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I am delighted to confirm that the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds programme has now been launched.

Whilst part of a national programme the local strategy, developed with partners, remains at the heart of local delivery of programme. The notional allocation of 540m Euros is a major opportunity for investment in smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the North East to drive business growth, skills, employability and inclusion, sustainability and innovation. These are essential elements in delivering on the aspiration in the Strategic Economic Plan for achieving more and better jobs in the North East.

Following the launch of the programme as a whole, a small number of time-specific calls have been launched. We will be be launching a much fuller range of calls following formal approval of the programme. Given the uncertainties around calls before the final adoption of the programme we have focused on those areas of particular need due to time-limited match funding, particularly pressing issues of continuity and major strategic need. These calls will therefore cover elements of innovation, business support revenue provision and a small element of employability provision.

Innovation
Projects worth up to £17m are sought which focus on strengthening and promoting research, technological development and innovation in the North East LEP, enhancing research and innovation investment and capacity, increase investment and activity in research and investment by SMEs. Particular areas of activity include building aligned networking support capacity and enhancing research commercialisation. The closing deadline for this call is the 27th May 2015. More details.

Business Support
Funding of £10m-15m is being made available for revenue projects looking to provide support to small and medium sized enterprises to increase entrepreneurship, particularly in areas with low levels of enterprise activity and amongst under-represented groups and increase the growth capacity. This call will close on the 29th May 2015. Activities in this area should align and integrate with the North East Growth Hub. Particular areas of local need have been identified around:

· Business growth, productivity and resilience
· Trade and export growth
· Investor readiness
· Entrepreneurship and enterprise
· Social enterprise
· Digital technologies

More details.

Employability
This is a very limited call to run a project providing access to employment in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area. Activity is focused on addressing barriers to reintegrate individuals into the labour market or sustainable employment through tailored and targeted support and greater alignment between health and mental health practitioners and employment services. A total of £1.5m is available through this call. The closing date for proposals is 22nd May 2015. More details.

Youth Employment Initiative (County Durham only)
This call seeks proposals in response to the new Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) in County Durham under three themes of peer mentor and employment support, engagement and progression of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and providing work-related opportunities through a new employment zone. Total investment work £13.4m is available and activity must be completed no later than 31st July 2018. The closing date for this call is the 22nd May 2015. More details.

I therefore encourage you to look at the published calls which are available here.

You will need to register with the central government Managing Authorities to apply which can take up to 10 days. You can do this by emailing [email protected] and further details are available on Gov.uk.

All applications will need to respond to local strategic need, as set out in the North East LEP European Structural and Investment Funds Strategy and Strategic Economic Plan and the eligibility criteria set out for European funding through the draft Operational Programmes.

You can find out more about the local strategy and context on our website or by contacting the team.

James Davies
ERDF Policy and Strategy Co-ordinator

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