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Call for peripheral and lagging areas

Pioneering innovative solutions in small-scale projects

Call preview

 With our next call, we invite organisations from across central Europe to submit transnational cooperation ideas for small-scale projects. On this page, you will find a preview of key call elements to help you start developing concrete proposals and partnerships.

The overall objective of the call will be to “pioneer solutions for peripheral and lagging areas, making them more attractive to live and work in”. Consequentially, the call will have a territorial and thematic focus and will address small-scale projects as outlined below. The indicative budget will be around 14 million Euros ERDF.

More information on requirements and the application process will be published when the call launches on 15 October 2024. The timeline below will be further updated after call closure, especially in view of the assessment. Please note that this will also include hearings as a novelty. In these hearings, applicants have to deliver a short pitch deck and explain proposals “in their own words”. The hearings will be held in English.

Call timeline

Launch of call

15 October 2024

Closure of call

10 December 2024

Assessment incl. hearings

First half of 2025

Selection of proposals

Summer 2025

Territorial and thematic focus


Territorial challenges

The central Europe territory is characterised by structural differences and economic disparities between different types of regions, notably more advanced and industrialised areas (e.g. capital regions, metropolitan areas) and deprived areas (e.g. peripheral areas including inner peripheries, rural areas which are lagging behind). The latter are characterised by lower competitiveness and shrinking populations, and they face many different challenges in relation to economic development, connectivity, demographic change and social cohesion. Furthermore, there are significant disparities in the quality of governance and public services.

Targeted territories

With this call we want to unlock the development potentials of peripheral and lagging areas. Projects shall deliver local and regional solutions tailored to the specific challenges of these places in line with the principles of the Territorial Agenda (TA) 2030, with lessons learned from related pilot actions serving as insights for project applicants.

In order to qualify for the territorial focus of the call, areas to be targeted by projects have to show one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Low economic potential;
  • Poor access to services of general interest, often affected by demographic change;
  • Lack of relational proximity, decline in significance, influence or connectivity.

These characteristics of peripherality and lagging areas are of qualitative nature and
there is no specific list or map of eligible regions to be targeted by projects. Targeted areas may be rural but may also include urban areas which are lagging behind in terms of socio-economic development. Their scale and size can vary depending on the project goals, e.g. ranging from local neighbourhoods (e.g. suburbs), city districts, villages and rural communities, small-or medium-sized towns or entire regions that are suffering from peripherality or that lag behind.

Thematic focus

The call will be thematically focused and be open for proposals in four programme specific objectives (SOs):

  • SO 1.2: Strengthening skills for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship
  • SO 2.5: Greening urban mobility
  • SO 3.1: Improving transport connections of rural and peripheral regions
  • SO 4.1: Strengthening governance for integrated territorial development

Projects shall promote good governance through inclusive and participatory processes, on supporting socio-economic transformation by developing human capital and improving connectivity and governance in the concerned territories.


Thematic focus

Priority 1: Cooperating for a smarter central Europe

SO 1.2 Strengthening skills for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship

The strong industrial base of central Europe and its dependence on adequate skills underlines the strategic relevance of this specific objective. Small and medium enterprises (SME) are the main providers of employment in central Europe and it is important to foster locally available human skills, especially for the transition to Industry 4.0, digitalisation and a green economy.

Capacities need to be improved for an efficient entrepreneurial discovery process as well as for the preparation or updating of smart specialisation strategies. The place-based development of skills is also crucial for reducing urban-rural disparities. Overall, there is a need for a just transition process that is socially responsible.

Ideas are welcome in all relevant topics of the programme. We recommend though to focus on following topics with high importance for peripheral and lagging areas:

→ Capital and skills development 

→ Brain drain, outmigration and the loss of skilled workforce

→ Social entrepreneurship

→ Digital transition 

Priority 2: Cooperating for a greener central Europe

SO 2.5 Greening urban mobility

A reduction of transport emissions is one of the key targets of the European Green Deal. Smart and greener urban mobility will need an integrated response. Many functional urban areas in central Europe face similar challenges when greening their mobility. The specific territorial need lies in the vast diversity of topics (e.g. pollution and congestion) that need to be addressed in an integrated approach. Furthermore, the topic does not only include different ways of mobility, but also urban as well as urban-rural logistics.

Ideas are welcome in all relevant topics of the programme. We recommend though to focus on following topics with high importance for peripheral and lagging areas:

→ Sustainable multimodal connections in towns and their hinterlands 

→ Improving mobility in peri-urban areas, including villages, in a functional urban area approach

→ Accessibility of public transport for everyone, including elderly and disabled people, in functional urban areas

Priority 3: Cooperating for a better connected central Europe

SO 3.1 Improving transport connections of rural and peripheral regions

The programme area is a relevant junction in Europe. This can strategically facilitate participation in trade and increase competitiveness. Accessibility to larger transport corridors is, however, comparatively weak. There is a need to link especially peripheral regions to the nodes of the TEN-T core network corridors (CNC), to remove bottlenecks and to bridge missing transport links to ensure good accessibility across central Europe. Furthermore, there is the need to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050, which calls for smart and sustainable approaches to cross-border mobility, intermodality and the introduction of IT-supported solutions for mobility management.

Ideas are welcome in all relevant topics of the programme. We recommend though to focus on following topics with high importance for peripheral and lagging areas:

→ Sustainable passenger transport

→ Testing and improving regional mobility services in the public interest for the citizens 

Priority 4: Improving governance for cooperation in central Europe

SO 4.1 Strengthening governance for integrated territorial development

Central Europe is highly heterogeneous both in territorial as well as in socio-economic terms. A multitude of challenges and barriers hinder the economic, social and territorial development in central Europe, which are not necessarily bound to specific administrative units. They rather relate to areas with functional ties that are characterised by economic, social, and environmental linkages.

Addressing these territorial development challenges calls for integrated multi-level and multi-sectoral governance processes that consider functional linkages at the territorial level. There is a need to improve the capacities of public authorities on all territorial levels for setting up and implementing integrated territorial development strategies. Cooperation should be encouraged within and between territories that share functional ties.

Ideas are welcome in all relevant topics of the programme. We recommend though to focus on following topics with high importance for peripheral and lagging areas:

→ Demographic change

→ Provision of public services of general interest (e.g. health, education, social services etc.) through integrated territorial approaches

Features of small-scale projects

The call is implemented through small-scale projects. These are easier to set-up and implement compared to classic projects because of a shorter application form, the use of simplified cost options, and streamlined reporting procedures. 

However, also with this new project type, partners are expected to develop practical and durable outputs and solutions by testing concrete novel or pioneering solutions through pilot actions. While smaller in size and shorter in duration, small-scale projects follow the same intervention logic as our classic projects. 

Small-scale projects in a nutshell


Clear emphasis on territorial challenges of peripheral and lagging areas


  At least three partners from three countries, two of which are located in central Europe


Between 12 and 24 months 


Up to 800.000 EUR total budget (maximum of 640.000 EUR ERDF)

How to start building your partnership

In small-scale projects, the same types of institutions as in classic projects are eligible. We especially encourage partnerships that engage stakeholders at the local or community level to ensure relevance and impact, involving partners with the necessary competencies and implementation capacities in the targeted areas

The project partnerships should consist of local and regional authorities (or related institutions), associations, civil society, non-governmental organisations etc. Involvement of research organisations should be limited, reflecting their main roles of knowledge providers or support to local/regional actors.

Support events

Rewatch our call preview webinar 

On 2 July, we hosted a webinar to inform potential applicants about the upcoming call. During the session, we discussed the thematic and territorial focus of the call, outlined the main features of small-scale projects, and answered questions from our participants.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording.

Other support measures

We are here to help and support you along the way. During the call preview, we offer to our potential applicants a variety of support measures.


Quickly familiarise yourself with the call by watching these short videos. They cover key aspects of the call and highlight the features of the small-scale project.

→ Watch explainers

National support

Reach out to our National Contact Points (NCP) in your national language. They offer guidance and information on national application issues.

→ Contact your NCP


Individual consultations

Mandatory individual consultations will be available after the call launch, helping you to align your project proposal with the scope of the call.


If you still have questions about this call, do not hesitate to contact our helpdesk.

→ Contact our helpdesk