I.3 Key Project Characteristics

The programme supports transnational projects promoted by partnerships composed of public and private organisations that want to work together and cooperate beyond borders on solutions for common challenges of central European regions.

An Interreg CE project should implement cooperation actions which include the development and implementation of strategies, action plans, tools, training, pilot actions and related solutions. Project activities should lead to the output types as defined at programme level, notably: cooperations, strategies and action plans, pilot actions (including pilot investments), solutions (see chapter I.2.2.2 on the programme intervention logic).

A project should demonstrate the translation of outputs into concrete, visible and sustainable results that lead to an improvement of the initial situation.

This chapter presents the general requirements and main features applicable to all projects funded by the Interreg CE Programme. It also describes how the intervention logic should be set up at the project level.

Please note that specific restrictions on the projects to be funded might be set up in the respective calls for proposals. This might concern the project thematic focus, the size of the partnership, the budget size, the project duration, etc. Information on this is available in the respective Terms of Reference of the call for proposals to which your project belongs to, available at the programme website.

I.3.1 Basic Project Features

I.3.1.1   Partnership

Eligibility of Partners

The following organisations are eligible for funding in the Interreg CE Programme:

  • National, regional and local public bodies [1];
  • Private institutions, including private companies, having legal personality;
  • International organisations acting under the national law of an EU Member State or (with restrictions) under international law (see below).

International Organisations acting under international law are considered as eligible partners only when the following two conditions are met:

  • Participation in the project through an operative seat located in one of the CE regions; and
  • Explicit acceptance of all requirements deriving from the EU Treaty and the regulations applicable in the framework of the Interreg CE Programme.

A project proposal with international organisations acting under international law in the partnership must include an ad-hoc declaration signed by these institutions. For reasons of legal security additional legal information or the signature of direct bilateral agreements between the MA and these institutions may be requested prior to granting the funds.

Lead Partner Eligibility and Requirements

In compliance with the “lead partner principle” [2] each project partnership shall appoint one organisation acting as LP. The LP takes full financial and legal responsibility for the implementation of the entire project.

All eligible organisations located in the programme area, including “assimilated partners” (see below), can take the LP role, with the exception of international organisations acting under international law.

Private institutions acting as lead partners must comply with minimum criteria of financial capacity that are described in chapter II.4.2. Proposals submitted by private lead applicants that do not meet the necessary financial capacity criteria will be rejected. Private lead applicants should therefore carefully check their financial capacity against the programme criteria before submitting an application.

Please note that newly established legal entities, which cannot provide the required documents listed in chapter II.2.1.4, are not eligible to apply as lead applicants. However, such organisations may participate as project partners if they can ensure the fulfilment of legal, financial, administrative and operational capacity requirements listed in the partner declaration to be submitted to the programme when applying for funding.

Responsibilities of the LP are laid down in detail in the subsidy contract signed with the programme MA. In turn, the LP concludes a partnership agreement with all project partners. More information about the contracting of selected project proposals can be found in chapter II.5. Models of the subsidy contract and the partnership agreement are available at the programme website.

Transnationality and Size of Partnership

As a minimum requirement the partnership must involve:

– At least three financing partners;
– From at least three countries; and
– At least two of the financing partners located in Interreg CE regions.

A European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) is eligible as sole beneficiary provided that the above-mentioned minimum requirements are complied with. However, to be eligible as sole beneficiary, an EGTC must be established in one of the Interreg CE Member States.

The size of the partnership should reflect the scope of the project and remain manageable. Therefore, very large partnerships should be avoided. Further information on the recommended size of partnerships can be found in the Terms of Reference (ToR) of each call for proposals, available at the programme website.

Geographical Eligibility of Partners

As a general principle, the Interreg CE Programme supports cooperation between partners located in the programme area. The geographic location of an EGTC is considered to be in the country where it is registered and its costs shall be verified according to the control system established in that Member State.

Organisations from outside the programme area can also participate in projects – but only in exceptional cases, i.e. when they qualify as:

  • Assimilated partners, i.e. German and Italian national public authorities and bodies that are located outside the programme area, which:
    • Are competent in their scope of action for certain parts of the eligible area (e.g. ministries); and
    • Carry out activities that are beneficial for the regions in the programme area.
  • EU partners from outside the programme area but inside the European Union. The following restrictions apply:
    • Their participation must bring clear added value and expertise to the implementation of a project and has to be beneficial for the programme area.
    • They cannot take the LP role.
    • Should activities to be carried out by these partners be considered as State aid relevant, the participation of these partners will finally not be allowed (see also chapter I.4.4.3 in this respect).
    • The legal status of these partners has to be confirmed by the competent national authorities of the respective Member State outside the programme area. The process to obtain such confirmation will be coordinated by the MA/JS. However, the confirmation has to be granted within 45 calendar days counted from the date of the MC funding decision for the call (see chapter II.4.3).
    • Their participation in a project will be subject to the condition that the respective Member State signs an agreement with the MA on the acceptance of all management, control and audit responsibilities as well as of liabilities in case of irregularities. If this agreement is not signed within 12 months from the date of the MC decision for funding, the concerned partner will be excluded from the project. In addition, the agreement shall be accompanied by a description of the national control system for the verification of expenditure incurred and paid by beneficiaries located in the respective Member State. The MA/JS will contact the relevant national authorities immediately after the MC decision for funding projects with partners located in EU regions outside the programme area.
  • Third country partners, i.e. organisations located in countries outside the EU, can participate as associated partners but cannot receive ERDF funding from the Interreg CE Programme.

Associated Partners

Institutions willing to be involved in the project without financially contributing are considered as associated partners.

Associated partners are usually key stakeholders of the project, whose involvement can improve the planning and development of project outputs and results. They can help to sustain and mainstream project results and generate multiplier and leverage effects.

Information on the involvement of associated partners should be provided in the relevant sections of the application form


I.3.1.2   Location of Activities

As a basic principle, the Interreg CE Programme supports project activities that are implemented in the programme area. Exceptions to this principle may be granted for EU partners from outside the CE programme area and for assimilated partners in duly justified cases.

In such cases, the following requirements must be met by the concerned activities:

  • They are for the benefit of the regions of the programme area;
  • They are essential for the implementation of the project;
  • They are explicitly foreseen in the application form or, if not, have been previously authorised by the MA/JS.

I.3.1.3   Cooperation Criteria

Cooperation has to be at the heart of each project. In order to be eligible, projects must contribute to at least three out of the following four cooperation criteria.

  • Joint development (compulsory) – i.e. partners have to be involved in an integrated way in developing ideas, priorities and actions in the project development process.
  • Joint implementation (compulsory) – i.e. project activities must be carried out by partners in a cooperative way that ensures clear content-based links and be coordinated by the lead partner.
  • Joint financing (compulsory) – i.e. the joint project budget shall be organised in line with activities carried out by each project partner. The LP is responsible for the administration and reporting towards the programme bodies as well as the distribution of the funds to the partners.
  • Joint staffing – i.e. the project should not duplicate functions within the partnership. In particular, project management functions should be appointed only once at project level.

I.3.1.4   Project Size and Funding

The average financial size of projects should be in line with provisions included in the call-specific ToR. In exceptional cases, smaller or larger projects can be supported.

Partners should always ensure that the financial size of the project truly reflects the activities foreseen in the work plan and that it is based on the principles of sound financial management.

I.3.1.5   Project Duration

The duration of projects should be in line with requirements set in the call-specific ToR. Shorter or longer implementation periods may be accepted if the project scope and planned activities justify this. However, a project cannot last longer than 42 months and have an end date after 31 December 2028.

I.3.1.6   Co-Financing

Interreg CE projects receive a maximum co-financing rate of 80% from the ERDF for their activities. The ERDF co-financing to partners might be reduced if State aid is granted under the de minimis regime within the project (see chapter I.4.4.3 in this respect).

Necessary co-financing not covered by the ERDF (i.e. “match funding”) shall be guaranteed by each partner by means of national contribution through either:

  • Public contribution. It may be provided through own resources of partners with a public legal status. Alternatively, public contribution can take the form of ad-hoc co-financing schemes set up at the national, regional or local level for the participation in Interreg projects (match funding). It is important to note that restrictions might apply to partners receiving State aid within the project, in case they intend to receive public contributions through ad-hoc schemes (see chapter I.4.4.3 in this respect). Co-financing of international organisations also falls under the category of public contributions.
  • Private contribution. It consists of own resources of partners with a private legal status.

Beneficiaries should bear in mind that the absence of advance payments from the programme, and the time gap between incurring the expenditure and having it reimbursed, may lead to cashflow issues. This might be particularly relevant for private companies and small organisations.

I.3.2 The Project Intervention Logic in a Nutshell

Like the programme, projects have to follow a clear intervention logic that reflects the current context (e.g. a particular territorial challenge or need), its underlying causes and the change which the project seeks to achieve in the involved regions by implementing the planned activities.

Coherence of the project intervention logic with the programme intervention logic of the targeted programme SO and the related programme results is a pre-condition for a project to be approved and funded (see chapter I.2.2.2).

The intervention logic should clearly describe objectives, planned activities, outputs and expected results of the project. These terms are defined as follows (see also annex 1 – Glossary):

  • The overall project objective defines what the project aims to achieve for the benefit of the involved regions and its target group(s) and points to the planned project results (and territorial change). The overall project objective has to be broken down into one or more project specific objectives.
  • A project specific objective defines an immediate goal that a project can realistically achieve within the project lifetime through its planned activities and related outputs and deliverables. It has to clearly contribute to the overall project objective and should be specific and measurable. At the end of the project, it should be verifiable whether the specific objective has been reached.
  • Project activities are the main implementation steps that contribute to the development of project outputs and/or their subsequent roll-out or upscaling. For detailed information on activities and related outputs, see chapter I.3.3.
  • A project output is a product that results from the implementation of project activities. Outputs are clustered into the following types: cooperations, strategies and action plans, pilot actions, solutions. All project activities and outputs need to be clearly consistent with and contribute to the achievement of one or more project specific objectives.
  • A project deliverable is a documentation that captures the implementation of project activities in e.g. analysis reports, feasibility studies, strategy documents, pilot action reports, training documentations. It presents in an aggregated form outcomes of intermediate steps of a certain activity and for each output a final deliverable has to be foreseen. A deliverable has to be comprehensive. It is recommended to limit the number of project deliverables.
  • The project result is the immediate effect and change compared to the initial situation in the regions involved, which a project intends to achieve through the use of its outputs. For the most common types of results please refer to chapter I.2.2.2.

All outputs and results have to contribute to programme output and result indicators (see chapter I.3.4 and annex 2).

For more information on how to set up a sound project intervention logic and the required linkage between the programme and project intervention logic, please take a look at video tutorials available at the programme YouTube channel.

I.3.3 Project Activities and Outputs

The Interreg CE Programme finances transnational cooperation activities that either result in “policy support” or that are “implementation-oriented”. Projects may set a specific focus on policy support or implementation or combine both. In all cases, projects have to integrate communication activities (see chapter II.2.1.3). Furthermore, capitalisation and capacity building activities could be foreseen, if relevant for the project objectives/outputs. The programme will not support basic research projects or purely academic networking.

Such categories of activities are linked to the typology of outputs and results and related indicators as applied by the programme, described in chapter I.3.4 and annex 2 of the manual.

Projects have to comply with the requirements of the Open Data Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/1024 as amended). In particular, data sets that result from project activities and outputs and fall under the scope of this Directive have to be published as open data, where relevant.

I.3.3.1   Cooperation Activities and Outputs

Projects should set up and foster cooperation between project partners that possibly continue beyond the project lifetime. Cooperation could also involve associated partners and lead to e.g. cooperation networks or governance structures. These networks and structures should be sustained through formal cooperation agreements such as political or institutional commitments.

The cooperation dimension which has to be at the core of each project has to be reflected in the following indicators:

  • Output indicator RCO 87 “Organisations cooperating across borders” (mandatory for all projects – counting the number of project partners and associated partners), achieved through the signature of the partnership agreement);
  • Result indicator “RCR 84 “Organisations cooperating across borders after project lifetime”

I.3.3.2   Policy Support Activities and Outputs

Policy support activities address the development of thematic or territorial policies, strategies and action plans or improve their effectiveness and coherence. They should activate mutual learning processes among project partners and result in the concrete adoption or implementation of those policies and strategies.

Policy support activities lead to the development of outputs that are categorised as strategies and action plans”:

  • A strategy defines a targeted way to achieve a goal-oriented process in a specific domain. It tackles problems which are relevant for the participating regions, it provides a common vision and it sets objectives and priorities in a mid- to long-term perspective.
  • An action plan translates an existing strategy into actions. It breaks down the strategy goals and objectives into specific tasks. It outlines the steps to be taken, or activities that must be performed, for a strategy to succeed. Therefore, action plans include a timeline, financial resources and responsible actors.

The formulation of a transnational or regional strategy and action plan should be developed through transnational exchanges of experiences that also involve stakeholders from the appropriate policy level (e.g. in a co-design or co-creation process including peer reviews). It is strongly advised to engage relevant stakeholders already at an early stage, especially those who could act as multipliers for the results achieved. This could support the use of project outputs and results in informing policy decisions at all levels as well as their uptake in other types of institutions.

Such jointly developed strategies and action plans, which involved organisations from at least two countries, contribute to the following output and result indicators:

  • Output indicator RCO 83 “Strategies and action plans jointly developed”;
  • Result indicator RCR 79 “Joint strategies and action plans taken up by organisations”.

I.3.3.3   Implementation-Oriented Activities and Outputs

Implementation-oriented activities test novel approaches in pilot actions and lead ultimately to the implementation of newly gathered knowledge and related solutions.

Such activities lead therefore to the development of outputs that are categorised as pilot actions” or “solutions”.

Innovative solutions can be procedures, instruments or tools (including physical objects, methods, concepts, or services etc.). To lead to the desired results, solutions have to be tailored to the needs of final users, also considering the respective framework conditions. Solutions should ideally be deployed in the project lifetime and taken up by a large number of institutions.

A pilot action should:

  • Have an experimental or demonstration character, i.e. it should test, evaluate or demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of new procedures, instruments or tools. If a project foresees several pilot actions (either at transnational, local or regional level), these should differ from each other in order to maximise mutual learning among the partnership.
  • Be limited in its scope, i.e. in its location, duration, scale, etc. It should be unprecedented in a comparable environment.
  • Be jointly evaluated in terms of results as well as jointly exploited and transferred to other institutions and territories.

The development and implementation of pilot actions and solutions should be carried out through transnational exchanges of experiences (e.g. in a co-design or co-creation process including peer reviews).

Pilot actions and solutions are interlinked: Solutions are stemming from testing or demonstration carried out in pilot actions. Based on learnings from pilot actions, they should consist either of newly developed solutions or tailoring of already existing solutions to the project context. This needs to be considered in the right time sequence: pilot actions need to be finished before the solutions, since the latter are building on the learnings of the pilots.

The joint development and implementation of pilot actions and the joint development of solutions which involve organisations from at least two participating countries, contribute to the following output and result indicators: 

  • Output indicator RCO 84 “Pilot actions developed jointly and implemented in projects”;
  • Output indicator RCO 116 “Jointly developed solutions”;
  • Result indicator RCR 104 “Solutions taken up or up scaled by organisations”.

Projects should include clear provisions for the sustainability of pilot actions and the respective solutions. Therefore, when choosing the location of pilot actions, it is recommended to focus on territories where the full commitment and capacity of local stakeholders (particularly in financial terms) can be expected. This will strengthen the uptake and maintenance of the tested solution. In this context, possible project reviews including e.g. evaluations could address direct benefits produced by the pilot actions for the local population as well as the sustainability and durability of change.

In case of technological solutions, it is recommended to give preference to those that are scalable, have a good potential for interoperability and adhere to open standards, if possible.

Pilot Investments in the Frame of Pilot Actions

Pilot actions can include pilot investments, which are implemented at a small scale and are necessary for the successful implementation of a pilot action.

A pilot investment must clearly contribute to the project overall and specific objectives: it must have a demonstration, model or pilot character and show a clear transnational implementation dimension and effect that the partnership evaluates together. The investment should be well integrated into the work plan and show a clear benefit for the target groups addressed. It should ideally pave the way to large-scale investments, thus increasing the impact of the project.

If applicable, projects should demonstrate that necessary authorisations for pilot investments (e.g. building permits) are available or can be obtained in a reasonable time to avoid hampering the overall project implementation.

In the project budget, a pilot investment can include items that belong to the cost categories 5 “Equipment” and 6 “Infrastructure and works” for e.g. a new construction of a building or the adaptation of existing infrastructure. For cost category specifications please refer to chapter I.4.3.

Productive investments can only be supported for SMEs, with notable exceptions as foreseen in Article 5(2) of the ERDF regulation.

Pilot investments have to comply with relevant legislation and environmental policies (see chapters I.4.4.4 and I.4.4.5) as well as with the durability and ownership requirements as laid down in chapters I.4.3.6 and III.5.

Furthermore, for infrastructure investments with an expected lifespan of at least 5 years an assessment of expected impacts of climate change, including mitigation measures for increasing its climate resilience, has to be carried out if applicable.

In addition to EC guidance[3], specific rules may be set out by the country in which the infrastructure investment will be realised.

Projects are also encouraged to integrate the principle of barrier-free accessibility at all levels, with a special focus on physical investments.

I.3.3.4   Capacity-Building Activities

Projects might also include activities for capacity-building, including training (e.g. seminars, study visits, peer reviews, online training courses etc.). These activities should be foreseen as supporting measures for the exploitation of project outputs and results. They should aim at improving the understanding, knowledge, skills, competences and access to information of targeted stakeholders. Capacity-building activities should be jointly developed at transnational level and tailored according to the needs of the specific territories and target groups. Please note that capacity-building as such shall not be the focus of a project proposal.

I.3.3.5   Communication Activities

Communication activities are an essential part of projects. They raise awareness and provide information on thematic activities and help to change the attitude of relevant stakeholders towards the changes aimed for by the project.

Communication activities can also contribute to the capitalisation of achieved project outputs and results and aim at their roll out into broader policies, strategies and action plans. Communication activities focused on capitalisation should address audiences/target groups that go beyond the partnership and participating regions.

Already in their application form, projects have to lay down what they aim for with communication activities and through which activities the partnership wants to achieve these targets. There is no dedicated communication work package in the application form, therefore communication activities have to be integrated throughout the project work plan (see also chapter II.2.1.3).

I.3.4 Output and Result Indicators

The programme has defined a set of indicators to capture outputs and results achieved by projects. Result indicators measure the direct effects of project outputs with particular reference to their direct addressees (i.e. project beneficiaries and target groups).

To reflect the cooperation dimension at the core of Interreg transnational cooperation (output type: cooperations), the indicators include also a “horizontal” output indicator (RCO 87 “Organisations cooperating across borders”). It counts the number of organisations formally cooperating in the project, i.e. the project partners and the associated partners and has therefore to be selected by all projects. In addition, the corresponding result indicator (RCR 84 “Organisations cooperating across borders after project lifetime”) captures the continuation of such cooperation after the project lifetime.

All indicators apply to all programme priorities and SOs. For SO 2.5 and SO 3.1, an additional output indicator (RCO 120 “Projects supporting cooperation across borders to develop urban-rural linkages”) is included in order to reflect their specific territorial focus on urban-rural linkages. This indicator has to be selected by all projects supported under both SOs.

This chart presents an overview of the Interreg CE indicator system and visualises the linkages between types of output and the respective output and result indicators.

Projects have to follow the logical correspondence between output and result indicators. This means that according to the types of outputs and results projects want to achieve, the relevant indicators have to be selected in the application form and the related targets need to be quantified.

When setting their targets, projects are recommended to be ambitious but also realistic. Furthermore, the targets set for result indicators should capture the expected change also considering the uptake of outputs and the continued cooperation after the project end.

Detailed definitions of indicators and further information on the interlinkages between output and result indicators are presented in annex 2.

I.3.5 Project Heritage

When developing projects, applicants are expected to research and take into account existing outputs and results developed by previous projects of Interreg CE as well as other Interreg programmes and EU financing instruments. This will help to increase the efficiency of the Interreg CE co-financing because it ensures that project ideas are innovative and not double-funded. In addition, it improves the effectiveness and impact of cooperation projects when transnational actions build on past achievements.  

The following links to project databases will help with searching and identifying relevant outputs and results from:

–   Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects 2014-2020
The Interreg CE website is the gateway to the websites of all Interreg CE projects 2014-2020. It also offers a list of operations and an indexed and searchable project output library.

–   Interreg projects funded since 2007
The KEEP database offers fact sheets about Interreg projects across Europe, including all Interreg CE projects funded between 2007 and 2020.

–   EU-funded regional policy projects
Kohesio EC database allows to search regional projects funded throughout the EU, which have benefited from investments through various EU regional policy programmes.

–   EU-funded research and innovation projects
This EC webpage provides direct links to all relevant databases of EU-funded research and innovation projects from CORDIS to TRIMIS.

A valuable tool for better coordination and synergies between Horizon 2020 and Interreg projects was realised by the EC as a learning from the experimental call carried out by Interreg CE in the previous programming period (see also link in the text box):

Horizon 2020 – Interreg Synergies Mapping Tool

This Horizon 2020 – Interreg Synergies Mapping Tool provides consolidated information about Horizon 2020 and Interreg projects for the years 2014-2020, matched thematically by the topic and region of participation.

Beyond the research of and coordination with available project results and outputs, it is recommended to become familiar with relevant studies and evaluation reports before designing the project intervention logic or developing the project work plan. Relevant publications are available at the programme website.

[1] Including “Public equivalent bodies”, i.e. bodies governed by public law as defined in Article 2(1) of Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement fall under this category, as well as EGTCs as defined in Regulation (EU) 1082/2006.

[2] As provided for in Article 26 of Regulation (EU) 2021/1059.

[3] Technical guidance on climate proofing of infrastructure in the period 2021-2027; Commission Notice C(2021) 5430 of 29 July 2021.