The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is one of the five European Structure and Investment Funds (ESIF). The ERDF aims to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in the EU by redressing some of the main imbalances between its regions.

To reach these goals, the ERDF focuses its investments on five key priorities:

  1. A smarter Europe, through innovation and support to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as digitisation and digital connectivity;
  2. A greener Europe, low-carbon and resilient;
  3. A more connected Europe by enhancing mobility;
  4. A more social Europe, supporting effective and inclusive employment, education, skills, social inclusion and equal access to healthcare, as well as enhancing the role of culture and sustainable tourism;
  5. A Europe closer to citizens, supporting locally-led development and sustainable urban development across the EU.

The ERDF finances programmes in shared responsibility between the European Commission and national and regional authorities in Member States. The Member States or regions set out their own operational ERDF programmes.

Flanders participates in the ERDF by means of two funding instruments:

  1. ERDF Flanders — the management and oversight of a specific Flemish ERDF programme;
  2. ERDF Interreg — the co-management of and participation in 3 cross-border, 2 transnational and 3 interregional programmes.

ERDF Flanders


The Flemish operational ERDF programme for the period 2021-2027 is currently being developed, it is expected that it will be fully operational by the spring of 2022. The Flemish ERDF programme focusses on the ERDF goals: a smarter Europe and a greener Europe. It aims to strengthen the sustainable growth and competitiveness of Flanders, while at the same time accelerating the transition to a low-carbon, circular and energy-efficient economy. More specifically, the operational programme 2021-2027 is built around three priority axes or goals:

  1. A smarter Flanders;
  2. A sustainable Flanders;
  3. Flanders invests.

In its operational ERDF programme the Flemish government has decided to apply an ‘Integrated Territorial Investment’ (ITI) in four geographical areas. This allows Flanders to develop a concentrated strategy for specific regional development by integrating and combining funding from several priority axes, operational programmes and structure and investment funds.

The four areas in which this integrated strategy is applied are:

  1. ITI Limburg;
  2. ITI West-Flanders;
  3. ITI Kempen;
  4. ITI big cities (Ghent and Antwerp).

The implementation, coordination and management of the Flemish ERDF programme is supervised by the ERDF Managing Authority at Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). To assist in project selection, guidance of (prospective) project leaders, and oversight of funded projects, VLAIO has established a central programme secretariat in Brussels and seven additional local ERDF contact points—one in each province, and one in Antwerp and Ghent.

For whom?

To be eligible for ERDF funding, projects should address and help to achieve one or more of the priority goals described in the operational programme. Projects in ITI-areas should also address the specific challenges of these areas which are defined in the strategic plans for regional development. The Flemish ERDF programme prioritizes its funding for projects with an economic finality, which may at the same time have an impact on other societal aspects as well.

Though the ERDF programme is primarily designed to support projects of public actors, including universities,  projects of private actors with legal personality in Flanders and in compliance with the EU regulations on state aid also qualify for funding.

Duration and budget

The standard duration of ERDF-funded projects is two years for operation projects and three years for investment projects—the latter are projects with more than 50% investment costs.

The amount of ERDF funding awarded varies depending on the call and a project’s financial needs. Ideally, a project should also be co-funded by public authorities (the Flemish, provincial or local government) or private investors. ERDF funding is capped at 40% of a project’s budget. Taken together, ERDF funding and co-funding should not exceed 85% of a project’s budget. To comply with EU regulations on state aid, further limitations may apply on public co-funding. Project leaders should contribute at least 15% of a project’s total budget.

More information (in Dutch) on how to apply for co-funding and regulations on state aid can be found on the VLAIO website.

Interested researchers should timely contact the Grants Office of Research, Innovation & Valorisation Antwerp (RIVA) to discuss co-funding arrangements and to get clearance.

Application procedure

Open calls for proposals are published on the website of VLAIO. There, you can also consult closed calls for proposals and find out the submission deadlines for each call.

Project proposals should be submitted via the e-portal. In order to log in you will need a federal ‘token’, an eID reader, or use the itsme app for authentication.

Before beginning to prepare and to submit your proposal, we highly recommend you to consult the various practical guides published by VLAIO. For support prior to and during the submission process, researchers can consult the ERDF central programme secretariat or one of the local ERDF contact points. We advise researchers to certainly contact the Grants Office of Research, Innovation & Valorisation Antwerp (RIVA) for support with their project application.

ERDF Interreg


ERDF Interreg is an umbrella term to designate the various programmes that go beyond borders. Interreg supports the cooperation across regions and countries.

For the period 2021-2027, Flanders participates in 8 Interreg programmes:

  • Three cross-border programmes:

  • Two transnational programmes:

  • Three interregional programmes:

All of these programmes focus on the following ERDF goals: 

  • A smarter Europe;​
  • A greener Europe;
  • A more social Europe.

The aim of Interreg is to stimulate societal transitions within sharply defined subareas of the above-mentioned themes by supporting actions that require the integrated and consorted collaboration of multiple actors, sectors and policy levels.

The scope, priorities and challenges of each Interreg programme are strictly defined in geographical terms in multi-annual operational programmes which have been agreed upon by all participating Member States and regions. The Interreg operational programmes for the period 2021-2027 are currently being developed, it is expected that they will be fully operational by the spring of 2022.

For whom?

For consortia of public authorities, research and knowledge institutions, enterprises and NGOs seeking to implement long-term transition projects benefiting enterprises and citizens. ERDF programmes do not fund projects of individual enterprises or short-term projects.

All projects need to comply with the EU regulations on state aid, should not have a direct commercial and/or for-profit aim, and are evaluated on their open innovation potential.

Duration and budget

The duration of projects may vary. For Interreg Vlaanderen-Nederland funding, for instance, the duration is capped at three years, although projects with a longer duration (e.g. five years) are occasionally allowed.

Interreg funding covers only a part of eligible project costs. Cross-border and transnational programmes fund 50 to 60% of total approved budget, while interregional programmes may fund up to 85%.

Interested researchers should timely contact the Grants Office of Research, Innovation & Valorisation Antwerp (RIVA) to discuss co-funding arrangements and to get clearance.

Application procedure

An overview of calls for proposals can be found on the website of VLAIO, although we recommend you to go directly to the specific Interreg programme websites for more accurate information.

Ideas for projects can be registered at all times prior, during, or after the calls for proposals are announced either on the Interreg programme website or directly with a designated contact person for the programme.

Project proposals need to be submitted electronically through an online platform. Bar a few exceptions, all programmes use a two-step application procedure: the submission of a project concept in the first stage, followed by the full proposal in the second stage. The duration of the application procedure varies depending on the programme, but generally takes up to 7-12 months from the submission of the project concept until the final decision on the full proposal.

VLAIO has published an overview of contact points and agencies that may help you with your application. We advise researchers to certainly contact the Grants Office of Research, Innovation & Valorisation Antwerp (RIVA) for support with their project application.