EUROPEAN REGIONAL COLLABORATION IN RESEARCH & INNOVATION
Interreg is one of the key financial instruments of the European Union (EU) supporting cooperation across borders. The instrument is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to strengthen economic and social cooperation, including research and innovation (R&I) activities, within the EU and its neighbouring countries. Interreg supports projects that promote cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation to achieve balanced territorial development.
The Interreg VI 2021-2027 instrument consists of four strands, in three of which Switzerland also participates. The following programmes are open to participants from the Canton of Geneva:
Interreg A - cross-border programmes
Cooperation between regions that are part of different countries but share a common border.
The Interreg A programmes are aimed at project bodies from several cantons. The border regions, together with neighbouring foreign regions, form four regions which are covered by the programmes: Upper Rhine (AG, BL, BS, JU, SO), Rhine Alps-Lake Constance-Upper Rhine (AG, AI, AR, GL, GR, SG, SH, TG, ZH), Italy-Switzerland (GR, TI, VS) and France-Switzerland (BE, FR, GE, JU, NE, VD, VS).
The France-Switzerland programme is part of a long tradition of cooperation between the border territories of the Jura Arc and the Lake Geneva Basin. These long-standing cross-border dynamics are supported by Interreg to develop structuring projects that largely mobilize local actors.
The programme is expected to open in June 2022, providing support to projects in the following areas:
- Research and innovation
- Natural and cultural heritage
- Cross-border mobility
- Employment and labor mobility
Interreg B - transnational programmes
Cooperation between neighbouring regions belonging to larger areas.
These territories span several countries and regions, which often face similar challenges due to their specific geographical and economic situation, which help to jointly address these challenges. Switzerland participates in two of the Interreg-B programmes, the Alpine Space and the North-West Europe programmes, both of which cover the whole of our country. In order to strengthen transnational cooperation in the Alps, the Alpine regions and countries approved the Macro-regional Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) a few years ago, which is currently being implemented.
The first calls for both the Alpine Space and the North-West Europe programs have opened in Winter 2021/22. Regular calls for projects are planned during the entire programme period and are published on the programmes’ homepages.
Interreg C - interregional programmes
Cooperation between regions from all over Europe that do not share a common border.
The interregional programmes are intended to network knowledge on different thematic areas, but also to help other regional policy programmes learn from each other how to improve implementation. Switzerland participates in all four programmes: Interreg Europe, ESPON, INTERACT or URBACT.
This programme helps regional and local governments across Europe to develop and deliver better policy through interregional capacity building. To this end, the programme offers opportunities for regional and local public authorities to share ideas and experience on public policy in practice, with the objective of improving strategies for citizens and communities.
The Interreg Europe VI 2021-2027 programme document is being approved, and first calls for projects are expected to open on 5 April 2022.
Since 2002, URBACT focusses on integrated and sustainable urban development in cities across Europe. URBACT’s mission is to enable cities to work together and develop integrated solutions to common urban challenges, by networking, learning from one another’s experiences, drawing lessons and identifying good practice to improve urban policies. All Swiss cities can participate as partners in a thematic network, as well as research institutions and cantons.
The URBACT IV programme document has been submitted to the EC for approval. First calls are expected to open in Autumn 2022.
This programme produces a pan-European knowledge base by providing scientific information to public authorities and actors at all levels through territorial research and analysis, since 2002. ESPON analyses development trends. The ESPON IV programme document is expected to be approved by the EC during the first half of 2022, and first calls will be opened during the second half of 2022.
Since 2002, INTERACT holds an enabling role among territorial cooperation programmes and provides services to Interreg stakeholders. Objective: make their work more efficient by establishing platforms for knowledge exchange, identifying and spreading good practices, providing guidance and support as well as developing innovative and harmonized approaches, by organizing learning events bringing together expertise across Europe.
The INTERACT IV programme document is expected to be approved by the EC in Summer 2022, and first calls will be opened in November 2022.
Interreg D - outermost regions’ cooperation
This covers outermost regions’ cooperation among themselves and with their neighbouring third or partner countries or OCTs, or regional integration and cooperation organisations, or several thereof, to facilitate their regional integration and harmonious development in their neighbourhood. The EU provides project funding with a co-financing rate up to 85%.
Other related regional/territorial initiatives
EUSALP – EU STRATEGY FOR THE ALPINE REGION
EUSALP concerns five EU Member States (Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia) and two non-EU countries (Liechtenstein and Switzerland), divided into 48 regions. As the Strategy does not come with extra EU financing, EUSALP will mobilize and bring together existing EU and national funding instruments (such as EIB, ESIF, HE, Alpine Space "Interreg" Programme, national and regional budgetary resources, amongst others).
Territorial Agenda 2030
The Territorial Agenda 2030 underlines the importance of and provides orientation for strategic spatial planning and calls for strengthening the territorial dimension of sector policies at all governance levels. It seeks to promote an inclusive and sustainable future for all places and to help achieve Sustainable Development Goals in Europe
Swiss participation in Interreg
Since 2008, the Confederation and the cantons have been promoting Swiss participation in Interreg programmes. Examples of projects: base de données des projets regiosuisse.
Swiss project partners taking part in an Interreg programme are generally not eligible for funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Instead, Swiss partners can request co-financing via the New Regional Policy (NRP). To be eligible for these federal funds, the projects must be in line with the criteria of the NRP: they need to contribute to competitiveness and value creation in the respective region. Transnational projects can also be supported if they are of national strategic importance. If these criteria are not met, interested parties can always launch projects on their own − either with support of the cantons, other federal offices or without any public funds.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is responsible for the overall implementation of Interreg Europe, ESPON, INTERACT and URBACT in the NPR context and more specifically, for the operative implementation of the Interreg Europe programme in Switzerland. The Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE) is implementing the URBACT, ESPON and INTERACT programmes and, in cooperation with the cantons, the macro-regional strategy EUSALP, besides the transnational Interreg programmes (Interreg B).
It is expected that the Confederation will make available similar amounts of co-financing for the Interreg-VI period as for the previous programming period (approximately CHF 50-60 million in NPR funding). Cantons should contribute at least the same amount. Priority themes, application procedure, project selection criteria and timelines vary according to the programme and can be consulted on the respective programmes’ homepages.