK Partnership Agreement’ from the UK Government, which was approved by the European Commission on 29 October 2014.  For the period 2014–2020, Wales will receive investment worth some £2 billion from ERDF and ESF funding, to be match-funded with a similar level of investment from the public and private sectors.


ERDF and ESF Structural Funds Programmes for Wales are administered by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).  WEFO works with organisations to develop very large-scale projects or ‘Operations’ that deliver against the objectives of the Programmes.  

Operations are collaborative projects of high value (multiple-millions) involving a lead organisation and a range of partners (‘beneficiaries’) and sub-contractors who deliver appropriate activities.
Operations are developed via a Business Planning process, in negotiation with WEFO and other partners. New Operations under the 2014-20 Programmes are currently under development- further information can be found on the WEFO website.

Given the large scale and complexity of Operations, and the strategic way in which these are developed in partnership with a number of stakeholders, Cardiff University staff wishing to lead or participate in a Structural Funds Operation must consult with the Research and Innovation Services (contacts as below) at ‘idea’ stage, prior to any contact with WEFO.


In addition to the ERDF and ESF funds above, the UK is also eligible to participate in European Territorial Co-operation (ETC) programmes 2014-2020, sometimes known as “Interreg”.  These programmes are focused on promoting ‘inter-regional’ activities and development, and address issues which cut across national borders. Each Programme has ‘Managing Authority’, which manages the application and award procedures and monitors the use of Funds when awarded.

Cross-Border Cooperation

 Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme : this promotes Welsh-Irish collaboration, with a focus on three priority areas: Cross Border Research and Innovation; Adaption of the Irish Sea and Coastal Communities to climate Change; and Cultural and Natural Resources and Heritage (with a focus on tourism). Cardiff University sits outside the Ireland-Wales programme region and is unable to lead an application to this programme, although, we can participate as a partner, subject to project-by-project agreement with WEFO, the Managing Authority.

Transregional Co-operation (involving selective EU states)
North West Europe Programme: worth €396m in ERDF funding, this transnational programme links the UK (including all of Wales) with Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg and areas of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The managing authority is the Nord-Pas de Calais region in Lille, France.

 Atlantic Area Programme: a sea-focussed transnational programme, worth €140m in ERDF funding, links regions on the Atlantic coast including Ireland, areas of France, Spain and Portugal and areas of the UK, including all of Wales. The Managing Authority is the North Regional Co-ordination and Development Commission (CCDR) in Porto, Portugal.  WEFO currently acts as the UK point of contact (‘national correspondent’), providing information and advice about the programme. For further information please email:

Interregional co-operation (covers all 28 EU Member states)
Interreg EUROPE: this interregional programme, worth €359m in ERDF funding, covers the EU28 plus Switzerland and Norway and is aimed at policy exchange across EU regions. The managing authority is the Nord-Pas de Calais region in Lille, France.

URBACT III: this interregional programme, worth €74m in ERDF funding, covers the EU28 plus Switzerland and Norway. URBACT promotes sustainable urban development and enables European cities to work together to develop solutions to urban challenges. The managing authority is the General Secretariat of the Inter Ministerial Committee of Cities (SGCIV) responsible to the French Ministry of Urban Policy.

ESPON 2020: worth €41m in ERDF funding, ESPON (European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion) covers the EU28 plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

INTERACT: covering the EU28 plus Norway and Switzerland and worth €39m in ERDF funding.  INTERACT is the hub for exchanging information and best practice amongst ETC programmes.



The University has a lengthy and substantial track record of delivering Structural Fund project, and has successfully participated in ERDF, ESF and INTERREG projects since early 1996, with an estimated value in excess of £80 million (total project costs).

Between 2000 and 2013, Cardiff University has participated in a total of 74 projects with a grant value of £65.5M.  Of these, Cardiff University has been the lead sponsor on 37 projects, with a grant value of £45M.  Further details are included in the listings below, with web-links to project websites, where appropriate.



For further information or advice, please contact:

Ms Rebecca Blackwell
Research Development Officer

Telephone:029 208 79196Extension:79196