Foster seeks views on how to maximise benefits from European Union funding

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today launched a consultation on the draft European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme for Northern Ireland 2014-2020.

The current cycle of EU Structural Funds comes to an end in December 2013, and this consultation exercise marks a key stage in the Departments preparations for the new Programme which will come into effect in 2014.

Emphasising the significant financial support Northern Ireland could obtain through the 2014-2020 Programme, and the importance of getting the Programme design right, Arlene Foster said: “The total financial assistance that will be made available to support activities under the Programme has still to be finally agreed, but is likely to be in the region of £400million. This will include £240million from the ERDF and a further £160million from a variety of match funding sources.

“This is a substantial investment for Northern Ireland and it is critical that we include the right mix of activities in the Programme, to maximise the return on EU funding and realise significant economic benefits for the people of Northern Ireland.”

With this in mind, the projects proposed for inclusion in the Programme have been selected with the collective aim of developing the economy of Northern Ireland. They will focus on key areas including research, technical development and innovation; actions to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs; and activities that support Northern Ireland’s move towards a low-carbon economy.

The Minister encouraged all interested parties to provide their views on the proposals for the new Programme, saying: “I would urge all those with an interest in the economic development of Northern Ireland to comment on the proposals set out in our consultation document, and in so doing take the opportunity to help shape the direction of the new ERDF Programme”.

The consultation on the ERDF Programme forms part of a wider consultation exercise on three draft EU Programmes for 2014-2020 which also includes proposals for the European Social Fund (ESF) Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme, and the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) Rural Development Fund.