New Interreg Baltic: What is in for me?
After long negotiations between the EU Commission, the funding programme and the member states, there are now concrete details about the new Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme until 2027 – including first deadlines. The new programme offers interesting thematic priorities and some administrative simplifications for applicants, but also new challenges for project design.
The new Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2021-2027 has been launched. What are the priorities of the new programme?
The new programme is divided into four priorities (see box). While there are many possibilities in the energy and environmental sectors, social, socio-economic or cultural projects, need some creativity to meet the content requirements. We will be happy to advise you on your project idea!
(1) Innovative Societies
The first priority (“Innovative Societies”) offers relatively much room for interpretation. Firstly, projects that strengthen the economic and social resilience of the Baltic Sea region (“Resilient Economies and Communities”) can apply here. In addition, the programme is looking for projects that seek to improve public administration (“Responsive Public Services”)
(2) Water-Smart Societies
In the area of “Water-Smart Societies”, the new programme bundles all projects related to inland and marine waters, including the so-called “Blue Economy”.
(3) Climate-neutral Societies
The third priority, “Climate-neutral societies”, is aimed at projects in the areas of the circular economy, energy transition and mobility.
(4) Cooperation Governance
The fourth priority, “Cooperation Governance”, is not (yet) relevant for most partners. This priority is primarily aimed at the policy area coordinators of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). In addition, networking projects are funded (so-called “Platform Projects”).
How will the administrative burden look like, compared to the old Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme?
From the participant’s perspective, the three most essential administrative improvements are the following. Firstly, project partners no longer have to submit a certified progress report every six months under certain conditions. Secondly, flat rates are increasingly used. For example, this applies to travel costs, but there are also simplifications in staff costs. Thirdly, all programme countries now have the same funding rate: 80% (exception: 50% for Norway, regarding Russia and Belarus the funding rates and participation are still unclear). On the other hand, the new regulations on state aid seem more complicated. In addition, a de-commitment of funds, i.e. the partial withdrawal of approved project budgets, will be much quicker and easier in the future if spending is lower than planned. Therefore, lead partners must pay more attention to coherent financial management and monitoring.
What is new in terms of project design?
Compared to the old programme (Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2014-2020), the new programme (2021-2027) brings several novelties regarding the setup of projects. Standard projects are now called “core projects”. Generally speaking, the programme invites projects that bring new solutions to common challenges in the Baltic Sea Region. However, the new programme places much more emphasis on practical solutions than before. They emphasise the added value of these solutions beyond the partnership, meaning that applicants must have a coherent concept how to transfer their solutions to broader stakeholder groups. This change is also reflected in the project structure. Now, all projects must be divided into three phases: (1) preparing solutions, (2) piloting and evaluating solutions, (3) transferring solutions. This new structure also impacts the work packages, where projects have little room for manoeuvre of their own. Another innovation is the so-called “small projects”, which should be of particular interest to newcomers. With smaller budgets (max. 500,000€) and smaller partnerships, these projects aim primarily at networking and trust-building initiatives.
When does the new Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme start?
The first call opened on 8 February 2022. The deadline for the first call for “core projects” is 26 April, for “small projects” 30 March 2022. Approved projects are likely to start in autumn 2022.