Structural Funds

ESIF: European Structural & Investment Funds

There are four ESIF (European Structural & Investments Funds):

  • ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) – covering infrastructure projects and other initiatives which will help growth and economic development
  • ESF (European Social Fund) – focusing on training, skills development, capacity building and business incubation
  • EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) – focusing on support in rural areas
  • EMFF (European Maritime & Fisheries Fund) – focusing on support for maritime areas and for fishing

The majority of these funds are devolved back to the member states for allocation – though some are allocated via Interreg.

In the UK, the above devolved funds are allocated differently in England, Scotland, Wales and NI.  In all areas, however, the funds are being allocated in the light of Operational Programmes and ESIF Strategies.  These documents take into account the EU objectives and criteria and the economic strategy for the relevant nation or region of the UK.  They set out the objectives, priorities, measures and criteria by which the ERDF, ESF or EAFRD will be allocated in their nation / region.


In England, there is an Operational Programme for each fund – ERDF, ESF and EAFRD.  In addition, each of the 38 (there were originally 39) Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which now cover England has prepared an ESIF Strategy for their region. It is worth trying to build a link with your LEP as they have an important role in the allocation of these funds.  All LEPs have some ESIF that needs to be distributed in their region: ranging from €745.4m for London to €13.8m in Buckinghamshire.

In England, the EAFRD will be allocated via the RDPE (Rural Development Programme for England).

However, please note that applications for ERDF, ESF or EAFRD need to be made to the national Managing Authority (MA), and not to the LEP.  The MA will take into account the ESIF Strategy for the region covered by the application.

There are some exceptions to making applications to the MA:

  • ESF: applications can also be made through one of the opt-in agencies who have contributed match funding, and who have responsibility for the allocation of some of these funds. These include the DWP (Department for Work & Pensions), NOMS (National Offenders Management Service) and the Big Lottery Fund.
  • EAFRD: applications can be made to a Local Action Group for LEADER funding – these are smaller grants to support projects in rural areas.

Please also note there are ESF Community Grants which can provide up to £12-15K to small third sector organisations.  These are managed by the Skills Funding Agency and administered by a range of grant co-ordinating bodies on a regional basis (e.g. the regional community voluntary services agency) – except for London, where they are managed by the London Councils.


In Scotland, a number of Lead Partners will manage and control areas previously within the remit of the Scottish Government.  The Lead Partners will deliver groups of projects, known under the new programme as Strategic Interventions.  More information at:


In Wales, the key agency is the Welsh European Funding Organisation (WEFO):


Relevant information for Northern Ireland can be found at: