In collaboration with esteemed partners—The European Policies Research Centre (EPRC) as the lead partner, alongside the Austrian Institute of Economic Research and Delft University of Technology—PPMI co-leads the implementation of the Ex-post evaluation of Cohesion Policy programmes co-financed by the ERDF, specifically focusing on Work Package 13 – Integrated Territorial Development.
Throughout the 2014-2020 programming period, over 30% (amounting to 400 billion euros) of the overall EU budget was allocated to Cohesion Policy Funding (ERDF, ESF, CF, YEI), with approximately 220 billion euros designated to ERDF. Integrated territorial development emerged as an innovative facet of the 2013 reform of Cohesion Policy. Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI) empowered Member States to blend funding from diverse funds, operational programmes, and priority axes of these programmes to deliver multi-dimensional and cross-sectoral interventions. Essential components of an ITI encompass a designated territory and an integrated development strategy—the territory of an ITI can span any geographical area (urban, urban-rural, sub-regional, inter-regional, or cross-border)—alongside a comprehensive package of actions slated for implementation.
The widespread utilization of these instruments during the 2014-2020 period underscores the commitment of local stakeholders to play a pivotal role, as evidenced by emerging studies highlighting the benefits. Simultaneously, challenges persist in implementing these instruments and ensuring their sustained efficacy over the long term. The efficient and effective incorporation of the territorial dimension in Cohesion Policy programmes has always been a point of uncertainty for programme authorities and other stakeholders.
The principal objectives guiding the Ex-post evaluation of ERDF support to Integrated Territorial Development during the 2014-2020 programming period are as follows:
- Assess the rationale for employing place-based policy instruments.
- Analyze evidence concerning the effectiveness of integrated territorial instruments.
- Study the efficiency, coherence, relevance, and added value at the EU level.
- Identify factors contributing to success or failure under varying conditions.
The evaluation challenge of place-based instruments lies in discerning their efficacy and the reasons behind it within a landscape marked by considerable contextual diversity. Assessing the value of 'integrated' approaches remains intricate, given the substantial diversity in participants, themes, and territories covered. Furthermore, evaluating the success of territorial instruments extends beyond addressing 'hard' physical indicators to encompass 'softer' outcomes, including cohesion within the targeted territory, bolstered trust and social capital among local stakeholders, and the well-being of residents, among other factors.
The evaluation process adopts a Theory-of-Change-based approach, integrating various methods for data collection and analysis. These methods include analyzing monitoring data (including project-level data), conducting literature reviews, scrutinizing documents, surveys of programme authorities and territorial stakeholders, executing case studies, holding stakeholder interviews, organizing focus groups, and hosting seminars to present and validate the evaluation's results.