European Union aims to balance and harmonise the growth of the member states to boost the European Union’s competitiveness as a common economic region in the global market. Therefore the member states can use the financial support of European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund.
European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund are the structural funds of the European Union, aimed at supporting the economic and social cohesion in the European Union. Funds are the main source of financing the European Union 2020 economic growth and employment strategy.
During the European Union´s multiannual financial framework 2007-2013, education, reasearch and development were financed by a total of 763 million euros, of which the support of European Social Fund was 159 million euros and European Regional Development Fund 523 million euros.
European Social Fund financed the following fields:
- adult education;
- teachers´ trainings;
- the creation of educational materials for the students of special needs;
- development of curricula;
- training for youth workers;
- funding the studies of returning vocational school and university students;
- support for doctoral studies, training of professors and the mobility of researchers.
In Estonia, the funding was based on the Operational Programme for Human Resource Development.
In the framework of the Operational Programme for the Development of the Living Environment and support of the European Regional Development Fund, schools for children with special needs, vocational schools, youth and counselling centres and hobby schools were reconstructed, built and supplied with the necessary teaching and technical equipment.
In the framework of the Operational Programme for the Development of Economic Environment, higher education and university infrastructure developments, research equipment acquisitions and science centres of excellence were supported.
The education, research and development grants were managed by:
Foundation Innove, Structural Funds Agency — in the general, vocational and adult education.
Foundation Archimedes, Implementaion Agency for Structural Support — in the fields of higher education, research and development.
According to the preliminary budget of the EU, it is planned to commit over 800 million euros of grants in the area of governance of the Ministry of Education and Research. More than 200 million euros will be provided by the European Social Fund and 600 million euros by the European Regional Development Fund alongside co-financing from the state budget of Estonia. Most of the support will be directed towards general education as well as research and development activities.
Most of the grant, 370 million euros is planned for improving the learning environment and quality in general education. 240 million euros is intended for the modernisation of elementary schools, upper secondary schools and schools for students with special needs.
European Social Fund co-finances the professional development of general and vocational school teachers, other members of staff and youth workers with 70 million euros. The wider implementation of e-learning materials and the creation of educational instruments for students with special needs will also be financed. Around 35 million euros is intended for educational counselling and career services.
With the support of the European Social Fund, it is planned to finance the modernisation of the organiation of traineeship, the management of work-based traineeships as well as entrepreneurship, language and work place training by 51 million euros.
European Social Fund also contributes around 36 million euros in adult occupational training and retraining people to be able to maintain or improve their competitiveness in the labour market.
16 million euros from the European Social Fund and the Estonian government will be directed towards preventing problems young people may experience in the labour market and towards supporting young people who find themselves in difficult situations such as not being in education, employment or training (NEET), in order to assist them in continuing their studies or entering the labour market.
The state of Estonia and the European Regional Development Fund will finance the international competitiveness of research and development as well as the transfer of knowledge into the Estonian economy with more than 300 million euros.
The smart specialisation method was introduced in the Estonian research and development and innovation strategy "Knowledge-Based Estonia 2014-2020". Financing the economic growth areas, supporting the restructuring of the research institutions for enhancing the effectiveness of their core activities and additonal support for ensuring the next generation of scientists and senior research were chosen based on the smart specialisation method.