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State Aid

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DWF has market leading expertise in State Aid, which is why many Government departments, large public bodies and international companies turn to us for professional advice in this rapidly developing area of law.  

How we can help

We have a market leading reputation for providing expert advice.

We have the largest dedicated State Aid team of any UK legal business, and our offer in this area is strengthened by our expert colleagues across Europe. In all, our team has over 50 years' experience advising upon State Aid and public funding programmes.   

Our depth of experience sets us apart from other advisers. Our team has successfully advised upon thousands of awards of public funding. Furthermore, members of our team have worked in the European Commission on State Aid cases and within Government ensuring compliance. As a result, we have a detailed understanding of the State Aid rules, but we also have insight into how decisions are made.  

We are at the forefront of this area of law, as demonstrated by two members of our team having recently been invited to be expert witnesses at the House of Lords Select Committee meetings and regularly speaking at international State aid law experts' conferences.  

Independent directories corroborate our position in the market. For example, Jonathan Branton has been described in the Chambers & Partners as a "star player in State Aid" is a member of the UK Legal 500 (Hall of Fame), in recognition not only of his expertise but also his customer service. 

 
State Aid experience

Our team has over 50 years' cumulative experience of advising upon many public funding streams, including ERDF, ESF, RGF, eRGF, Local Growth Fund, Future High Streets Fund, Stronger Towns Fund, Innovate UK and UKRI, H2020, the Growing Places Fund, Coastal Communities Fund, various National Lottery funds, and many others. The team is therefore equipped to provide advice on the full range of State Aid issues which may arise. This includes advising on structures to benefit from relevant State Aid exemptions, providing written State Aid opinions, drafting guidance, providing training, putting in place processes to ensure compliance, notifying projects for clearance from the European Commission and defending projects from investigations and challenges, including in front of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors. Many of these matters involve large, high-profile projects with considerable public investment, resulting in a high risk of challenge.  What sets us apart is our genuine niche expertise in this area, which enables us to support our clients in structuring state intervention with minimal distortion and a strong success rate in finding the right solution to complete the project. 

We’re trusted by clients to find the right solutions to make projects happen. Our approach is grounded in experience, deep knowledge of this complex area of law, economic and financial awareness and a practical, ‘can do’ style. We aim to find practical ways to deliver your objectives within the law. Not only do we have a detailed understanding of State Aid law, relevant regulations and case law, but we also understand the ways in which the law is developing and areas of concern for the regulator, in this case DG Competition. Therefore, we are able to minimise risk and avoid undue delays for our clients. To do this we aim to understand our client’s objectives and pressures so that our talented, international team of legal experts can recommend and deliver a decisive, sustainable approach that stands up to scrutiny. 

Our public sector clients include over 100 local authorities, education and healthcare providers, Local Enterprise Partnerships and many central government agencies. We also act for private businesses from multi-nationals to SMEs and charities seeking public financial assistance, and businesses concerned that competitors may have received illegal State Aid.

Examples of State Aid projects that we have advised upon include:
  • advising a range of public authorities on the delivery of several significant public sector funds and multiple interventions across a range of projects utilising different exemptions;
  • advising a number of public authorities and private parties on emergency COVID-19 relief schemes and other interventions;
  • advising many developers and public authorities on a wide range of support measures and interventions for real estate development and urban regeneration, including related public infrastructure (especially transport, energy and telecoms), offices, industrial units and housing;
  • advising on public investments in a variety of assets and undertakings, often in compliance with the so-called market economy investor principle (MEIP);
  • advising a series of large industrial manufacturers in sectors such as automotive, aerospace, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and food and drink processing on investment projects and securing relevant grants and through suitable exemptions;
  • advising a wide range of higher education institutes and research organisations on receipt of public funding for a variety of R&D projects including collaborations with industry;
  • advising various ports and airports on major investments in infrastructure and securing relevant public funding support; 
  • advising on a variety of green energy and other environmental aid based projects including a number of land remediation, green energy production and distribution, district heating and other projects. Advice has included notifying projects and securing clearance from the European Commission and dealing with the interaction of investment and operating aid;
  • advising on a wide variety of risk finance schemes and investments through a variety of funds such as the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and the Midlands Engine Investment Fund;
  • advising upon the compliant funding of major sporting grounds and indoor arenas and museums and other large entertainment venues and visitor attractions;
  • designing audit programmes and verification of State Aid compliance against a range of funds and scenarios;
  • advising and drafting all forms of grant funding agreements and template clauses for different types of State Aid exemptions and exclusions across a variety of funds; 
  • appearing in front of the European Court of Auditors on behalf of the UK and successfully overturning findings of unlawful State Aid;
  • delivering State Aid training to Government Departments in the UK, Ireland and Lithuania; and
  • successfully notifying and clearing with the European Commission several projects, as well as defending a series of projects upon investigation by the European Commission. 
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