Domains of action

11 thematic objectives

New for 2014-2020

In keeping with the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union has defined 11 thematic objectives for the European structural and investment funds (ESIF).

The 11 objectives are common to the four ESIFs; they consist of:

The 2014-2020 European programmes should pursue part of these thematic objectives according to territorial needs.



New for 2014-2020

The European Commission requires that the programmes concentrate a substantial amount of their budget on a limited number of themes depending on the fund, which is referred to as thematic concentration:

  • for the ERDF, these are objectives 1 to 4
  • for the ESF, the programmes can choose from a list of priorities established in the regulations.

In concrete terms, for the funding recipients, this will affect the type of project funded.
The purpose of this thematic concentration is to maximise the leverage of European funds.



The objective of integrated territorial strategies is to implement policies consistent with the diversity and specific nature of the territories. Mountain ranges, urban, coastal, rural areas or river basins have specific characteristics which transcend administrative borders, where the European Union's sectoral policies are difficult to apply. Aware of this issue, the European Union helps adapt the programmes accordingly.

One of the possibilities facilitated by the European Union is to resort to "local development by local stakeholders". Largely inspired by the Leader initiative, this mode of governance makes it possible to involve the partners, notably civil society and economic agents, thereby creating a new form of local governance. The bottom-up method is favoured over the top-down method, which focuses less on the territory. In this case, funds management can be delegated.

For the beneficiaries, integrated territorial strategies have an impact on the type of project funded (more focused on territorial cohesion and consistent with territorial strategies) and the project selection method.



Innovation in all its forms (technological and non-technological, including societal innovation, service innovation and eco-innovation) is one of the priorities of this new programming period: this is reflected in the programmes by a significant proportion of the structural and investment funds earmarked for the funding of projects dedicated to SME competitiveness, research & innovation and ICTs.

For this programming period, the European Union also developed the Horizon 2020 programme dedicated to innovation. The projects funded, resolutely inter-disciplinary, will respond to 3 priorities:

  • scientific excellence;
  • industrial supremacy;
  • societal challenge.

For the innovation objective, the key challenge for this new programming period is to successfully combine, at territorial level, the innovation strategies funded by the Horizon 2020 programme with those funded by the European funds. This requires improved mutual understanding between innovation players (research centres and SMEs, which have limited access to these funding opportunities but have been given priority for this programming period) and better information for the beneficiaries to guarantee the overall coherence of the action in favour of innovation in a given territory, while ensuring that the projects funded by the different programmes are complementary.