European Structural and Investment Funding (ESIF)

Over half of EU funding is channelled through the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). They are jointly managed by the European Commission and the EU countries.  The purpose of these funds is to invest in job creation and a sustainable and healthy European economy and environment.

The defence sector can access ESIF to co-fund productive cross-border investment projects and modernise supply chains. These funds help SMEs prepare for commercialisation and to boost regional competitiveness.

The most relevant structural funds for defence-related industries are the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF).

Some €57 billion – or around 20% - of ERDF funding is dedicated to small businesses.  The ERDF may fund defence and dual-use activities in research and innovation, as part of a smart specialisation strategy. Several defence-related SMEs have already successfully applied for funding by the ERDF.

The ERDF also supports INTERREG Europe, which offers cross-border and interregional funding opportunities for public authorities, agencies, research institutes and clusters. Financial support from INTERREG Europe can cover the areas of research and innovation; SME competitiveness; low-carbon economy or environment and resource efficiency.

The ESF supports employment-related projects focused on workers, young people and job seekers. The EU distributes ESF funding to the Member States and regions, which in turn fund projects run by a range of public and private organisations.


Managing Authorities – usually a national, regional or local public authority or public/private body – are appointed by Member States for each operational programme. These are the reference points for region-specific up-to-date information on how exactly to apply for funding in your region.

SMEs, companies and research organisations interested in applying for ERDF funding should contact regional managing authorities. Regional authorities can also use the opportunities offered by the Interregional cooperation programme INTERREG to share or exchange experiences in the field of public support to implement a dual-use strategy.

ESF funding is available through the Member States and regions. To find out about the eligibility for ESF support in your country, contact the responsible ESF managing authority in your country.