Characteristics of EU Funding

Below are some of the key characteristics of European funding. Be aware that this is a very broad overview of what can be a complicated system at times but is intended to give you an idea of what you can and cannot expect from EU projects.


Although there are some larger ‘operating’ grants (core funding) made available through European programmes, the clear majority of funding opportunities are to fund projects and will not cover core costs.

This is because most programmes revolve around a philosophy of innovation and are therefore focused on new initiatives and not on funding existing work. With enough experience and by gradually building the capacity of your organisation to apply for and manage European projects, it is possible to fund many projects and development with European funding, but it will generally not keep the lights on or the doors open.


Applying for European funding is an extremely competitive process. More often than not, you are competing with thousands of organisations across Europe. The budgets may seem huge but it’s important to keep that in perspective and understand the funding available is actually relatively small when spread across the whole continent.


There is some funding available for projects that take place at a purely national level but the vast majority of projects are transnational in nature, requiring at least one other European partner if not more and travel to partner countries. “Think European” when filling out an application. What value does your idea bring on a European level? How will you promote and share it widely across the continent? Is the issue you are tackling a European one? Does your idea advance goals outlined in European policy?

Don’t forget that the European institutions’ primary objective is to reach their targets, and the funding programmes they provide are a means of doing that. If your idea does not complement European objectives, it is probably not suitable for European funding.


European partnerships provide a unique opportunity for organisations across many different sectors and regions to come together to tackle a common issue. Applying this “cross sectoral” approach in your project can really strengthen your application and your likelihood of being funded.

If someone were to apply for a project that was intended to promote, for example, active aging, they can strengthen it by building a consortium comprising a diverse range of partners who are all stakeholders in this issue. In this example, that may be a charity representing older people, a university department that is researching active aging, a private care-providing organisation, and a nursing institute.

Another feature of European partnerships is equality. When partners come together for a project, they must act as “equal partners”. Their opinions and expertise should be respected and properly utilised to achieve the project objectives. This sense of respect and trust among a partnership, the equal sharing of duties and responsibilities, and the exploitation of each partners’ unique strengths and skills should be reflected in a good project application. 


European projects usually involve some element of co-financing or what is often called ‘matched’ funding. There are some programmes, including Horizon 2020, that provide 100% funding and there are others for which match funding can be sought through government bodies, e.g. recent PEACE IV calls. However, by and large, co-financing is a key characteristic and should be considered before jumping in.

Co-financing rates vary but most fall somewhere between 60 – 80%. How to demonstrate co-financing varies according to the fund and you should check funding programme requirements and national contact points and agencies where appropriate.

Results orientated

European funded projects are granted and assessed according to clear demonstrable results. It is important to bear this in mind both in the project design and writing phase and, if successfully funded, in the delivery and reporting phase.

While outlining your project objectives, be clear about what it is you want to achieve, who your target group is, what impact the results will have, and, importantly, how you will measure those results. We like to design our projects using the following logic: Objectives – Activities – Results

Depending on the demands of your project and the level of funding requested, the scope of what is expected in terms of recording results can vary widely. It could be something as simple as a brief questionnaire or as complex as a major longitudinal study.

What is important is that when writing your proposal, you demonstrate clearly how you will measure its results and, when reporting on a completed project, you revisit the original objectives and illustrate how you reached them with clear evidence to support your conclusions.

Activities funded

The types of activities that can be carried out as part of a European project vary according to the programme and call for proposals. However, commonly funded activities include:

  • Knowledge exchange and transfer, e.g. between professionals
  • Comparative research
  • Events and conferences
  • “Mobilities”, i.e. study placements and visits
  • Capacity building, training and workshops
  • “Intellectual outputs”, i.e. innovative new materials, e.g. a tool kit, best practice guide, course content, report
  • New technologies, methodologies, or approaches
  • The building of networks, e.g. for professionals or other target groups.

View the latest funding from the EU