VCSE Technical Assistance Update for the European Programme (#14)

17th October 2017.

This is the fourteenth in a series to update you on the main European Funds in Greater Manchester (GM), provided by GMCVO with the support of Network for Europe, and is part of Technical Assistance.

Current Calls for project proposals – Context:

  • Deadline end of October 2017- European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Research and Innovation call for proposals (Priority Axis 1). The call focuses on strengthening research and innovation in Greater Manchester and improving links between businesses (particularly Small-Medium Enterprises) and research institutions;
  • Deadline extended to end of November 2017 - ERDF Sustainable Urban Development (SUD). More information about SUD is below (updated 20/10/17);
  • European Social Fund (ESF) – the procurement process for the £52m Working Well contract continues. See below for further information.
  • European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) – proposals under the three project headings (Rural Tourism, Business Development and Food Processing) still open for submission. Extra money will be added to these project headings but final amounts need to be allocated across the thirty-eight Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas alongside comments and confirmation from the areas’ respective ESIF Committees. The deadline for submission of proposals under the three project headings is January 2018.

Find live calls for proposals in Greater Manchester here.

European Social Fund (ESF)

ESF Working Well
Procurement continues for the £52m contract and commissioners are on schedule to announce the successful applicant on 17th November 2017.

Commissioners are currently conducting the final evaluation of applicants’ final tenders submitted at the end of last month (22nd September 2017).

Rest of ESF
Nationally, attention is moving to the second half of the programme, in particular the issue of whether or not the national co-financing organisations, including Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Big Lottery, will continue to be involved and where match funding will come from.

ESF Priority Axis 1 (Inclusive Labour Market – focusing on developing inclusive employment pathways). Most of this area of ESF will be committed with the latest Working Well contract, leaving £19m of the original £82m to be allocated. Allocation could be done through funding from the GM Co-Financing Organisation (GMCA), which would mean that applicants would not need to provide match, or through the Big Lottery Fund (additional match provided). It is unlikely there will be direct bidding.

ESF Priority Axis 2 (Skills for Growth – improving the labour markets ability to provide and individuals to access lifelong learning). There is a larger amount of this area to allocate (£53m of the original £64m). It is not yet clear whether ESFA will identify match and be prepared to commit some of this funding, or whether it will be through the local GM Co-Financing Organisation.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

Future calls across England are expected on 17th November - these will likely include business support (and start-up support) contracts for the second half of the Programme.

SUD (Sustainable Urban Development)
The final deadline for SUD is 31st October 2017. Deadlines for GM were shorter than expected, but there has been considerable interest, with several well attended meetings. Although some applications have been submitted, it is quite possible that many will not arrive until just before the October deadline. It is possible that there might be an extension to the call in the event that insufficient good quality bids are received.

While Manchester was in the first call, six of the eight expected calls have now been issued (some with final deadlines to March 2018), and they vary dramatically. While Greater Manchester’s tender centres on innovation and low carbon, with opportunities for third sector organisations, Leeds focusses more on flood resilience, Birmingham on greening the area around HS2, and Liverpool on green routes and public transport. The North East covers sustainable energy, transport and infrastructure, and Nottingham broadband, incubation and support for enterprises, innovation and adoption of low carbon technologies.

As we had requested, there was an update on SUD at the September Growth Board.

New ERDF Calls in November
We are at the half way point in the programme, and funding for enterprise support in GM will finish by the end of 2018. New ERDF calls are expected to be issued on 17th November, likely to include start-up support and enterprise support including social enterprises. Calls are expected to be broadly similar to the first half of the programme. This could either fund new projects, or act as extensions to existing projects.

Growth Board (Programme Monitoring Committee)
Met on 14th September, and reviewed the programme across England. An explanation was given about the different exchange rates currently in use, and there was concern about identifying match funding for ESF for the second half of the Programme. It would seem the national Co-Finance Organisations are being encouraged to be involved in the rest of the programme, but decisions have yet to be made, and match needs to be identified.

E-Claims is expected to be fully working in 2018, which should give quicker, more detailed Management Information (and reduce the pressure on staff). For the moment, work is continuing on developing the LEP level dashboards, which provide a range of information on the local progress of the programme.

Work is continuing on the review of the ESF Operational Programme, although the report is not yet ready. There is now some more clarity on outputs and results.

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