The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) increases cohesion in the European Union by reducing economic, social and territorial disparities between regions and supporting the full integration of less-developed regions with the EU internal market through grants and financial instruments.
The Cohesion Fund (CF) funds capital-intensive environmental and transport investments, using EU resources predominantly to support investment through grants. CF provides support to EU countries with a gross national income per inhabitant below 90% of the EU average.
The Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) provided additional funding in 2021 and 2022 through regional and national cohesion policy programmes under the 2014-2020 programming period. It is a stimulus package for the recovery (€50.6 billion from NextGenerationEU). It constitutes a bridge to the long-term recovery plan and it supports investment projects that foster crisis-repair capacities and contributes to a green and resilient recovery of the economy, including investment support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The national and regional cohesion policy programmes were approved by the Commission in July 2021. The ongoing programmes (referring to the previous programming period 2014-2020) are being implemented and will be closed at the end of 2023.
Under cohesion policy, support to research, innovation and technological development is delivered in a bottom-up process on the basis of over 180 Smart Specialisation Strategies. These strategies have been developed at EU country and regional level, with the involvement of public authorities, researchers and industry.
What type of hydrogen related actions can be funded
Although hydrogen is not specifically mentioned in the objectives or the key priorities of the funds, ERDF and CF have specific targets of 30% and 37% respectively to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the transition to a climate neutral economy. Since REACT-EU is providing additional funds to ERDF, it has the same objectives. This means that EU countries and regions shall spend a minimum amount of their ERDF and CF allocations in these thematic areas.
Therefore, opportunities for funding hydrogen projects will depend on priorities identified in the national and regional programmes. This means that for hydrogen related projects it needs to explored on a case-by-case basis whether they could fit into the priorities of the relevant programmes and the Smart Specialisation Strategies of the EU countries or region where the potential beneficiary is located.
There are plenty of hydrogen related projects that were financed by the previous programming period 2014 -2020, which can be consulted in the section ‘Examples of supported projects’ of this fiche.
The European Hydrogen Valleys Partnership falls within the context of the Smart Specialisation Thematic Platforms, with the objective to strengthen the value chain for hydrogen and fuel cell (HFC) technologies via interregional cooperation and develop the technological readiness and the commercial availability of HFC applications. Under the pilot action on interregional innovation partnerships for COVID-19 response and recovery, which runs until early 2022, one of the selected partnerships deals with Hydrogen Technologies in carbon-intensive regions.
For the new programming period 2021 – 2027, the type of projects being financed by the ERDF are productive investment in enterprises, infrastructure and public policies across a range of topics, including climate economy actions. For instance, hydrogen transmission and distribution projects might be part of the funding envelope. Funding opportunities could eventually be included in innovation and research, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the neutral climate economy actions. The fund also addresses economic, environmental and social problems in urban areas, with a special focus on sustainable urban development (building). In addition, it supports cooperation activities between regions in different EU countries, under the European territorial cooperation goal (Interreg programme) and under the Interregional Innovation Investment Initiative (I3). In this framework, opportunities are open to support portfolios of innovative investment projects in companies, facilitated by smart specialisation ecosystems (S3).
The CF supports environmental infrastructure and priority EU projects in Trans European Transport Networks (CEF-Transport). Part of the budget of the CF is transferred to the Connecting Europe Facility (€ 11.29 billion out of € 48.03 billion of total envelope). It will also cover projects on use of renewable energy, sustainable mobility and energy efficiency presenting clear environmental benefits.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF), together with the European Social Fund and the Just Transition Fund (which is part of the Just Transition Mechanism under the European Green Deal), form the EU Cohesion Policy funds. Taken together, these funds represent almost one third of the total Multiannual Financial Framework budget for 2021 – 2027 (€1.211 trillion – € 1.074 trillion in 2018 prices), with ERDF being the biggest chunk. The ERDF and the Cohesion Fund will invest €234 billion in the EU's regions (respectively, €191 billion through ERDF and €43 billion through CF).
CF and ERDF are implemented through national and regional programmes, implemented by the relevant nation and regional authorities in line with the shared management approach.
Conditions for application
CF and ERDF are implemented under shared management. Conditions of application to CF/ERDF programmes are identified in the calls published by the manageing authorities in the EU countries.
How to apply and when
It is important to note that the Commission does not publish calls under these funds, since this is done by the authorised national or regional authorities under the principle of shared management. Therefore, the rules for applying will depend on the geographic location of the project proponent and/or of the proposed project. The managing authorities publish the calls, set the selection criteria and evaluate the projects.
The managing authorities for each EU country are indicated in the link hereafter. These authorities will, in most cases, be the same for the next programming period (2021-2027), but the list for the next period will be known once the programmes have been approved (expected as of July 2021).
Since the ongoing programmes are being implemented (2014-2020) and will be closed at the end of 2023, calls are already made available.
The budget is delivered through shared management. The co-legislators establish the legal framework and the overall funding, and determine the allocations by EU countries and category of regions. The Commission adopts the operational programmes and cooperates with EU countries’ administrations on the implementation of funding. Funding is disbursed in the form of grants, procurement and financial instruments.
Part of the ERDF budget, dedicated to Interregional Innovation Investments (€570 million), is implemented under direct management by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) based on a biannual work programme. All information about the I3 calls.
See section above, with reference to the contact point of the regional management authority in your country/region.
For Interregional Innovation Investment instrument (I3), see the work programme and links for applicants to apply.
See above paragraph, with reference to the regional management authority (for shared management), and grant agreement signed with executive agency (for direct management).
Hydrogen technologies in carbon–intensive regions – Covid 19 Response and Recovery Interregional Pilot Action
Example(s) of supported projects
Project Title: Green hydrogen filling station for an industrial estate in Utrecht, NL
Description: The City of Utrecht in the Netherlands has awarded a grant to build a sustainable hydrogen filling station at the nearby Lage Weide business park, thanks to the European Regional Development Fund. The station will fuel low-emission transport in the region and beyond. An electrolyser in the self-sufficient station will generate hydrogen from green matter using electricity from low-carbon sources. The resulting fuel will be stored in mobile containers for immediate delivery to vehicles or to use in ships, forklift trucks or other types of transport. Two facilities will fill vehicles on-site. The filling station is the brainchild of ‘H2 Pioneers’, a group of local entrepreneurs, a researcher and an energy collective. They are developing the site to drive demand for hydrogen vehicles, which emit only water, and for low-carbon hydrogen generated from sustainable resources. They also expect to meet growing demand for hydrogen to store excess energy from renewables for a more stable energy supply. Operation will begin no later than early 2022.
EU contribution: €848,000 by the City of Utrecht, using ERDF funds
Level of EU funding: not available
Project title: Green Hydrogen for Bremerhaven
Description: Store wind energy in the form of hydrogen, build an electrolyser test field and test five applications: the project was officially launched in January 2020. From spring 2020 onwards, electricity from an 8 megawatt wind turbine will be produced by electrolysis hydrogen in the largest hangar of the former aerodrome. The electricity will be used in the future in industry or in the mobility sector. The process is to be tested and optimised independently of the manufacturer. The future objective is to enable private customers to test the electrical characteristics of new electrolysers in conjunction with the fluctuating supply of electricity from renewable energy sources in a research operation. Modern control and monitoring systems for grid stabilisation through hydrogen storage and storage methods will also be explored and developed. In addition to the test structure, testing of application fields is also encouraged. A total of four areas will be tested for CO2 neutral hydrogen supply, for example as alternative fuels for the maritime economy and shipping.
EU contribution: €19,783,300 by the City of Bremen, using ERDF funds
Level of EU funding: 50% of eligible costs (€9,891,650). the rest is financed by national public funding
Database of examples
A database of projects managed by the Commission provides examples of the wide range of projects which have benefited from investment through EU regional policy programmes over the years. Some examples of hydrogen funded projects are reported in the below links, with specific reference to the designated regional authority implementing the call. Some projects are reported below as examples.
Building energy storage/Austria: A Living Lab for more efficient building design in Austria-Projects - Regional Policy - European Commission (europa.eu)