Article 176 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (ex Article 160 TEC) provides that the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is intended to help to redress the main regional imbalances in the European Union. The ERDF has been reformed six times since its creation in 1975, demonstrating both the Community/Union's growing commitment to regional development and its increased experience on this matter. Nowadays, the ERDF is governed by the general Regulation 1303/2013 [last amended by Regulation 2015/1839 and Decision 2014/190], laying down common provisions for all the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds, and by the Regulation 1301/2013, on the ERDF and on the Investment for growth and jobs goal. Pursuant to these Regulations, the ERDF contributes to the financing of support which aims to reinforce economic, social and territorial cohesion by redressing the main regional imbalances through support for the development and structural adjustment of regional economies, including the conversion of declining industrial regions and regions lagging behind, and support for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.
More particularly, the ERDF contributes to the Union strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Depending on which category of regions is supported, the support from the ERDF under the Investment for growth and jobs goal should be concentrated on research and innovation, information and communication technologies (ICT), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and promoting a low-carbon economy. Additional activities can be supported by the ERDF under the European territorial cooperation goal [see section 12.2.2].
The ERDF supports the investment priorities within the thematic objectives set out in Regulation 1303/2013 [last amended by Regulation 2015/1839 and Decision 2014/190, see section 13.3.1], in accordance with the development needs and growth potential referred to in point (a)(i) of Article 15(1) of that Regulation and set out in the Partnership Agreement [see section 13.3.2]. In order to contribute to those investment priorities, the ERDF supports the following activities:
a) productive investment which contributes to creating and safeguarding sustainable jobs, through direct aid for investment in SMEs;
b) productive investment, irrespective of the size of the enterprise concerned, which contributes to the investment priorities of the ERDF;
c) investment in infrastructure providing basic services to citizens in the areas of energy, environment, transport and ICT;
d) investment in social, health, research, innovation, business and educational infrastructure;
e) investment in the development of endogenous potential through fixed investment in equipment and small-scale infrastructure, including small-scale cultural and sustainable tourism infrastructure, services to enterprises, support to research and innovation bodies and investment in technology and applied research in enterprises;
f) networking, cooperation and exchange of experience between competent regional, local, urban and other public authorities, economic and social partners and relevant bodies representing civil society, studies, preparatory actions and capacity-building.
The ERDF supports, within operational programmes, sustainable urban development through strategies that set out integrated actions to tackle the economic, environmental, climate, demographic and social challenges affecting urban areas, while taking into account the need to promote urban-rural linkages. At the initiative of the Commission, the ERDF may support innovative actions in the area of sustainable urban development, including studies and pilot projects to identify or test new solutions which address issues that are related to sustainable urban development and are of relevance at Union level.