The Synergien.NRW project

The purpose of Synergien.NRW is to boost research and innovations in the thematic areas of “Healthy Living and Sustainable Energy” in the three selected innovation fields “Health”, “Food” and “Energy”. It supports the planning and implementation of North Rhine-Westphalia’s research and innovation policy. Strategies, methods and information products related to the use of synergy potential between the EU’s research and innovation programmes and the support measures in place in North Rhine-Westphalia are developed, tested and disseminated to the corresponding target groups through an effective communication strategy.

Horizon Europe (until 2021 Horizon 2020), the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and the European Structural and Investment Funds are the most important European sources of finance for research and innovation and there are extensive possibilities to dovetail the two programme worlds. Tapping the potential for synergies between different EU funding programmes for research and innovation and profiting to a maximum degree in the process from all available funding instruments holds new opportunities for companies, scientists and researchers from North Rhine-Westphalia and at the same time confronts them with major challenges. Synergies are not an end in themselves – it is rather the case that by using the different measures for technological advancement strategically these can be mutually reinforcing.

Project objectives

  • Support for the public sector in North Rhine-Westphalia, in particular the programme planners for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), including European Territorial Cooperation (INTERREG), and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the EU in the design of funding programmes in order to use and, if necessary, improve the framework conditions for synergies between regional and European funding systems

  • Mobilising and training of research and innovation stakeholders (project managers, multipliers and proposers) in order to open up the potential for synergies and in this way boost North Rhine-Westphalia’s participation in EU funding programmes and the transfer of results

  • Enhancement of research and innovation competence and capacities especially in the three innovation fields “Health”, “Food” and “Energy” with the help of methodologies and the “Synergy Kit” in order to achieve synergy effects

  • Inform interested citizens about the discussion on synergies in conjunction with technology development strategies, especially in the three selected innovation fields

  • Support for interregional cooperation between North Rhine-Westphalia and other European regions and the European Commission in order to make use of synergies

These project objectives are set in the context of North Rhine-Westphalia’s regional research and innovation policy, which is implemented through various instruments:

  • The state government’s Action Plan for North Rhine-Westphalia’s participation in Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation
  • North Rhine-Westphalia’s lead market competitions in the framework of its current research and innovation policy; these are based on the Regional Innovation Strategy and are being implemented up until the end of 2020 in the framework of the ERDF NRW Operational Programme and from 2021 onwards under the European Structural and Investment Funds, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
  • The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon Europe (until 2021 Horizon 2020)

To achieve the above objectives, North Rhine-Westphalia follows two approaches:

  • Strengthening of the research and innovation capacities of companies, universities and research institutes in North Rhine-Westphalia and their networking with European research excellence (upstream)
  • Strengthening of economic application and utilisation potential through knowledge and technology transfer into North Rhine-Westphalia’s lead markets with regard to the three selected innovation fields (downstream)

The following diagram gives an overview of the three work packages in the Synergien.NRW project:

Infographic workpackages of Syerngien.NRW

EU approach

Horizon Europe (until 2021 Horizon 2020), the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and the European Structural and Investment Funds are the most important European sources of finance for research and innovation. They offer extensive possibilities to create synergies by dovetailing regional and European funding programmes and to form new partnerships.

The development of synergies between the EU programme Horizon 2020 and the European Structural and Investment Funds, which also include the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is anchored in the EU’s directives.

Against the background of the new EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, “Horizon Europe 2021–2027”, and the focus of the new “European Structural and Investment Funds 2021-2027” and of other EU programmes, synergies will play an even more important role. For North Rhine-Westphalia, the funds available from competitive calls under Horizon Europe will acquire even greater significance than before because less finance from the Structural Funds is likely to be earmarked for North Rhine-Westphalia. This demands a revised strategy for the acquisition of funds and their even more efficient use.

NRW approach

Synergien.NRW complements already established structures to support funding programmes in North Rhine-Westphalia. These include, among others, the LeitmarktAgentur.NRW (NRW Lead Market Agency) for the ERDF lead market competitions, regional cluster structures, the Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH), NRW.Europa and the National Contact Points for Horizon Europe, alongside the many sources of advice and information at higher education and research institutions as well as the chambers in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The project’s core task is to construct a Synergy Kit for the two target groups “Public Sector” (programme planners) and “Research and Innovation Stakeholders” (proposers / project managers). All the information, instruments and methods needed to make use of synergies between funding programmes are assembled in the kit (see Synergy Kit).

Insights gained from project activities in North Rhine-Westphalia as well as through exchange with other EU regions are collected, analysed and further developed into instruments and measures, such as recommendations for action and guidelines, included in the Synergy Kit and disseminated via suitable channels. The results are documented on the Synergien.NRW website as well as in printed brochures and disseminated on a continuous basis via events and various communication channels (online and other media). In this way, all target groups can access and draw on the best practice approaches and examples of success cases at any time.

A series of networking events contributes to exchange between various stakeholders from the regional and European research and innovation funding community.

To enhance the impact of these measures, the Ministry of Culture and Science fosters an Interdepartmental Exchange of Information in the framework of Synergien.NRW, which not only makes its own contribution to the project objectives but also to those of North Rhine-Westphalia’s regional government.

The regional government’s objectives are, among others:

  • To enhance synergies between regional and European research and innovation support
  • To promote excellence and foster skills amongst first-time proposers
  • To focus on quality in research and innovation
  • To strengthen the impact of companies’ innovation activities and capacity

Note on funding

Synergien.NRW is funded by North Rhine-Westphalia’s Operational Programme for Investment and Growth out of the European Regional Development Fund (OP ERDF NRW 2014-2020) and with funds from the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Contracting authority Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
Project title Creation of synergies between regional and research funding of the EU in North Rhine-Westphalia to strengthen research and innovations for “Healthy Living and Sustainable Energy” (abbreviated title: Synergien.NRW)
Project duration 15 November 2019 to 31 March 2023
Project budget 1.250.000 EUR
Project realisation
Zenit Logo

ZENIT GmbH, Centre for Innovation and Technology in North Rhine-Westphalia, Mülheim an der Ruhr

Logo des DLR Projektträgers

German Aerospace Center
DLR Project Management Agency, Bonn

Project team

ZENIT GmbH DLR Project Management Agency
Anne Müngersdorff
Oliver Rohde
Dr. Bernd Janson
Daniel Wollmann
Dr. Uwe Birk
Dr. Adrian Steinert
Pamela Weber
Dr. Frank Osterhoff