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European Regional Development Fund: Evaluation of RTD-Investments


European Commission, DG REGIO



Research Question and Objective

What is the impact of research and innovation support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and how can we improve policy instruments in the future? On behalf of DG Regio and in cooperation with the Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL) and the Technopolis Group, we evaluated investments in Research and Technological Development (RTD) infrastructures and activities supported by the ERDF in the 2007 - 2013 programming period.

Our approach

Inspired by theory-based impact evaluation, and by combining qualitative and quantitative methods, we examined 53 ERDF Operational Programs with RTD investments amounting to EUR 14.64 billion. These four levels of analysis were the basis of the evaluation:

  • Operational Program Level: Evaluation of strategies and policy mixes
  • Country-level: Use of policy instruments in different national contexts
  • Policy Instrument level: Analysis of chains of effects and mechanisms (“Theories of Change”)
  • Project and beneficiary level: Description, analysis and classification of RTD projects in 18 EU-Member States

Key results

The main achievement of ERDF support for RTD investment in the period 2007-2013 is a positive and significant contribution to the observed improvement of R&D capacities in the target regions, particularly in EU13 regions. Evidence shows that ERDF investments aimed at modernising education facilities are positively correlated to the growth rate in the number of tertiary-educated people and the growth rate of tertiary-educated persons employed in science and technology, in 2007-2017 and within the target regions

R&D capacities were further improved in terms of the number of R&D personnel and researchers, with an average growth rate in the target regions of 40 percent between 2007 and 2017. Evidence also points to a positive and statistically significant relationship between ERDF support and the growth rate in the number of scientific publications

More limited, however, was the capacity of funded projects to generate economic benefits from the commercial valorisation of R&D results and enhance the knowledge transfer capacities and mechanisms from scientific to industry partners. No statistically significant relationships are found in the econometric analysis between ERDF support and the growth rate of technological outputs. Moreover, the ERDF was less effective in facilitating the coordination and interactions between all the actors involved in the innovation ecosystem, thus addressing the system failures.

The findings suggest that, given the importance of contextual factors, the right combination of ERDF instruments within a broader system of enabling conditions and supporting factors is necessary to achieve the objective of improving regional competitiveness.

Links and Downloads

Final Report (

Executive Summary (

The RTD Cookbook for ERDF supported investments

Project Team: Jan Kramer, Moritz Glettenberg, Anja Breuer, Neysan Khabirpour

Do you have questions?

Your contact at Prognos

Neysan Khabirpour

Project Manager

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Dr Jan-Philipp Kramer

Vice-Director, Head of EU-Services

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Anja Breuer


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