The applied research within the ESPON 2013 Programme aims at improving facts and evidence on European territorial structures, trends, perspectives and policy impacts. A particular focus is given to territorial potentials and challenges for a successful development of regions and cities of Europe. In addition, the understanding of different types of regions and territories is given priority.

Cross thematic applied research is a major activity integrating existing thematic analysis and analysis of new themes. A territorial approach is applied in these projects integrating relevant sectors accordingly. The applied research themes chosen deal with socio-economic as well as ecological issues that are always addressed in a territorial context, providing a European wide coverage of comparative information on regions and cities.

The applied research also takes up territorial phenomena, such as urban structures, potential accessibility and urban sprawl, in order to enrich policy development with further elements relevant for territorial development and cohesion. 

The impact of EU policies is another area of applied research within ESPON. Projects will support policy makers with information on impacts of concrete EU sector policies as well as tools for the ex-ante assessment of impacts of policy initiatives, in strategy documents and in EU Directives.

The applied research actions are supported by a Knowledge Support System that plays the role of ensuring the scientific quality of the applied research. A pool of experts from all over Europe provides the basis for selecting experts for Sounding Boards following the projects throughout their lifetime and assessing the final research results.