Applications for ERDFi must be made on the ERDF1 form. All applicants must provide a Business Plan for their proposed project. A well-prepared and presented ERDF application requires a thorough reading of,
- The Single Programming Document and the Programme Complement (SPDi/PC)
- Any appropriate strategy which has been developed as a requirement of the Single Programming Document
- The Action Plan or Local Implementation Plan (LIP) under which the project is competing for funding (if applicable)
- The Information Notes and any other guidance produced by the Secretariati
- The ERDF application form and accompanying guidance notes
Each project is checked to ensure that the activities it intends to undertake and the expenditure it will incur are eligible. Applicants must be able to demonstrate,
- That grant is needed before their projects can proceed
- That the level of grant requested is the minimum necessary to secure the project
In addition, applicants should set aside sufficient time to produce a detailed application. ERDF is a competitive fund, with value for money being a key feature. Hastily prepared applications are likely to be referred back to the applicant or may fail to be viewed favourably.
All projects must provide a comprehensive Business Plan, not normally exceeding 25 pages even for large projects plus any additional documents such as building plans, reports or maps that are considered relevant. Smaller projects may have considerably shorter Business Plans. The Business Plan needs to show clearly,
- What the project is intended to achieve
- Why it is necessary and not some other form of intervention
- How it will be delivered
- At what cost and how it will be funded
The plan should also make clear what value for money the project offers, what impact on the local economy it will have, and how this will be continued after grant support ends.
Applying for ERDF Grant
The Application for Grant Form (ERDF1) contains 12 sections/ questions and the accompanying Guidance Notes (ERDF1G) provide details of the information required under each heading. It is important that every question is answered in detail. Further points for guidance are provided below, if all these points can be answered then actually filling in the application form is straightforward.
What the Project Aims To Do
It should be explained in a simple and straightforward manner what the project aims to do. - e.g. reduce unemployment by assisting new enterprises with marketing advice.
How the Project Will be Implemented
It is important that applicants explain the mechanics of their project, particularly in relation to revenue schemes. Details of the exit strategy for the project should also be given. Projects will not be approved unless full details are provided.
How the Project Contributes to the SPD
Projects should be clearly linked to the SPD/PC and must identify a principal measure against which it will be assessed, although other measures to which it will contribute can be detailed. The link between Project and Measurei should be clear, ensure that project activity is identified within the scope of the measure and that the physical outputs and economic impacts have been identified in the SPD/PC. The rationale of the project should reflect the rationale of the measure. Those projects applying for funding under an Action Plan would also need to demonstrate the fit with that plan.
How the Project Will Be Funded (match funding)
Although the application form has a number of financial tables, applicants are also encouraged to explain their funding package in text. A straightforward explanation of which organisations are providing finance and why must be provided. If any of the project finance is coming from an individual, community, company or group of companies then full details must be provided. Details should also be given of which contributions have already been secured and which are still subject to confirmation. An offer of grant will only be issued when all of the matched funding is in place. In-kind contributions should also be identified.
Why the Project Requires ERDF Support
Applicants must fully explain why ERDF support is required and why a certain level of grant is required. ERDF support is only available if added-value can be determined i.e. that the ERDF contribution will allow the project to proceed, or to be undertaken on a larger scale or in a more timely manner. The level of grant that will be approved is the minimum necessary for the project to go ahead and justification must be provided.
What the Project Will Produce
Although the physical outputs section of the application form appears to be straightforward, applicants should give careful consideration to the figures they produce. Exaggerated or over-optimistic forecasts of physical outputs will lead to either a delay in approval, or to the project under-achieving the targets with the possibility of grant being withheld or withdrawn. Any figures that are produced must be fully justified, and where appropriate the methodology explained in detail .The financial, output and impact figures should be consistent with each other. Applicants must identify physical outputs appropriate to the measure and these must be taken from the physical outputs identified in the SPD/PC. Any project which proposes activity across both the fully eligible area and transitional area must identify the outputs attributable to each separately.
How the Project will be Monitored and Evaluated
Specific details must be given of monitoring and evaluation arrangements. It is not sufficient merely to state that 'normal monitoring procedures will be followed'. Grant can be withheld or withdrawn from projects that substantially under-achieve, therefore it is important that applicants put in place adequate arrangements to record and collect data. Full details of these arrangements must be provided with the application.
Particular attention should be paid to the financial tables in the application form and to the provision of supplementary information to support the application. The financial tables must be completely filled in with additional information provided where appropriate. Many projects contain certain costs or activities that are ineligible for support or have components that have different grant rates. Applicants must provide sufficient detail to distinguish between the various elements. Any project which proposes activity across both the fully eligible area and transitional area of the programme must identify the costs separately.
Contributions In Kind
Full details must be provided of those elements of the project which comprise in-kind contributions. Applicants should note that as a general principle, whilst contributions in kind can be counted as match funding, the amount of ERDF awarded can not exceed the amount of real contribution to the project, up to a maximum of 50% of the total eligible cost.
Consultancy reports are often provided to fully justify an application. As such, they represent a valuable source of additional information. Applicants are advised to reference particular sections of any report in the official application form. Similarly, it may be appropriate to summarise the most relevant parts of the report in a short supplementary report.
On Going Responsibilities
Changes to the Project
The Secretariat /Action Plan Partnership should be notified as soon as possible of,
- Any changes of ownership of a grant aided asset
- Increases or decreases of project costs (changes of up to 10% need not be immediately notified)
- Any project which is likely to substantially under-achieve
The Commission has the right to reduce or suspend assistance where the project is failing to justify assistance (deliver the benefits). Applicants are strongly advised to contact the Secretariat/AP Partnership at an early stage if they have concerns regarding the effectiveness of a project. All partners should be aware that the Commission has the right to recover grant paid which has been used for any elements of the project which are not specified on the original approved application.
Applicants are required to maintain adequate records and to make these available on request. EUi and Government auditors visit a number of projects in the UK each year. Projects with a total grant value of £250K and over must submit an external annual audit to the Secretariat/Accountable Body at the end of each financial year. Projects with a grant value claimed of £10k and over must submit a final external audit to the Secretariat/AB at the end of the project.