Sömmerda is a middle-sized German town, 25 kilometers away from Erfurt, the capital of the Free State of Thuringia. Both towns are well connected to each other by public transport and to international train lines. What makes them rather special is that also journeys to their surrounding rural areas have turned into a smoother ride recently. The regional bus and train network could be improved and became more attractive thanks to brand-new mobility services, such as demand-driven transport supported by volunteers and better coordinated timetables between transport modes.
The first step towards these improvements dates back a few years and is linked to Interreg. In 2018, our SubNodes project started to develop and test the idea of turning medium-sized cities like Sömmerda, which are located in the vicinity of main rail transport nodes like Erfurt, into so-called "secondary nodes" (or "sub-nodes"). If successfully implemented, this approach helps smaller towns to fit better into the hierarchical transport system.
In the piloting phase in 2019, the project partners tested the feasibility of various mobility services, including an "Integral Synchronized Timetable" in Sömmerda to improve connections between busses and trains. Watch the stop-motion video "The forgotten Grandma", which was prepared by the SubNodes project in cooperation with students, to get to know the possibilities of integrated timetables for all of us.
The findings of the various pilots were taken onboard by local authorities of the participating regions and cities and resulted in the adaptation of the regional traffic concepts. Today, a German-funded follow-up project, SÖM-InTakt, builds on the lessons learnt in the SubNodes project and takes especially the coordination of interval timetables to the next level.
Learn more about SubNodes project activities and results at
Did you know that beech forests grow exclusively in Europe? Worrying news is though that human intervention has dramatically reduced its coverage. To help protect these ancient and primeval forests, UNESCO recognises some of them as Natural World Heritage and to ensure an effective protection of such a complex site, strong cooperation is needed.
Our BEECHPOWER project harmonises management and conservation measures across the various forest sites and regions in cooperation with local communities. The project prepares ground for a strong collaboration between local actors beyond borders and creates strategies and action plans that ultimately make our beech forests fit for future, with a special focus on involving the young generation.
Conflicting practices such as agriculture, tourism, infrastructure development, or hunting and fishing are considered when designing new protection guidelines and tools. Municipalities, in cooperation with authorities in charge of forest management and local schools and universities, organise participatory workshops. In these they inspire local communities to take actions in favour of their neighborhood. For example, in Angermünde in Germany, project partners designed opportunities for children and students to better enjoy their time in the forests. Activities now include "Kreativwald" walks through the forests that are led by artists and in which children get to know the natural beech heritage and create fascinating handiworks.
By protecting beech forests in cooperation with local communities, the project secures a more sustainable future for those living near these forests. Local communities ultimately benefit from fertile soil, pure water or fresh air. Moreover, the ecosystem functionality of beech forests is helped by a so-called "Common code of best practice for World Heritage beech forest management", which was developed by the project. This code collects knowledge and best practices of successful beech forest management from various locations across Europe and makes this information easily accessible for all interested parties.
Learn more about how BEECHPOWER supports the protection of European beech forests, local communities and our healthier future at beechpower.eu
Conflicts, crises, wars - all this is still happening in the 21st century. It is very worrying, currently even more so due to an imminent conflict at the EU's doorstep. Each crisis creates a new wave of people fleeing their country, who become migrants or refugees literally overnight. The final destination of their escape might vary; however, many rural regions of central Europe are affected and have become migration destinations for both regular and irregular migrants.
Unfortunately, due to prejudice and missing intercultural experience, many people still see increased immigration as a threat to their home regions. The new opportunities that migrants offer to rural regions are often downplayed, even if these people can significantly help to counterbalance the negative developments of demographic change and provide local economies with fresh impulses.
Our Arrival Regions project has piloted innovative approaches to support the integration of non-EU nationals in 2021. In nine pilot actions in rural areas in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia they have supported young migrants and helped create a better migrant welcoming culture.
A majority of these regions had neither long-lasting experience with managing the arrivals of international migrants, nor developed ethnic networks that can provide informal support. The lessons learned collected in this project, the shared know-how and the people trained are today helping administrations to provide targeted legal advice and support to different groups of migrants.
The approach tested in the Polish pilot in 2021, for example, focused on Ukrainian migrants with a permanent or seasonal work contract in Lodzskie region. Their professions usually do not require higher qualifications (which a lot of them have nevertheless) and a majority of the migrants face difficulties in adapting to life in Poland. Thanks to cooperation among the project partners, even small local administrations could prepare better to consult and guide the migrants.
Who remembers our first film "Central Europe Tour Listening to citizens"?— Interreg CE (@InterregCE) August 11, 2022
Some statements are timeless
> We forget what Europe was before & how we can change it. Yet, we can´t change it without our citizens! <@JerzyBuzek
Produced in 2010, watch here https://t.co/eOrPFBwfY1 pic.twitter.com/TmPwNgNela
Social distancing, lockdowns and many other personal restrictions. These consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on young people's lives and the way they can enjoy the nightlife. The youth living in rural areas seem to be affected even harder. With places, like pubs and clubs closed, and due to minimal public transport connections to the nearest cities, chances to meet close friends on a usual Friday/Saturday night out dropped steeply.
The YOUMOBIL project partners embraced the challenge. Together with local youth in rural areas they explored the potential of expanding existing public transport services. They started piloting experimental paths that regions and cities can take to make public transport more attractive for young people, thus offering them an alternative to using private cars.
So, what do they have in store to save the weekends out of youngsters? In Modena, Italy, a new public transport service started in December 2021. It connects the city outskirts to the centre and to the railway transport network, exclusively on Friday and Saturday evenings. This line runs as a scheduled taxi service that you can book through a new YOUMOBIL app.
The development of an app was also the focus of project partners from Saxony-Anhalt and South Moravia. They updated an existing app in Germany to create a 'sister application' of a travel planner targeted at young people. The app design and functionalities helped to make mobility services more accessible by involving young people in the development process. Targeting the same group of final users, YOUMOBIL in various places could benefit from an exchange of experiences to explore the potentials of mobile devices for demand-driven transport options.
The project collected also valuable experiences on how to involve local youth and young artists in process of revitalizing rail infrastructure. Have a look at the new "design train" in Croatia or follow young people's experiences with a summer school, in which they contributed to rail revitalization plans. In Mazovia, Poland the "Young Traveller" loyalty program saved young people money on travelling by train.
There is much more that regions and cities can do to create a better mobility for young people that helps stopping young people from swapping the countryside for a city life. Get inspired by the YOUMOBIL activities beyond borders, check their website and their social media channels for more information.
What does it take to have better transport connections across Europe for passengers and freight? The EU believes that cooperation is central and has appointed coordinators to drive forward the development of strategic corridors of the European transport network together with local stakeholders.
Take for example the rail corridor that connects the Adriatic and the Baltic Sea. Currently, freight might get stuck on its track when trains have to cross a country border. Our CORCAP project intends to change this situation. The project partners developed a platform for central European transport stakeholders to address key barriers in order to revisit existing strategies and instruments in the field of transport and logistics, regional development and spatial planning. Thanks to their engagement, relevant transport actors could join forces and define new strategies for embedding the corridor to regional and spatial planning - always having in mind a boost for sustainable freight transport.
A CORCAP workshop in Hungary offered a glimpse into the future of rail freight transport, when the project brought together representatives of the EU Commission, relevant ministries, and stakeholders from the railway sector from several EU countries on a train ride. Their meeting space, i.e. two passenger rail coaches, was attached to a freight train of impressive length. Its total length of 740m was chosen on purpose to demonstrate the maximum potential of future freight transport on TEN-T corridors in Europe. While this demonstration train was a one-time action piloted by the CORCAP project, the experiences gathered on this ride will provide experts with crucial insights they need to make better sustainable transport a reality.
Learn more about the CORCAP project achievements, pilots, capitalisation strategies and logistic concepts that drive central European transport towards a greener future.
Pedro Apollos arrived to Parma in Italy as an asylum seeker from Nigeria in 2012. He was supported by the Centre for Immigration, Asylum and International Cooperation (CIAC), which helped him to obtain refugee status and to find work and housing. But not all refugees have such a happy-ending story to share.
Stricter national laws often make it harder today to integrate asylum seekers. In 2019, the CIAC launched a new project to provide them with a safe place: The “Wonderful World House”. Since then, the house in Parma grew into a best practice of social innovation for refugees in Italy and beyond.
The house relies much on volunteering and bottom-up cooperation. Initially, it was opened without institutional support but thanks to the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project SIforREF, cooperation with city authorities is now gradually improving and intensifying. This new cooperation brings the "Wonderful World House" public recognition and results in additional training for refugees and investment in the house.
Today, the house accommodates up to 15 people that are supported by about 30 volunteers. Pedro Apollos himself is the manager of the house and at the same time he is studying Educational Science and works for the CIAC. Watch the full story of the house here.
The success of the "Wonderful World House" shows how important cooperation between public and private organisations is for better living conditions of a marginalised group of people in central Europe.
Public transport companies have been having a tough time recently, with many of us avoiding buses, trams and subways because of the current pandemic. It will take some time and new measures for ridership to be restored but we should not be shortsighted and look at the bigger picture. More than 63% of commuters in central Europe are using public transport. Measures to increase the energy efficiency and share of renewables in public transport infrastructure can thus have a particularly high impact on reducing CO2.
12 partners, including seven public transport companies are working together to explore this untapped potential in our project EfficienCE. This cooperation is already reaping its benefits, and out of four pilots, two were implemented despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Vienna, Wiener Linien – the city’s public transport provider, together with Wien Energy launched a very unique pilot: 360 square metres of solar power special photovoltaic films were installed on the flat roof at Ottakring underground station. As early indications showed, as much as 50% of the station’s power was generated from this solar energy in peak hours.
In Pilsen, a series of tests of a battery buffer storage station was launched. The storage station, which fits the dimensions of a small shipping container, has no power supply from an electricity provider. It is solely connected to the trolleybus overhead wires from which it is continuously charged. The electricity thus generated can be quickly supplied back to the trolleybuses. This way places with insufficient power supply could easily be taken care of.
It is good to see that also in these challenging times cooperation remains central for public transport providers and authorities in central Europe to get ready for our post-pandemic future.
The current pandemic has not only severely impacted our healthcare systems. It is also affecting our society and economy. According to the World Bank, the economic damage represents the largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades.
But as the saying goes, there is something good in everything bad, and this pandemic could be an opportunity for us to learn to value things more, to give them a second chance. Every year, we throw away goods worth millions of Euros simply because we can afford it. Even if they could be easily repaired or reused.
Partners in our project SURFACE recognised that extending the product lifecycle is key to a circular economy in central Europe and beyond. They have created a network of Smart Re-Use Parks, which offer reuse-oriented services in a modular way in urban areas. But why are they smart? Because each park combines different, unique services that best respond to the local urban waste prevention goals. Be it reuse-collection points and shops, repair cafes, repair and upcycling workshops, rental services, swapping platforms or educational labs.
In Vicenza for example, when due to COVID-19 restrictions people spent a lot of time at home with their families, the project organised a challenge called "Losing Weight" in waste produced at home. The challenge gained a lot of interest and helped to sensitize people to the waste they produce in their homes.
In Austria, they ran a series of online webinars on reuse possibilities in Tyrol and at home with DIY tips on how to reuse or repair old clothes, furniture, books or bicycles. They even involved ran a Tik-Tok Challenge with an influencer.
If you are interested in setting up a Smart Re-Use Park in your region, or maybe just want to learn how to repair your bicycle, get in touch with a SURFACE project partner close to you and check out the services that they offer.
Addressing the poor energy performance of public buildings is at the core of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. Financially this is causing some concern in central European regions as the directive requires that all new public buildings have to comply with nearly zero energy standards (nZEB). Such renovations simply require significant investments.
Local municipalities often struggle to find budget for these renovations and returns on these take years to realise. Combining public with private funds offers a way out, but good practices across Europe are mostly limited to large-scale projects. So how could a small municipality raise funds to renovate their cultural centre or school?
Partners in our eCentral project tested various innovative financing options, which would allow municipalities to combine their funds with those of private investors on a much smaller scale.
So, if you work for a municipality and want to bring back life to some of your local buildings, but do not know where to start, the eCentral tool is made for you. It helps you to analyse data from collected energy performance certificates and provides you with combinations of cost-optimal measures for reaching the nZEB requirements.
In Croatia for example, partners carried out an analysis for two primary schools in Zagreb County (Stupnik municipality) and Krapina-Zagorje County (Marija Bistrica), which resulted in a potential investment of up to 7 million EUR. Once realised, these schools can be renovated and continue serving their community without any future worries about heating or electricity costs.
Learn more about the nZEB approach as a cost-effective solution for the renovation and construction of public buildings.
Town twinning started after the Second World War. The idea was simple: to reconcile relationships ruined by war. The coming together of communities helped create a peaceful post-war Europe. But are twin towns still relationship-builders?
Although Szombathely (HU) and Oberwart (AT) maintain a twin-town relationship and are only 40 kilometres apart, it is nearly impossible to travel from one to the other with public transport. Google maps suggests that it is easier and faster to travel this distance by foot. In a recent debate in Hungarian Parliament, László Palkovics, Minister of Innovation and Technology, pointed out that solutions for improving public transport have already been explored. He quoted CONNECT2CE as a good example. So what did they do?
For example they introduced Microtransit, a transport planner without fixed timetables that focuses on customer needs. Microtransit improved connectivity across the border by significantly reducing transit times between Austrian and Hungarian trains. CONNECT2CE also helped prepare a new scheduled bus service between Szombathely and Oberwart. It will soon start running and bring the neighbours closer together.
Learn more about how to improve regional and cross-border railway and public transport connections by involving micro public transport.
Central Europe is a cultural melting pot driven by centuries of migration. When new people arrive in our regions and cities they often inspire us with their traditions, handicrafts, flavours and experiences. Think about it for a moment: A piece of furniture, jewelry, a dress or some food that you recently bought in a shop might well have been crafted by migrants. However, they often face barriers when trying to get their businesses off the ground.
Our SEE ME IN project is helping them to realise their potential more smoothly. The project partners support migrants and assist public authorities to provide practical tools that help their businesses to be successful . A modular platform developed by the project offers general support, marketing and communication tools, as well as management training for migrant entrepreneurs. It is now accessible online for all.
But the project went beyond this. To highlight the creative achievements of migrant entrepreneurs that work as designers, artists and artisans, the project also came up with another excellent idea: They organised a special pop-up market at the Milan Design Week.
As in every year, thousands of designers, buyers, and enterprises gathered in Milan in September 2021 to present and trade their products and to inspire one another. Thanks to SEE ME IN, they were joined this year by a group of migrant entrepreneurs: The energy, warmth and pulsating spirit of African music, and the products of Peruvian and Serbian creatives filled the Isola Design District. Visitors could discover their creations and designs and discuss with migrant entrepreneurs directly their success stories as well as drawbacks and challenges of starting their business.
One company that was in Milan was [p3]-Werkstatt, a carpentry from Freiburg in Germany. They do not just design innovative and sustainable products but train people with migrant or refugee backgrounds to be fit for vocational training. Their product that travelled to Milan was a wooden mobile kitchen for "cooking on the go", which at the same time serves as a socio-educational toolbox. Watch their testimonial here.
Find out more about this cooperative approach that allows metropolitan cities to better support a new generation of talented entrepreneurs.
No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it. This perfectly applies to the Carpathian Mountains and their protected areas. They host a unique variety of plants and animals, provide important services for local communities, and safeguard outstanding natural values. However, on the other hand, they face biodiversity loss and other different risks like tourism pressure, habitat fragmentation, over-harvesting and inappropriate natural resource utilisation. Traditional approaches to resource management and nature conservation do not guarantee the long-lasting benefits.
The Centralparks project partnership brings together research institutions, national and regional parks, state nature conservancies, NGOs and education centres from seven central European countries to develop suitable solutions for protection and sustainable management of the Carpathians. Their innovative transnational approach reconciles both biological and landscape conservation policies as well as measures for local socio-economic development. Their tools, methods, supporting policy documents and strategies are adapted to the conditions of the Carpathians. They will be useful for the management planning of protected areas and enhance mutual collaboration and communication. All relevant stakeholders of protected areas are involved in the process of developing, testing and implementing such new tools.
For example, in Poland, the administrations of Magurski and Pieniny national parks and local authorities of surrounding municipalities develop local sustainable tourism and ensure eco-connectivity and landscape protection together. A series of workshops and joint activities are planned to test the effectiveness of developed tools on the ground. Centralparks has established five "Thematic Transnational Task Forces", consisting of key experts of biodiversity conservation, sustainable tourism development and protected area management of almost all Carpathian countries. Working together has not only enabled professionals from different regions to learn from each other, but opened up new possibilities for cooperation beyond borders uniting the responses to the challenges of all Carpathian countries.
Carpathians need a strong voice when it comes to nature conservation. Learn more how Centralparks connects all the dots along the way and breathes fresh air into the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas.
Imagine a historical centre of a random central European city. You will probably picture a main street with a church, town hall and number of buildings from different ages. They all have co-existed here for centuries and went through a series of transformation, conservation, and renewal processes. However, their energy consumption is still a huge financial and environmental burden.
The STORE4HUC project explores potentials for improving the energy efficiency of buildings located in historic urban centres. In such cities, strict architectural protection rules and town planning policies present a serious challenge for local energy planning. The project improves and enriches related strategies by integrating suitable energy storage systems and by looking out for innovative and modern solutions that take energy efficiency forward.
For example, their pilot installation in Weiz, Austria not only upgrades the existing district heating system based on biomass with a modern thermal storage water tank of 38.000 litres, but enlarges also the network of its local users so that it now connects a huge area around the Weizberg Basilica. The construction works had to respect this monument and landscape protection rules. The size of this implementation for increasing energy efficiency at a historic site has a great potential to be replicated elsewhere. The storage system is moreover a smart one: It allows for real-time communication between the central storage and customer storage units, thus helping to tailor the consumption to customer needs and saving even more energy.
The project combined Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE funding with other national and local subsidies, which ultimately led to savings of 33 tons of annual CO2 emissions across central Europe and helped with greening the heating systems in participating regions based on local biomass energy sources.
Besides solutions for better local energy planning strategies, the STORE4HUC project has also come up with a tool for citizens that personally want to be more energy self-sufficient: The new Autarky Rate Tool allows every household to measure their degree of self-sufficiency with just a few clicks and to evaluate the technical, economic and ecological effects of their chosen system configuration. Find out more about this and other project solutions made for you on their website.
What would you do if your daughter got diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder? Where would you seek help and advice if you had to leave your safe job to take care of her?
When Marek was faced with this situation, he found that he had no one to turn to. He still managed somehow. He quit his IT job and became a social entrepreneur. Today, Marek and his company help disadvantaged people in life-changing situations to find a new job or start a business themselves. He also became a source of inspiration in the Social Innovation Academy of the Social(i)Makers project.
This new academy builds on experiences of people like Marek from across central Europe. In an open online course it teaches how to become a social start upper. The online forum of the Academy already connects more than 2.500 students that have enrolled from all over the world. They are there to exchange and offer mutual advice on a broad range of social business ideas, such as an association that will help children and their families spend more time together.
The transnational project is backed by 13 partners located in various central European regions. They are now piloting some of the academy ideas in a real regional market situation. The most successful ones will later be awarded with the 'Be Social, Be Maker' prize of the project.
Learn more about the Social Innovation Academy here and find out why transnational cooperation makes social entrepreneurs more successful.
museums for all
Museums and their exhibitions are there for everyone to enjoy. But too often reality is different: Barriers prevent disabled people from accessing them. Our COME-IN! project embraced the challenge and helps museums in central Europe and beyond to become more accessible.
The project created the COME-IN! Label and awards it world-wide to museums that are accessible to disabled people. To receive the label, museums have to comply with a set of standards that were carefully defined by the project partnership.
First evaluations show that early adopters of the label are profiting from the reduction of barriers. The Archeological Museum in Pula, Croatia, prepared the exhibition "Prehistory in our hands - Prapovijest u rukama" and won an award for the best exhibition of the year in Croatia in 2018. Making archeological content more accessible for people with disabilities has ensured constant recognition by local authorities until today.
The Arbeitsmuseum Steyer, an Austrian museum involved in developing the label guidelines, received the National Austrian Museum award in October 2019. One of the reasons was "the effort making exhibitions inclusive and becoming a leading role-model for small and medium sized museums in terms of accessibility."
The Maritime museum of Piran, Slovenia, allows you to experience its barrier-free exhibition from where ever you are. Natalie will guide you through its rooms in a wheel chair.
All these examples show that #cooperationiscentral for listening to the needs of people with disabilities and for acting on their behalf. Check the COME-IN! guidelines and handbooks, which facilitate our path to full accessibility.
If realising a business idea in a city is hard, think how much harder it can be in a remote village, where the lack of support structures makes it sometimes impossible to become an entrepreneur without moving away.
Our CERUSI project is going the extra mile to change this situation: With their innovative approach of "Rural Social Innovation Labs Caravans", they take their support to the people. They literally harvest the challenges from the local communities and support them in further developing their ideas and solutions. Partners from seven central European countries led by the Austrian Centre for Social Innovation, cooperate together with local action groups, regional development and business support organisations, NGOs and local communities, to create an environment where potentials can thrive.
With the caravans, citizens get an opportunity to discuss entrepreneurial challenges of their communities and their existing business ideas directly in their hometowns. They can also participate in "Rural Social Innovation Labs" to work on their ideas and find solutions with the support of experts, or connect with possible business partners, sponsors, and donors. This innovative support framework enables partnerships between local actors that are interested in bringing their region forward and in exchanging experiences to make their dream ideas come true.
But this is not all: Along with the caravan labs, CERUSI offers also a digital "Rural Social Innovation Academy" that gives additional guidance on how to develop a business idea in a socially innovative way. In less than a year it already attracted 547 participants, including Maike from Kriebitzsch, Germany. Maike plans to give a new life to the former "Konsum" of her home town, which was a grocery shop in East German times but has been abandoned for thirty years. After participating in the CERUSI caravans labs and academy, her plan to build a “Kreativkonsum”, which is not only a grocery shop but also a space for social and creative activities with the local community, is now taking shape. To find financing for her idea, she kicked off the fundraising campaign „Hast du mal nen Euro“ ("Do you have some change“) with support from experts and already raised nearly 3000 Euro.
Read more about how CERUSI empowers people in rural regions to become social entrepreneurs.
Companies in business sectors such as "Advanced Manufacturing" (AVM) depend on innovation to stay competitive, but opportunities to work and grow together with creative and cultural industries (CCI) are little. A big obstacle to initiate cooperation on innovation is often the fact that the creative "right brainers" (CCI) and the fact-focused "left brainers" (AVM) simply speak two different business languages.
But what if the answer to bring these two worlds together came from... physics? The “Cooperation Colliders” developed by the COCO4CCI project build a bridge between the CCI and AVM worlds through joint transnational awareness raising, training, and matchmaking activities. Just like a collider in physics, which brings opposing particle beams together, the COCO4CCI cooperation collider turns opposite business mindsets from an obstacle into an opportunity, where both sectors can make the most of their potentials in cooperation.
This new support service was made possible by the cooperation between development agencies, universities, business support organisations, innovation centres from six central European countries, led by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia. They were all driven by the common goal of fostering creativity and innovation in their regions. By today, their cooperation has already resulted in the establishment of 14 collaboration agreements between creatives and advanced manufacturers, and six more are currently being negotiated.
One of these collaboration projects was initiated in Slovenia where the SME Hovercraft d.o.o. needed creative support to further develop a new product: an inflatable landing pad for helicopters to facilitate rescue at sea. Thanks to the COCO4CCI cooperation collider, they were matched with J&J Desing, a CCI able to provide input for designing the product. They soon were able to take their collaboration to the next level: Together they won financial support from the Interreg Italy-Slovenia DIVA project, which will allow them to start prototyping in early 2022.
Learn more about how the COCO4CCI cooperation colliders help to expand the business horizon of businesses in central Europe.
Just imagine: You are sitting at home and evening is approaching. A gulf of fresh air comes in from the open window and you start feeling chilly. You switch on the heating, but the familiar sound of your little gas boiler is simply not there. You wonder why and realise that there is no gas boiler anymore! Thanks to the ENTRAIN project!
In central Europe we still burn many fossil fuels and do too little to take the use of renewables forward, despite the existence of ready solutions, like revamping district heating networks to be powered by renewables. However, such approaches often lack the support of effective policies or investments. ENTRAIN’s challenge at the start of the project was therefore to find ways to help the adoption of centralised renewable district heating networks. The use of renewable district heating systems started in Northern Europe: In Denmark, for example, the use of large solar thermal plants to supply district heating networks with clean and cheap energy began already at the end of the 1980s and then spread to central Europe, especially Austria and Germany. ENTRAIN builds on these experiences and collects available knowledge to help heating plants operate on quality standards and to assure economic and environmental sustainability.
In one of the ENTRAIN pilot regions, Neckar-Alb (Baden-Württemberg) the strategy adopted by ENTRAIN is user-oriented: Great steps forward are being made in involving citizens in the full renovation of the village of Pfronstetten. A different approach is taken in Friuli Venezia Giulia, where the project supports local administrations to link public incentives for biomass district heating to a quality management system.
Cooperation is central for all these activities. The transnational knowledge exchange helps to define challenges more concretely and to find the right tools to solve them. Smaller, quality-focused district heating would otherwise still be a faraway dream. In the past three years of cooperation, ENTRAIN has carried out 25 training sessions, 9 pilot local district heating networks. The project partners also developed 5 local action plans and they are now close to achieving them all. They also expect that after the project ends in 2022, the pilot regions will further benefit and learn from the best practices initiated within ENTRAIN, the local economy will grow and the towns will learn to be more resilient.
This way the first image will come true thanks to ENTRAIN: You will hopefully soon be able to close the window and heat your living room thanks to a small, centralised district heating system that runs on solar energy or on waste heat produced from the local industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted transnational supply chain flows in Europe. National lockdowns and border closures resulted in a complete stop or disruption of movement of goods.
While the pandemic is not yet going anywhere, it seems that the freight sector has got its wheels in motion again. At the same time, multimodal freight options such as railways or waterways are making their way to the frontline.
The total volume of freight moved by rail in central Europe has been decreasing significantly over the past few decades, but the pandemic in a way forced us to rethink the whole supply chain system, creating an unexpected opportunity for reversing this negative trend and moving rail transport back into the focus.
Our project REIF has supported this shift, it has identified bottlenecks in selected regions and developed solutions to increase the share of multimodal freight transport. The project partners strongly believe that access to the rail system and European freight corridors must be first improved regionally for achieving a higher share on the European level overall.
The project's pilot action in Thuringia for example helps to reactivate important sections of the Ohrathal railway, to which many companies from the city of Ohrdruf still have direct rail access, but rarely use it. Rethinking and re-using old transport routes innovatively can lead to a more sustainable rail network, connecting central Europe regions to those important freight corridors.
Learn more about how the REIF project partners promote the expansion of regional rail networks and the revitalisation of dis-used tracks together with technical innovation for tomorrow's freight transport.
Do you remember the film Rain Man? Dustin Hoffman won a second Oscar and helped people with disabilities to become more visible worldwide.
Our Interreg RAINMAN project also wants to change perception and increase visibility of a topic that affects us all: Heavy rainfalls. These can hit any location with only very short warning time. But why are these extreme environmental risks so unpredictable?
With a growing population, we build more grey infrastructure ever faster and expose our living space to environmental risks. As we experience the negative effects of climate change, problems become even more pronounced such as heavy rain events that cause floods, which occur very quickly and more often. Unlike river floods, the risk calculation and mapping methods for these so-called pluvial floods are still underdeveloped.
The RAINMAN project pioneered mapping activities and connected experts from the meteorological-hydrological sector with practitioners from municipalities located in high risk areas of central Europe. As a result, the project could develop measures to reduce risks in these hotspots and to improve the our response to such emergencies. The partnership has conducted 33 trainings and worked hand-in-hand with the stakeholders in 23 pilot locations.
Beyond recommendations and measures for experts or municipalities the RAINMAN Toolbox is a place where anyone interested can find useful information on preventing big losses or damages.
Natural disasters are becoming more and more common in central Europe. They put people at risk but also our cultural heritage. While professional rescue teams are perfectly trained to save people, they often do not know yet how to protect heritage.
This is changing through cooperation in the ProteCHt2save project connecting public authorities, preservation experts, rescue teams beyond borders. Together they joined forces to find innovative solutions on how to mitigate the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on cultural heritage.
They have developed solutions for building resilience of cultural heritage to extreme events linked to climate change, like flood, drought or heavy rains. Regional and local authorities using their tools can be now better prepared to take effective measures and/or prepare evacuation plans in case of emergencies. A confirmation about how they hit the nail on the head with tools prepared is that their tools and strategies are taken up by others.
In Italy, the project has been recognised as a best practice implemented at local level for the areas of interest of the "National Plan of Adaptation to Climate Change" that is currently being developed. On the transnational level, their Web GIS tool for risk mapping that can support policy and decision makers in identification of risk areas and vulnerabilities for cultural heritage exposed to extreme events linked to climate change, is further developed by STRENCH project. On the European level, their achievements are looked at and further discussed by experts from ministries of culture and national cultural institutions in so called OMC working group.
Check their website for full list of tools that might help your institutions working in the field of strengthening cultural heritage resilience to climate change.
What do cement and olives have in common? Nothing at all you might say at first glance but the biggest cement production company in Croatia, Cemex, will prove you wrong.
Their olive grove is planted right next to their factories and the way Cemex makes use of that proximity demonstrates the power of circularity for waste reduction. Cemex not only processes its olives to oil, they also make use of the by-product, ie. olive mill pomace, in their cement production. This win-win solution for the company and the environment is the result of a change of mindset encouraged by the CIRCE2020 project. The partnership aims to sustainably change recycling patterns in companies - from sporadic recycling interventions to an integrated redesign of industrial interactions based on the concept of circular economy.
Project partners cooperate beyond borders to introduce an innovative waste governance model across company value chains. They also develop analytic tools to support the public-private waste sector and to reduce dependencies on primary natural resources. Their digital platform offers interested companies or public authorities market-ready tools and practices verified circular approaches.
In their pilot actions, CIRCE2020 partners demonstrate how to use organic by-products from olives or fish processing in other production processes. In addition to these bio-refinery pilot concepts in Croatia, they tested successfully landfill leachate, generation of biogas from municipal waste and PVC selection from plastic waste in Italy; production of bio-char from waste wood and energy recovery from mechanical waste treatment in Austria; improved recycling and production of new materials from single and multi-polymer waste in Poland; as well as production of granulates of tires residues and composite plastic waste into valuable products in Hungary.
Countries like Switzerland and Sweden are still topping the "Global Innovation Index". So, if you had to pick a country that hosts one of Europe's leading digital innovation hubs, you would most likely choose one of those, right?
Well, central European countries and regions are fast learners and cooperation beyond borders unlocks vast new opportunities. As a result, the Hungarian digitalisation laboratory “am-LAB” was awarded as the best digital innovation hub in Europe in January 2021. The hub is hosted by the regional development agency Pannon Business Network (PBN), a partner in the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE project 3DCentral.
But what is a digital innovation hub after all? This service is a relatively new puzzle piece for increasing regional competitiveness and economic growth. Digitalisation hubs act as one-stop-shops that help companies to improve their production processes, products or services through digital technologies.
The success of the "am-LAB" digitalisation hub is a concrete result of PBN's transnational cooperation in multiple Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects. The Hungarian institute could gradually improve its tangible services for hundreds of Hungarian SMEs through exchanges and knowledge transfer with similar organisations beyond borders, and with their expertise they have been supporting small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in their innovation management for more than 15 years now.
Building on the success story of digitalisation hubs overall, cross-border hub services are currently becoming the next hot topic which is further investigated in our projects CEUP2030 and S3HubsinCE. The PBN journey testifies that cooperation and know-how exchanges are taking European regions forward. You can read more on our thematic page about how our transnational funding makes central Europe more innovative and competitive.
Why do innovative ideas so often perish and not grow? One common reason are underdeveloped linkages between companies, industry, and research. Or to say it in the words of the author Steven Johnson: “If you look at history, innovation doesn't come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.”
Transnational cooperation connects people and institutions to better match innovations with real challenges. In the SYNERGY project this resulted in the Synergic Crowd Innovation Platform. When the pandemic disrupted our lives in early 2020, this online tool became even more relevant than before. In this virtual space, specific “challenge givers” can search for “solution givers” in the fields of Industry 4.0, additive manufacturing and micro-nano technologies.
In spring 2020, SYNERGY partners launched a COVID-19 pilot voucher scheme to encourage and support research on concrete challenges posed by the Coronavirus crisis. Public and private organisations affected by the pandemic published their needs as “challenge givers” to search for solutions and competences from the research and industry communities. The best proposals submitted then received a voucher from the SYNERGY project. It has since helped "solution givers" to further explore their approaches and to develop services, which might become the first step for greater innovations even beyond the current need.
“The SYNERGY team envisions crowd innovation as a valuable instrument in the fight against COVID-19. Now cooperation is more central than ever!” says SYNERGY project partner Janin Fauth from the the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Watch this short film about the SYNERGY pilot voucher scheme to find out why she is so convinced.
How a cancer diagnosis is disclosed to patients certainly affects their well-being after this crucial moment in their lives. The reaction of patients often is a combination of anger, despair and fear. There is no easy formula for passing on the message. All that can be said for sure is that it is essential for doctors to stay empathetic, calm and professional. They should be able to take sufficient time to break the bad news and discuss the treatment options.
However, in some central European countries there are pre-defined narrow times for such patient visits. And patient organisations, if they exist at all, often struggle to jump in and support the patients.
In Italy, the situation looks better. Patient organisations are open and enthusiastic about the well-being of patients and have many good practices to offer for their likes in other countries. Cooperation is central to learn from these good practices and to further improve health care beyond borders. It ultimately helps to empower patients and to offer them better services.
Learn more about how cooperation in our INTENT project ensures a more patient-centric health care approach in this interview with project leader, Mr Marek Svoboda.
Forests provide us with clean air, water and a range of raw materials. They are our “green lungs”. However, unlike animals, trees spend their entire lives in one place. They cannot move to better conditions when they are threatened by negative effects of climate change like droughts or parasites attacks.
"Forests without borders" is the motto of our SUSTREE project, which aims for a better coordinated management of forests and their adaptation to rapidly changing climate conditions. Forest organisations, research institutions and universities partnered up to assess climate change impacts and find common solutions. Together they developed analysis models and conducted local pilot studies, which confirmed that climate change puts local species of forest trees out of their optimal climatic range.
The partners also developed solutions for this environmental challenge. Their newly developed SUSTREE tool offers vulnerability maps for practical use in forestry and nature conservation. It helps forest managers to better monitor, predict and adapt local tree populations to climate change. The project also positively influenced policy-making, for example in the Czech Republic, where the Ministry of Agriculture was convinced to amend a national decree on forest management. This change will ultimately result in a new legal basis for easier cross-border transfer of reproductive materials such as forest tree seeds.
Cooperation between practitioners, policy makers and research is central for keeping our "green lungs" healthy and fit for future. With our funding, we make sure that no forest will be left alone in the fight against climate change. Watch the the SUSTREE documentary to find out more about forests without borders.
Many industrial processes generate heat as a byproduct. Unfortunately, this heat is more often wasted than used - despite its huge potential for reducing energy consumption.
So why is it not used? The main problem is that waste heat cannot travel too far and that technology for transferring it does not come cheap. Public and private partners from across central Europe worked together to improve this situation. They partnered up in our CE-HEAT project and developed a new methodology for better utilization of waste heat.
The consortium developed a joint waste heat cadastre where data of all partners is combined into one GIS map. But this platform was not only developed for the partner regions. The aim was always to attract energy supply and service companies, municipalities and policy makers to join and make use of it.
The University of Durham recently took up this opportunity and now the platform also includes waste heat map for the United Kingdom. This proves that the problem of waste heat does not stop at the borders and thanks to the cooperation in central Europe, many more organisations across Europe can benefit from ready-made solutions for shared problems.
Learn more about how CE-HEAT partners utilize industrial heat waste to make their regions more energy efficient.
In 2021 we will say goodbye for good to many single-use plastic product. Thanks to the EU strategy for plastics, the transition towards a circular plastic economy is on the way. The ambitious goal is to make all plastics packaging on the EU market reusable or easily recycled by 2030.
Packaging represents in fact quite a big challenge. Especially when it mixes paper and plastics, recycling becomes very difficult. The possibility of having biodegradable and compostable paper-plastics packaging sounds like the perfect solution and is yet so hard to come by… But is it really like this?
Our BIOCOMPACK-CE mobilised cooperation between research and businesses in the field of combined paper-bioplastics packaging to design completely biodegradable options. Together they created prototypes that you can throw entirely into the compost. In the Slovenian town of Bled, which is one of the most popular touristic destination in Slovenia, the attention on waste and recycling issues is very high. Local businesses and the tourism office already showed to be open to prioritising such sustainable packaging for selling the local delicacies, promoting a more sustainable tourism model.
Find out how the prototypes developed by BIOCOMPACK-CE supported Bled's search for perfect packaging in this video-story by Euronews. It also featured in their Smart Regions series.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the use of disposable textile medical equipment. More and more single-use face masks and surgical gloves end up in waste bins. This creates problems for municipalities because it changes their waste streams.
Some of them are trying to find answers beyond borders, for example in our ENTeR project. This project wants to prevent the depletion of non-renewable resources in the textile industry by increasing recycle and reuse approaches in medical textile waste management.
In pilot actions, the partners studied the nature of medical textile waste and are now testing innovative ways for biologically decontaminating waste, which in the end enables recycling and reuse processes.
Learn more about the ENTeR solutions for reducing waste in COVID-19 times.
Innovation not only means having a creative idea. It is also about quickly transforming the idea into a product. This often requires studies or tests for which smaller businesses (SMEs) lack in-house capacity. External research and technology organisations can offer the necessary technology or facility, but this comes with another challenge: It can easily happen that the right partner is based in a different country. Many SMEs struggle with getting in touch or even knowing about it.
The newly created KETGATE Network provides a way out of this dilemma. It offers the missing link between SMEs and providers of so-called Key Enabling Technologies (KET), which they need to take their innovations forward.
This was the case for LED Luks, a young Slovenian company that creates smart lighting systems. They had the idea for creating a slimmer and more efficient luminaire without reducing the quality of the light. But they could not run the tests by themselves. Through the KETGATE Network, they established a collaboration with the Austrian research centre Joanneum Research who could offer the missing knowledge. Within three months, Joanneum Research experts were able to design the new optical component and test it with their simulation software.
As a result, LED Luks will soon start producing a new luminaire that needs less plastic and aluminium, uses less energy and generates less waste.
Cooperation was central to develop this new lighting product, which is not only smarter but also greener.
What do Amsterdam and Prešov have in common? At first glance nothing at all. But both cities are demonstrating that it is possible to reduce the use of private cars in city centres by increasing the number of cyclists.
As Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, recently said, "The post-pandemic future will be a ‘Golden Age’ for cycling." And indeed, the way we are commuting is slowly changing. Cycling is becoming more and more popular, not just in the Netherlands.
In the eastern Slovakian town Prešov, it was never to be an easy journey to change commuting habits, full of obstacles both physical as well as emotional. Physical because a cycling path network had to be created from scratch. And emotional because commuters did not like the idea of taking a bicycle in the beginning.
Thanks to cooperation in our CentralMeetBike project this journey became a bit easier to manage. Even though the project finished already five years ago, cooperation among its partners continued. Ever since, Prešov shifted one gear up after another, and soon investments linked to the project resulted in eight new, state-of-the-art bike parking stations. Through an active engagement of citizens, the new stations are now available in locations that are most frequented and help commuters to safely park their bikes.
Learn more about how smart commuting solutions can make our cities smarter.
Hinterland is a German word meaning "the land behind". Peripheral, rural areas actually make up 88 percent of EU territory. These scarcely populated regions are often not just "the land behind", but also left behind. They all face similar challenges: limited public service budgets, high rates of out-migration, poor public transport connections and high levels of unsustainable and costly private car use.
This all can change, however, if these regions are better connected with near-by cities. Thanks to cooperation in our project Peripheral Access, residents in the small Austrian municipality of Hart bei Graz can now use a new multimodal “tim” node to get around and to reach the city of Graz. The node helps reduce the use of private cars by smartly connecting public transport modes, park&ride car parks, e-car sharing, on-demand taxis, and bicycle stands.
Until November 2019, “tim” (short for “täglich. intelligent. mobil”, which is German for “daily. intelligent. mobile.”) was only available in the city of Graz itself. Our project helped adapting the system and rolling it out to Graz's periphery in Hart as "Regio.tim".
As a result of this successful pilot, additional multimodal nodes will be built in nine other municipalities near Graz. This will allow locals to leave their hinterland behind them in a car-free and more sustainable way.
innovation and skills
Adding a service dimension to physical products has been perfected by big companies like Philips. They do not sell mere light bulbs anymore, they now offer comprehensive "lighting services".
Smaller companies like manufacturers often struggle in keeping up with this marketing shift. They often miss the skills and capacities to understand service needs behind purchase motivations of customers - and specific training is hardly available.
Richard Kappeller from Austria is one of those affected: His company produces hand-made knives with an international reputation. But selling more knives to new customers remains a challenge. His company struggles to understand what kind of products and services customers expect.
The new THINGS+ servitisation methodology offers a way out for Messermacher and his like. It includes concrete steps to grow business by transforming physical products into smart products with a higher appeal to service-oriented customers.
The methodology has recently won the interest of the renown certification company Bureau Veritas: Together with the project they launched a certification activity that will ultimately help transform the European manufacturing industry into a Smart Industry.
When developing the methodology, THINGS+ involved over 140 companies that wanted to adapt to new and changing markets. Today, their recommendations on service innovation schemes are taken on-board by regional innovation strategies in Veneto and Lodzkie region.
Learn more about the THINGS+ servitization methodology for small manufacturers.
Europe is one of the most light-polluted areas on our planet. Almost 60% of Europeans live in areas where the night sky is already so bright that the Milky Way is rendered permanently invisible, says the World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness.
In recent years, stricter policies have come into force that aim to reduce overall energy use. Partners in our CitiEnGov project help regions in central Europe to find solutions to use their energy resources more consciously in line with these new policies. They cooperate on low carbon energy planning and develop innovative strategies that can be easily adapted by other regions.
The project also tests new approaches in various pilot actions, for example in the Croatian city of Split. There, the local partner installed a state-of-the-art lighting system near Bacvice beach, one of the most visited areas of the city. This showcase of efficient road lighting ultimately sparked a major commitment from the local public administration: They decided to replace lighting systems on a much larger scale, with 17.000 new bulbs the future of Split will be for sure brighter.
Learn more about how CitiEnGov proves that doing more with less energy is possible thanks to cooperation.
The European chemical industry transports more than 1.5 billion tonnes of chemical products annually. This requires the strictest safety measures, because consequences of accidents are simply too great.
Shifting chemicals from road to safer means of transport can significantly decrease this risk and also help our environment. Often however, businesses associate this shift with increased costs and are not willing to make a change.
Our ChemMultimodal project proves that shifting chemical goods from road to combined multimodal transport is indeed a move in the right direction. In their pilot actions, the project managed to save more than 8448 tonnes of CO2; but more importantly they managed to change the attitude of more than 60 companies. Their managers now understand that safe and sustainable transport is critical to the future of the European chemical industry: "There is no European Green Deal without a strong European industry of the future," says Marco Mensink, Director General of The European Chemical Industry Council.
In cooperation with companies across central Europe, the ChemMultiModal project partners identified 45 transport routes, which offer huge potential for shifting to multimodal solutions. Their research prepares ground for an improved safety and a better environmental performance to come.
Learn more about how multimodal freight transport is becoming an economically competitive option to road transport.
The impact of the pandemic made borders in Europe visible again, sometimes even within the same country. One might think that consequently room for transnational cooperation among regions and cities has decreased.
Indeed, in compliance with various travel and contact restrictions, projects funded under the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Programme had to cancel many physical meetings and events, which usually facilitate the creation and communication of cooperation results. However, this did not stop them. They continue to work together efficiently for a stronger and more resilient central Europe. And in some cases, they have adapted their work plans and are now developing common solutions to help central European regions and cities cope better with the current emergency.
"Together we can solve a lot of common problems.
We can join forces to overcome our limits, in terms of coping with challenges which are not only faced by us but by different institutions abroad."
Monika Strojecka-Gevorgyan,Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE National Contact Point in Poland
Watch the full statement here.
If you associate a FabLab with just 3D printing, you have probably not yet been to one. Modern fabrication laboratories offer much more. They are spaces where everyone can create and invent something new. They became popular after demonstrating their benefits for the prosthetics industry, when they dramatically pushed down the costs of leg prosthesis.
Today, FabLabs also offer a more comprehensive support for innovative start-ups. The level of support could recently be elevated through a new network of FabLabs across several central European countries. The network was initiated by the FabLabNet project and now trains young entrepreneurs with fab-lab based products to go a step further with their businesses. Thanks to cooperation, the network’s mentoring and coaching schemes for start-ups are leading to more user-centered design, more balanced service offers and a better use of analytical tools. Rapitag, a start-up company from Germany that produces smart security tags for shops, used the mentoring scheme to further improve the usability of their app and their production processes.
Find out what FabLabs are about and why their new network is central for offering better services.
"30 years have passed since the Iron Curtain was demolished, but still its former line can be easily tracked on several maps...
... The challenge now is to abolish an invisible iron curtain. This can only be achieved through cooperation in central Europe."
Lilian Csintalan, Member of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Monitoring Committee
Watch the full statement here.
What connects the Chanforan Monument in Piemonte (IT), the Evangelical Church of Peace in Jawor (PL) and the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach (DE)? It is the new Route of Reformation, which was established in a transnational cooperation effort.
The three places played an important role in the reformation movement that, during the Middle Ages, represented a revolution in the Christian world. Thanks to the ECRR project partners, all these sites and many more are now part of one cultural route. It offers visitors a journey through the different stages of the reformation process, with unique characteristics in each territories.
The Council of Europe officially certified the new route in April 2019 as “an invitation to travel and to discover the rich and diverse heritage of Europe”. Thanks to this recognition and the founding of the Routes of Reformation Association by the ECRR partnership, the network will stay alive beyond the project end. It will support local tourism and preserve the common history and heritage of these places.
Explore the Routes of Reformation Platform and discover the legacy of reformation in central Europe.
Dippoldiswalde is a small German town near Dresden where a unique network of medieval silver mines was discovered in 2008. The mines have since become part of the UNESCO world heritage nomination of "Ore Mountain Mining Landscape". However, until now it was impossible to visit the mines. They extend over large parts of the city and have to remain filled up and sealed as a matter of public security.
This situation will soon change thanks to cooperation in the VirtualArch project. The transnational partnership digitilises, visualises and reproduces complex structures in 3D multimedia images and films in Dippoldiswalde and many other cultural sites in central Europe.
Experts from tourism, forestry, mining, flood management and agriculture are working together in this complex effort. As a result, regions will soon have new tools to show their hidden heritage to interested tourists and locals in a virtual augmented reality tour.
Watch here how visitors are already using virtual reality tools to explore hidden treasures of the UNESCO world heritage city Hallstatt in Austria.
"Slovenian people want to be Europeans but with our hearts and minds we are central Europeans as well. Central Europe is not just a territory, it is state of mind. "
Nadja Kobe, Member of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Monitoring Committee
Watch the full statement here.
Living in rural parts of central Europe has its perks including fresher air and a quieter life. But there are also problems, especially if you have no car. How do you then get to your job in a nearby city? Or how do you reach a doctor in the next village?
Public transport connections are often weak in rural areas. In Osterburg, the Ministry of Regional Development and Transport in Saxony-Anhalt recently launched a first so-called "citizen bus" to improve the situation. The new bus service is run by volunteers, who are often retired people that want to give back to the community in their spare time.
The service was introduced in February 2018 as a pilot action of our transnational RUMOBIL project. It covers eight different routes on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Upon request the service can also be used on weekends, taking local children to clubs and youth camps or sporting tournaments. Other regions across central Europe will be able to learn from the test, which was extended to a second community in May 2018.
In line with the slogan "Our bus for everything that is needed" both communities can now indeed get the most out of living in the countryside in an environmentally friendly way.
Learn more about the new bus service and other transnational activities that better connect our peripheral regions.
Do you also get to work by car and sometimes feel stressed about it? You are not alone: Studies show that only one in six employees like commuting by car, while walking and cycling are enjoyed much more.
To encourage employees to use more sustainable transport modes on short distances, many municipalities in central Europe already promote bike commuting. But what about walking? Until recently, there was no incentive scheme planned or even tested for those who prefer to walk.
This has changed thanks to cooperation in our MOVECIT project. Partners decided to set up a walking campaign: Along the line "Make a positive impact on our environment and your health", they invited municipal employees to participate in a transnational walking competition. It started during the European Mobility Week 2018 and went on for a month. Employees of the Austrian cities Baden, Leoben and Mödling participated and achieved an impressive result: 154 participants walked more than 21.000 kilometres in four weeks. Due to this success, the competition will now take place regularly across Austria.
Read more about how the three Austrian municipalities literally walked halfway around the world in one month. It's through such small but important steps, that MOVECIT partners are helping to change commuting patterns around central Europe.
Preserving or reviving old trades and crafts is important for tourism and offers economic perspectives to locals. Whether it is the revitalisation of old wine cellars in Hungary, floating mills in Slovenia, breweries in Poland, old boats in Italy or olive groves in Croatia, they are all essential cultural heritage that increases the local attractiveness of a place. And they all have a potential to become an income source for young people.
Nastja from Pomurje in Slovenia is such a young person. The 25-year old likes to travel and explore local handicrafts. Back at home she now plans to turn her hobby into a profession: "I always wanted to design my own plates and other dishes for my kitchen. Pottery is my hobby and I dream to make it the source of some extra money or even make it my future career."
After taking pottery courses to learn the technique from a local teacher and combining it with modern ways that she researched herself she is now getting closer to her aim. She even started to pass on her knowledge of this old trade to other youngsters in a summer school, which was organised for central European students by our YouInHerit project. She knows best how to attract students to pottery and how to motivate them when they are about to give up: "It is all about patience and the uniqueness of your personal piece of work."
Pottery is just one example of how young people can profit from keeping traditional crafts alive. In our YouInHerit project, partners from six central European regions are exploring innovative ways of how to turn traditional handicrafts into income sources for the young. Watch some of their activities here.
A NEW LIFE FOR BROWNFIELDS IN URBAN AREAS
Until recently, the Silesian town Ruda Śląska in Poland faced problems of environmental degradation and a lack of public green spaces. In the very heart of the city stood a large zinc polluted brownfield, with sharp crags of 2 to 3 meter height. The site exposed contaminated deposit, a real hazard for citizens' health.
In early 2019, a pilot investment by our LUMAT project helped the city to find a solution to these problems: The slope was flattened and the ground surface was covered with clay and clear soil layer. Finally, top of the spoil heap was treated with phytostabilisation.
Selected types of grass are now growing there, which absorb and contain the pollutants in their roots and create a natural barrier between the contaminated soil and the external environment. The former brownfield has now become a public park offering a game field, a view point, walking paths, and a sleigh track that can be safely enjoyed by everyone.
Thanks to cooperation and the exchange of knowledge among the partners, the area could be given back to the Ruda Śląska citizens and now represents the biggest site in Poland where phytostabilisation measures are adopted.
"In my opinion, we are now facing times of opportunism and centrifugal tendencies in the European Union and it is time for us to show our citizens that cooperation is very useful. It is critical not only to the European Union as such, but it is also crucial to our regions and macro-regions.
If we want to build a common European identity, we should do it through building regional or macro-regional identities. Such region is also the central Europe region. The cooperation is central, useful for building our European identities.
František Koločány, Slovak Member of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Monitoring Committee
Planning your journey from A to B the greener way sounds good, right? There is only one problem: Most route planning applications only take into account trains and public buses. But what about e-car sharing or bike sharing schemes? Or even funicular railways?
Partners in our SHAREPLACE project have collected data of mobility options in six central European regions and integrated these into regional mobility platforms.
Based on your start location and destination, the regional applications will now plan your route by taking into account all possible means of transport. And not only that. Soon you will be able to buy a ticket on a single platform and add interesting sightseeing stops to your journey.
60 users tried out a demo version of these integrated platforms during the "Salzburger Verkehrstage" and they explored the Fuschl-Mondsee region in autonomous buses, by shared cars and bikes and on a ferry.
Learn more about the SHAREPLACE living labs and how cooperation helped to better integrate diverse mobility services.
Kannabi is a Slovak start-up that offers a vegan milk alternative without additives, made primarily from canopy seeds, cashew nuts, vanilla, and coconut sugar. On top of great taste, Kannabi promises to boost your immune system, lower your cholesterol, as well as to beat those sugar cravings. With the support of our cooperation project CROWD-FUND-PORT, Kannabi ran a successful campaign on the crowdfunding platform HITHIT.
All in all, the project supports entrepreneurs in seven central European countries and helps them taking advantage of the crowdfunding phenomena.
Read the interview with Kannabi founder Marek Benda and find out how they prepared their crowdfunding campaign.
The attribute "nowy" (new) in the name of a Polish city, often indicates that the place is very old. Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki is one of those places.
Today, the historic city centre is unfortunately encircled by blocks of unattractive flats that are grey and unsightly memorials of communist times. This reduces the attractiveness of the city, which is not only located beautifully near three rivers but also offers a good connection to the Polish capital, Warsaw. It has all the potential to offer a high quality of life to its residents and could be attractive for those willing to leave the busy capital behind.
As so often, there is a shortage of money and know-how when it comes to revitalising suburbs in central Europe. Thanks to cooperation with other cities with similar problems and experiences, the urban planners of Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki have now been able to take first steps to make the city more attractive by considering citizen’s needs, such as where to spend quality leisure time, shop or send kids to school.
By building on the results of cooperation in our RESTAURA project, the city has initiated revitalisation projects that respect the natural, cultural, and historical values and that offer a modern way of life. Even if facing financial limitations, a lot can be done when public authorities partner up with private investors.
Have a look at what is planned for the city centre and waterfront of Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki. Important big investors are already on board for the coming implementation.
Eberswalde is a small town in East Germany that deserves to be known for at least two historic events: In 1923, the world's first ever radio concert was broadcast from here. And in 2012, Europe’s first trolley-battery-hybrid-bus started operating here powered by a modern lithium-ion battery. This marked a major step forward in modern e-mobility thanks to cooperation in our TROLLEY project.
Six years on, Eberswalde will again make history. A feasibility study, which was carried out as part of an EU research project, just confirmed that it will be possible to replace an existing diesel bus line with in-motion-charging trolley-battery-buses - without any extra infrastructure needed to be built.
The new line will be realised by the TROLLEY 2.0 project, which will be funded by ElectroMobility Europe. As of spring 2019, all 12 trolleybuses in Eberswalde will be equipped with a battery that will enable their in-motion charging, extending the trolleybus network by more than 9 km without any new energy infrastructure needed.
Is your city or region interested in upgrading your trolleybus system or in learning about the challenges and opportunities of introducing battery-equipped trolleybuses in your city? Get in touch with the Trolley 2.0 project partners here.
"Cooperation is central for the Czech Republic from a natural point of view. If you look at the map, the Czech Republic is right in the middle of the former Iron Curtain, so for us cooperation on the former east-west divide is crucial. And even though cooperation is taken forward, we still need more of it. Not only across borders but also on a broader scale, as we need to cooperate with partners from Poland, Slovenia, Hungary and Slovakia as well as with German partners. This is crucial for us as the divide that existed is still not gone."
Pavel Lukeš, Member of the Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE Monitoring Committee
More than 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail within the first weeks. Why? Because behavioural change is hard. We have to believe that it really matters and only then change will follow.
Having role models can help to push us towards change. The Province of Treviso is such a role model: They have taken a leading role in promoting behavioural change for better energy efficiency.
Thanks to knowledge shared with experts from other central European countries in our TOGETHER project, Treviso understood that an isolated, technology-focused approach to energy improvement is not enough. Ultimately, citizen behaviour will be fundamental for realising the change. Awareness and behavioural change have thus become cornerstones of the political Manifesto of Treviso for Energy Efficiency 2.0.
In addition to policy makers, the project focuses on raising awareness among school children. Planet Defenders is an interactive game that takes them home from school. It shows where they can find energy and how they can protect the environment. Play the game here!
Because of its large forests and green spaces, Hegyvidék is said to be the lung of Budapest. Maintaining these areas is a huge challenge for the district in times of scarce resources when traditional approaches are no longer sufficient and efficient.
Luckily, Hegyvidék is not alone with this problem in central Europe. A strong demand exists beyond national borders for new operational models on maintaining urban green spaces. In UGB, a transnational urban green belt project, partners from seven countries have come together to develop new approaches for cities. Their aim is to manage urban green spaces smartly through better cooperation between inhabitants and public authorities.
Hegyvidék has tried out a ‘Green Space Stewardship’ programme. Volunteer stewards were recruited by the Green Office to take care of maintaining green spaces in their neighbourhood. Based on experiences and learnings, the Green Office team is now further improving the programme that already created a thriving partnership between the local community and public authorities. Their successful pilot will allow other regions to profit from an innovative and well-tested tool - straightaway without having to reinvent the wheel.
The project has documented various pilot actions, in which they tested new approaches to better community involvement. Read more here.
The John Paul II Park in Lublin was built to commemorate the visit of the Catholic Pope in Poland in 1987. The park serves as a green recreational area for citizens with open air sport facilities and an amphitheatre for local dance classes and performances.
30 years later, the amphitheatre is in need of renovation. The local public authority wants to apply innovative solutions to make the lightening more energy-efficient: LED lanterns with motion sensors should reduce energy consumption and collect energy data.
Experiences with launching public procurement for such innovative solutions is still limited in many central European regions, including Lublin. Our project PPI2Innovate is changing this through cooperation and knowledge exchange. The partners develop procurement tools and a comprehensive guide to take municipalities step-by-step through the process - all the way from defining real needs to conducting market consultations and turning the preliminary idea into a detailed description of the investment.
Explore the creative potential of public procurement for innovation and learn more about the new tools and guidelines.
The tower in the picture is the Martin Hoop IVa coal mining shaft in the East German district of Zwickau. The last time black coal was digged up through this shaft dates back to 1978 already. The tower stood abandoned ever since.
Now, 40 years later the giant landmark turned into a piece of art for everyone - thanks to an investment by our Inducult2.0 project. The project brings together central European regions that value their industrial culture. Together they develop their regional identity profiles based on the concept of "living industrial culture", including the redesign of abandoned urban spaces is part.
The new look of the old building was created by Christoph Steyer from nearby Leipzig after he won an international contest. He is a renowned illustrator and designer of urban spaces under the pseudonym "Flamat". With his art, he wants "to make people stop and linger. Either they break for a few seconds from everyday life and find something just nice and funny, or they are irritated."
Read here an article in German about the redesign.
"Our city has a great quality of life but we are having trouble to find the right people for the job." Alexander Fleischmann, CEO and founder of the design agency KOCMOC in Leipzig, faces a familiar problem for creative companies in middle-sized cities. Skilled workers rather move to near-by capital cities like Berlin and Budapest.
One solution to keep creative people in smaller cities is the establishment of creative clusters. Our project Creative Cities pioneered an action plan for cluster creation already back in 2011. In a cooperative effort, project partners from five countries convinced public authorities in cities such as Pecs, Genova and Leipzig to communicate less formally. They also helped companies to better align their business strategies to official planning.
As a result, creative jobs are blossoming in these places. Film maker Alina Cyranek met some creative minds in Leipzig after the project end and documented their thoughts in a series of short videos.
Mrs Huber, aged 86, has been knitting all her life. She learnt the technique from her mother, who had learnt it from her mother in turn. The knowledge had been passed down from generation to generation.
Today, Mrs Huber is the only person left in the small village in the Styrian Alps who still knows about the local way of knitting. She says that the interest in knitting had been fading for a long time.
Now, however, young men and women have expressed their interest in learning how to knit and cooperation is central to find effective ways to help this and other handicraft traditions survive.
Thanks to CULTURECOVERY project Mrs Huber can pass on her knowledge to the young generation and keep the century-old tradition of knitting alive. Project partners invest in people on site and establish local structures for conveying knowledge and capabilities.
They connect Mrs Huber to the young people of the municipality and re-establish the forgotten bond between old and young, with the goal to preserve the local heritage of knitting for future generations.
Millions of tons of food are thrown away every year in central Europe.
Re-using or donating food is one of the key methods to change this. Based on strategies developed with other partners in the STREFOWA project, the Federation of Polish Food Banks increased food donations in Warsaw by 45% in a pilot action. On a relatively small scale the project thus shows the way forward for regions and cities across central Europe.
Read more about how food donations were collected from 215 shops and 185 restaurants.
Can young entrepreneurs boost regional growth and deliver change? Yes, they can! Our CERIecon project helps them to formulate and sell their creative ideas.
Building on cooperation and mutual exchange, entrepreneurs get new inspirations, training and coaching. They have diverse ideas ranging from application that helps bakery to sell their remaining food to social marketing for small sport clubs.
Watch the video from their start-up contest to find out more.
Many cities in central Europe are marked by a socialist past. High-rise buildings and abandoned industrial zones are often seen as obstacles to development. But there are creative ways to use this heritage: The Museum of Socialist Curiosities in the Slovak small town of Hnusta attracts visitors from all over the world. The museum and its permanent exhibition are the result of cooperation in our ReNewTown project. Around 100 iconic items were collected with support from the local community. Today, the museum also hosts company team-buildings and school visits.
By the way, do you know who the pioneers were? Amparo from Chile has the answer because she volunteered in the museum.
Unused industrial sites can offer exciting new future places. Every bigger city has them and does not have to look at them as a burden. This was the case for Nuremberg in Bavaria. Thanks to our SECOND CHANCE project, finalised in 2013, an old AEG production hall has been turned into multifunctional space called “Werkstatt 141”. Nowadays the hall hosts concerts, exhibitions and workshops. But even more importantly the revitalised pilot became the forerunner of the big "Kulturwerkstatt auf AEG" project. An investment project run by the City of Nuremberg without our funds that transforms the site completely in the coming years. This small pilot grew into a real lighthouse project of urban redevelopment by building a new cultural identity.
We all use too much energy in our daily lives and personally contribute to global warming. Switching to a more sustainable lifestyle is, however, no rocket science once you know how to. In our CitiEnGov project, partners cooperate to demonstrate simple ways to lower energy consumption. In three cities in Germany, Italy and Hungary they selected 10 households to compete on reducing their carbon footprints. Over several months, energy experts are coaching them in their transition efforts and winners will be announced soon.
Take a look at what households do in Ludwigsburg for example.
In our new Interreg podcast, broadcaster Shahidha Bari talks to the Europeans whose lives have been transformed by Interreg.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, Interreg was created in a spirit of knowledge-sharing
and collaborative thinking both within the EU and beyond to help create a peaceful and prosperous union.
Across the series you will hear how the Interreg community works with everyone from fishermen to farmers, city planners to entrepreneurs,
forging stronger bonds across borders, tackling long-term issues such as climate change and investing in young Europeans.
We believe #cooperationiscentral for a stronger, more resilient and better Europe.
Transnational cooperation underpins EU Cohesion Policy and contributes to strategic EU priority areas, including innovation, environment, energy, transport and social issues.
Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE also helps macro-regional strategies to succeed. We bring together stakeholders from geographically and culturally similar areas and help them to jointly address shared challenges and opportunities.
Transnational cooperation improves capacities for regional development related to innovation, CO2 reduction, natural and cultural resources as well as transport and mobility.
Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE supports cooperation like yeast supports baking. We are the small but important ingredient hat helps ideas grow: into jointly developed, tested and accepted solutions.