European Funding Opportunities

Do you want a quick and easy overview of the types of EU funding available to the Irish community, voluntary, charity and social enterprise sector? Look no further! Below is a brief overview of eligible European programmes, divided into nine themes.

When looking at these categories, try to think more about the objective of the specific project you have in mind than the objective of your organisation. For example, you might work with an organisation dedicated to older people and not see where that falls in the categories listed below. But, what is the aim of the project? Is it about educating people and spreading awareness? Check out the Education, Training, Youth and Sport category. Is it about the rights of older people? Check out the Human Rights category. If in doubt, you can contact the European Programmes Team at The Wheel for more advice.

Remember, if you decide that one or more of these funding opportunities has potential for your organisation, the best way to get started is to read Accessing EU Funds – 2015 and Beyond by Professor Hugh Quigley, follow our 5 steps for Getting Started with EU Funding, and subscribe to  Fundingpoint to be kept updated about not only European funding, but an additional 800+ other grants available to our sector. Discounts for the exclusive Fundingpoint Subscribers Newsletter are available to members of  The Wheel.

Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport for the years 2014 to 2020. It provides funding and support for organisations to operate projects consistent with its objectives and which encourage European exchange, co-operation and learning. Erasmus+ is funded by the European Union through the contributions of Member States, including Ireland. Funding of almost €170 million has been allocated to Ireland for the duration of the programme.

Erasmus+ funding is available to all sectors (or fields) of formal, informal and non-formal education. Structurally, Erasmus+ is divided into three ‘Key Actions’ describing the kind of project activities possible.


​Areas covered: 

  • Youth and youth workers, including issues such as increasing the quality of youth work and the capacity of youth workers; social inclusion and preventing marginalisation; employability and entrepreneurship; active citizenship, volunteering and democratic participation; support for refugees and migrants and intercultural dialogue; and exchanges of both young people and youth workers. 
  • Adult education and training including issues such as improving quality learning for low-skilled adults, particularly literacy, numeracy and digital skills; the validation of skills acquired through non-formal learning; and implementing innovative ICT approaches into adult education. 
  • Professional development of staff, capacity building, and training.
  • Sport projects to promote sport integrity, good governance in sport, social inclusion, equal opportunities, and health-enhancing physical activity.

Want to find out more?

You can read more on the Erasmus+ website. You can also contact Léargas, the National Agency in Ireland for Erasmus+ in Adult Education, School Education, VET and Youth. Léargas have produced this very handy guide to getting started with Erasmus+.

The Europe for Citizens Programme helps promote understanding between the Union and its citizens. It funds activities carried out by a range of not-for-profit organisations, local authorities and research institutes across Europe.

The specific aim of the 2014-2020 programme is to contribute to citizens’ understanding of the EU’s history and diversity. It also aims to foster European citizenship and encourage democratic engagement at EU level.

This is a broad programme that allows you to explore the programme objectives through a variety of lenses including active citizenship, volunteering, and intercultural engagement, and especially initiatives that involve marginalised groups.

Types of projects funded under Europe for Citizens fall into two strands:

  1. European remembrance - projects that promote tolerance, mutual understanding, intercultural dialogue and reconciliation through reflection on our past as well as activities marking defining moments in Europe's history 
  2. Democratic Engagement and Civic Participation - projects that encourage public engagement in the processes of European integration, including strengthening general understanding of how EU policy is shaped.

Want to find out more?

You can download the Europe for Citizens leaflet to find out about the types of projects available and also visit the Europe for Citizens website here: www.europeforcitizens.ie.

Creative Europe is the European Commission's framework programme for support to the culture and audio-visual sectors.

It funds:

  • Culture sector initiatives, such as those promoting cross-border cooperation, platforms, networking, and literary translation.
  • Audio-visual sector initiatives, such as those promoting the development, distribution, or access to audio-visual works.
  • Cross sectoral opportunities 
  • Youth and the arts.

Creative Europe’s stated aims are to:

  • Help the cultural and creative sectors seize the opportunities of the digital age and globalisation;
  • Enable the sectors to reach their economic potential, contributing to sustainable growth, jobs, and social cohesion;
  • Give Europe's culture and media sectors access to new international opportunities, markets, and audiences.

Want to find out more?

You can read more on the Creative Europe website. You can also consult the Irish Creative Europe website and contact the national Creative Europe Desk.

There are a few interregional funds for which Ireland is eligible. The focus of these funds tends to be community and business innovation; entrepreneurship and increasing competitiveness of various regions; renewable energy, shared environmental challenges, and climate change; and promoting and developing natural and cultural heritage. 

  • Ireland Wales Fund - connects organisations, businesses and communities on the West coast of Wales with the Southeast coast of Ireland. 
  • Interreg Northern Periphery Programme - Addresses shared challenges and opportunities in the Euro-Arctic zone including Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom (Scotland and Northern Ireland) in cooperation with the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Norway.
  • Interreg VA - supports European territorial cooperation between eligible regions in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland around a range of issues from access to transport, health and social care services, environmental issues and enterprise development.
  • Peace IV Programme - supports peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland, including Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo.

Want to find out more?

Follow the links above to visit the websites and find out more about interregional funding opportunities for your organisation.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

There are significant opportunities for community, voluntary and charitable organisations and social enterprises to partner with researchers and industry to tackle societal challenges. Our sector has unique insight and skills in facilitating ethical research and ensuring the appropriateness of technology and innovation designed to benefit the target groups with whom we work.

The societal challenges dealt with by Horizon 2020 include:

  • Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing
  • Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy
  • Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy
  • Smart, Green and Integrated Transport
  • Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials
  • Europe in a changing world - Inclusive, innovative and reflective societies
  • Secure societies – Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.

A popular Horizon 2020 fund for civil society is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and, within that, the CAROLINE programme, which enables organisations to partner with universities to host fully-funded researchers to conduct research in their area.

For a full overview of the H2020, we recommend completing the free, online workshop created by Dr. Séan McCarthy of Hyperion Ltd for The Wheel - Horizon 2020: Opportunities for Voluntary Organisations.

Want to find out more?

Visit the Horizon 2020 website to learn more and find the specific area relevant to your work. You can also visit the Irish Horizon 2020 website and reach our the H2020 national contact points in Ireland.

The contact point for Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions in Ireland is the Irish Universities Association and the CAROLINE programme is managed by the Irish Research Council.

European funding covers a variety of human rights issues, including:

  • Combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance
  • Disabilities
  • Migrants and refugees
  • Older People
  • Roma & Travellers
  • LGBT+
  • Funding for legal and judiciary projects (victim and criminal rights, privacy, data protection, etc.)
  • Women’s rights and issues
  • Gender-based violence
  • Children's rights.

There are three main programmes dedicated to human rights:

  1. Rights, Equality and Citizenship  - contributes to the further development of an area where equality and the rights of persons, as enshrined in the Treaty, the Charter and international human rights conventions, are promoted and protected. Objectives include tackling discrimination in all forms and promoting equality and the rights of people with disabilities, the rights of children, consumer rights, and rights deriving from Union citizenship.
  2. Justice - contributes to the further development of a European area of justice based on mutual recognition and mutual trust, including judicial cooperation in civil and crinimal matters, judicial training, effective access to justice in Europe, and initiatives in the field of drugs policy.
  3. Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund - promotes the efficient management of migration flows and the implementation, strengthening and development of a common Union approach to asylum and immigration. In Ireland, this fund is managed by the Department of Justice and Equality.

Want to find out more?

Click on the links above to visit the relevant websites and find out more about human rights funding opportunities for your organisation.

The European Social Fund (ESF) is Europe’s main instrument for supporting jobs, helping people get better jobs and ensuring fairer job opportunities for all EU citizens. It works by investing in Europe’s human capital – its workers, its young people and all those seeking a job. ESF financing of €10 billion a year is improving job prospects for millions of Europeans, in particular those who find it difficult to get work.

The Department of Education and Skills manages the ESF in Ireland through their ESF Policy and Operations unit. It supports a variety of government schemes dedicated to sustainable and quality employment, social inclusion and equal opportunities, education, training and life-long learning, and the Youth Employment Initiative.

Funding from the ESF may mean new courses provided, additional places on courses, no fees, or assistance provided for students or trainees. More info on this is available from the ESF website

Want to find out more?

Visit the European Commission’s ESF website or the Irish website or contact the Irish ESF team.

The EU Health Programme outlines the strategy for ensuring good health and healthcare. It feeds into the overall Europe 2020 strategy, which aims to make the EU a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy promoting growth for all – one prerequisite for which is good health. The Programme is focusing on major Commission priorities, such as:

  • Jobs, growth and investment (health of population and health care services as a productive factor for growth and jobs)
  • Internal market (for pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cross-border health care directive, and Health Technology Assessment)
  • Single digital market (including eHealth)
  • Justice and fundamental rights (fighting against health inequalities)
  • Migration policy
  • Security (preparedness and management of serious cross-border health threats).

In the 2014 – 2020 framework, the Health Programme is in its third phase and is called the Third Health Programme.

Want to find out more?

Visit the European Commission’s Health Programme website or contact the Irish contact point at the Health Research Board for more information.

The EU combines different types of support to countries in need through its International Cooperation and Development programme. It provides funding in the form of grants to support projects and organisations furthering its development objectives. It also offers public contracts and provides budget and sector support.

Call for proposals in this programme cover many topics, including:

  • reducing poverty in the world;
  • ensuring sustainable development;
  • promoting democracy, peace and security.

 Want to find out more?

More info on the International Cooperation and Development programme in available on its website.

LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed more than 4500 projects. For the 2014 – 2020 funding period, LIFE will contribute approximately €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.

It covers projects related to:

  • Nature and biodiversity
  • Environmental and climate governance and information
  • Resource efficiency
  • Climate change mitigation and adaption
  • Technology for climate change, environment, and low carbon.

A call for proposals is published every year, meaning that every 12 months you can apply for LIFE funding by using the application packages that help you prepare your proposal.

 Want to find out more?

More info about this programme is available on the LIFE website. You can also consult the national contact point in Ireland, Patrick Martin of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment.

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