State aid

State aid is defined as any advantage the programme may give to a project partner in the context of their funded project, where this advantage has a potential to distort the competition or trade within the Union.

State aid is in principle forbidden because it may distort competition by favoring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods (which is incompatible with the internal market). However, there are several exceptions that allow for aid in certain areas, up to a certain amount (de minimis) or for certain undertakings that are crucial for the European economy as they perform certain activities (e.g. those activities that are specified in the General Block Exemption Regulation, GBER).

Who is affected by State aid?


All entities engaged in an economic activity fall under the State aid rules, regardless of their legal status and regardless of whether they aim to make a profit. This means that both public and private partners can be affected by state aid. Public institutions may perform economic activities (e.g. a regional council can implement a support scheme for SMEs) and such activities are State aid relevant. On the other hand, the participation of an SME in a project does not necessarily mean that its activities will be State aid relevant.

State aid relevancy assessment


During step 2 development project officers assess the State aid relevance of the project activities. If State aid relevant activities are part of a project proposal, the activities will not automatically be ineligible. In case the project includes state aid relevant activities a number of practical options are in place to enable projects to be supported in such a case, including the de minimis and the General Block Exemption Regulation.

GBER schemes available for NWE project applicants

  • Framework scheme exempt from notification No. SA.40646 pertaining to aid covering the cooperation costs of SMEs, which belong to European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programmes covering article 20.
  • Interreg North-West Europe Programme aid for research and development and innovation (articles 25, 26, 27, 28, 29), training aid (article 31) and aid for environmental protection framework scheme 2014-2020 (articles 36, 38, 41, 45, 46, and 47) No. SA.45348.

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