Since its founding act, the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Community has pursued a policy of economic and social cohesion among its members.
Formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, the EC was built on the belief that countries that trade together become economically interdependent and thus, less likely to engage in war.
Today, the union has swelled from its original six members, to 28, and stretches across much of the European continent. However, as EU membership has grown, so have the economic, infrastructure, and social disparities among its members. A long series of Eurozone crises – most recently highlighted in Greece – as well as persistent zones of poverty and slow socio-economic development in the EU challenge the stability, growth and even the peace of the union – the central goals of European cooperation.
One tool created to mitigate and help smooth out socio-economic disparities among member states is the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF), or Structural Funds. These funds aim to directly contribute to the long-standing European policy of economic and social cohesion. Thus, Structural Funds are used to reduce gaps in development between regions by creating and financing economic and social development projects in the less developed regions.
For the seven-year period, 2014 – 2020, the Structural Fund will provide 453 billion Euros to EU members. These funds are allocated based on need, determined by a formula that provides more funds to the poorer regions of the union.
EU Structural Funds thus form a vital source of funding for governments and private sector entities that are willing to design projects that meet the EU’s mandates and eleven thematic objectives:
Strengthening research, technological development and innovation
Enhancing access to, and use and quality of ICT
Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises
Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors
Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management
Preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency
Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures
Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labor mobility
Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination
Investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning
Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration
* The first four of these thematic objectives constitute key priorities areas in the EU and will receive disproportionately high funding.
IBM Public Sector understands the EU’s Cohesion Policy and is helping it to succeed…
A Public Sector center of competence, the Emerging Markets Funding (EMF) group, started supporting local IBM teams across CEE in 2012, explaining the objectives and rationale for the EU Structural Fund and the associated business opportunities. Since then, the EMF strategy has been adopted by sales teams across the region and related, EU-funded, sales have grown to over 100M euros.
IBM has thus simultaneously contributed to the strengthening of the EU and the economic vitality of CEE through the design and implementation of modern tax systems, e-justice programs, the strengthening of border management, along with the successful implementation of manifold other IT projects that have improved secondary and university education, healthcare, and national transportation networks.
In 2014 alone, EMF helped IBM Public Sector clients around CEE win more than sixty EU Structural Fund projects in 7 different countries!
This work illustrates the importance of connecting public policy imperatives with private sector innovation and know-how to create sustainable business models, which (oh, by the way…) improve people’s lives.
We will continue to engage with our public sector clients across CEE in the months and years ahead to help them improve the lives of their citizens, and to build a more cohesive union of European states.
Learn how you can leverage new business models, innovative capabilities and the wealth of data available to create a robust and efficient public infrastructure, ensure safety and security, support the needs of individuals, facilitate sustainable economic growth, and build stronger communities.
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