Within the scope of its cohesion policy, the European Union supports all regions' development in a variety of ways. It thus aims to improve the quality of life of EU citizens. Likewise, developmental disparities between regions are to be reduced to strengthen the European Union's economic and social cohesion. The main tools of cohesion policy are the structural and investment funds, which include the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The EU provides funds (ERDF in Thuringia €1.165 billion) that can be used to support Thuringia during the 2014 - 2020 funding period.
The Operational Programme Thuringia ERDF 2014 - 2020 describes the support strategies and measures with which some of Thuringia's most critical problems are to be reduced. It must be noted here that only specific support measures can be funded under the ERDF, whereas others are excluded. For example, further training cannot be supported under the ERDF, but this is possible under the European Social Fund (ESF). In the funding period 2014 - 2020, the ERDF in Thuringia will concentrate on the following five major funding areas (so-called priority axes):
1. Strengthening research, technological development, and innovation
The first priority of the ERDF is to promote the innovative strength of the economy and increase Thuringia's state-funded research institutions' competitiveness. In this respect, the knowledge transfer between science and industry should also be improved.
2. Strengthening the competitiveness of companies
The second priority focuses on supporting small and medium-sized businesses. The number of knowledge and technology-intensive start-ups is to be increased to ensure long-term competitiveness. Furthermore, the internalization of the economy is to be promoted to stimulate export activity and benefit more from the international division of labor. Equally, companies are to be supported in investments to increase company growth and company transfers. Finally, Thuringia's attractiveness as a tourism location is to be strengthened through tourism marketing measures and targeted construction projects.
3. Reduction of CO2 emissions
The third priority of the ERDF is to support the increase of energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies. For this purpose, companies, municipalities, and state-owned properties are funded.
4. Risk management, environmental protection, and sustainable use of resources
The fourth priority supports flood protection and the restoration of near-natural ecosystems in running waters. The latter is to be achieved through a combination of measures, including the generation of near-natural water structures, the improvement of watercourse passability and the renaturation and networking of habitats.
5. Sustainable urban development
The fifth priority supports the strengthening of selected municipalities as attractive economic and social areas. A further objective is the revitalisation of no longer used industrial sites and vacant residential spaces for settlement structures.