Programme overviews

Synergies in the use of EU funds

The European Commission’s goal is to achieve synergies between those funding programmes from which funds from the EU budget are awarded to beneficiaries. After all, there is great potential for synergies because about three quarters of the total EU budget of no less than €1.2 trillion for the period 2021 to 2027 flow back to the member states and regions via funding measures. The purpose of these measures is to implement the EU’s political goals. In addition, there is the temporary NextGenerationEU recovery plan with almost the same amount, which was launched to help overcome the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and is financed via the financial sector.

Funding programmes of the European Commission

In terms of synergies, interventions to foster research, development and innovation are at the forefront. After all, innovations are per se the nucleus for growth and employment and thus for prosperity. Customised funding programmes provide systematic support for the main producers of innovations – science, research and business. The Horizon Europe funding programme covers both basic and applied research and is geared equally to start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises. Cutting-edge research at all stages of development is conducted within projects by collaborative research consortia or with individual grants. Closely linked to Horizon Europe are the EU Missions and the European Partnerships, which – in a comprehensive approach – support selected fields of technology and solutions for societal challenges. The European Structural Funds, which together account for the largest part of the EU budget, aim to align living standards in the member states and also have a strong link to innovation.


The funding programmes of the European Commission and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia have great potential for synergies because they can seamlessly cover the development cycle from basic research to application and, from the EU’s perspective, the synergies achieved by using the EU funds in both programme worlds maximises the benefit. This allows innovation stakeholders to generate more and better R+I results and to make bigger advances in the area of innovation.

Funding programmes of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

For the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, too, innovations are the guarantee for the international competitiveness of its economy, as well as for growth and employment. Through a wide portfolio of measures, the federal state is using EU funding from the Structural Funds for North Rhine-Westphalia to strengthen NRW as a business location. The NRW ERDF/JTF Programme 2021-2027 supports, among other things, six innovation fields that are particularly important for the economy, as well as cross-sectional technologies, while ESF 2021-2027 includes qualification measures for employment and integration that are geared to the needs of the economy. Both programmes contain components to support structural change in the coal regions. In addition, North Rhine-Westphalia also uses state funds to foster innovations which, like the EU’s Structural Funds, centre very much on the transformation of the economy and on climate protection.


In its “Future Research and Innovation Strategy”, Germany has established the guidelines for research and innovation policy and defined priorities. Within this framework and fleshed out by other strategies, funding programmes are developed that cover the innovation cycle from basic research to application. Overlaps between the programmes of the EU and of the federal states in terms of structure and content are clearly recognisable and thus offer great potential for synergies. One example is the Energy Research Programme which, now in its seventh edition and having been updated each time, addresses current challenges regarding energy and climate.

Uncovering synergy potential between funding programmes

The methodical approach for systematically identifying and using synergy potential is presented and demonstrated by way of example in the concepts for Healthy Living and Sustainable Energy.

The three concepts are available for download under “Training & Advice”.