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.
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.
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.
#cooperationiscentral for a better connected Europe— Interreg CE (@InterregCE) March 29, 2021
Find out what #rail has in store for you in #centralEurope thanks to our #MadewithInterreg rail projects https://t.co/wyiVIn0g5K@IYoumobil @ProjectReif @CONNECT2CE @IntergreenN @periaccess #EUYearofRail https://t.co/MLL39DpgoC
European beech trees grow exclusively in Europe and their transboundary habitat stretches over 12 central European countries. Some of these valuable beech forests are already recognised by UNESCO as Natural World Heritage.
Unfortunately, climate change and human interventions negatively impact this zonal ecosystem. Extreme weather conditions, different standards of managing forest buffer zones, a lack of management resources in protected areas and rising visitor numbers are all threatening the integrity of our ancient beech forests.
The BEECH POWER project counterbalances these negative tendencies together with local communities. The project prepares the ground for a strong collaboration between local actors even beyond borders. The partnership creates strategies and action plans that ultimately make our forests fit for future, with a special focus on involving the young generation.
In awareness campaigns and pilots, BEECH POWER motivates local communities to participate in sustainable actions in their local neighbourhood. For example in Angermünde, Germany, a joint activity of the city, the management of a protected beech forest and university students resulted in a unique holiday offer for kids. Besides walking around and getting to know the forest, kids could zone-out into an imaginery world, the so-called "Kreativwald". Lead by artists, they created fascinating handiworks and enjoyed their time in the forest!
The next step will be to transfer experiences from this pilot into the development of an international school exchange programme, the BEECH Academy. If they succeed, this will be the first ever youth exchange programme that builds on the knowledge of a Natural World Heritage!
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.
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 is already evident and represents the largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades. Almost 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide as a result of COVID-19.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Migrant entrepreneurs are crucial to the rich tapestry of a city, but they often face cultural, legislative and language barriers when trying to get their business off the ground.
The SEE ME IN project was created to improve support to migrant businesses in central European cities. Whether it’s a falafel seller, a jewelery designer or a talented leatherworker, the project helps public authorities to provide them all with the tools they need to fulfill their potential.
In a first step, 10 partners from across central Europe put their heads together to evaluate the needs of such enterprises and check if existing tools adequately support immigrant businesses. A transnational framework was then created with tailored guidelines and actions according to the needs of different sectors and regions.
Soon, a modular platform will be ready to offer general support, marketing and communication tools, as well as management training for migrant entrepreneurs. Thanks to these co-developed activities and reciprocal exchanges between migrant entrepreneurs and existing businesses, the socio-cultural gap within central European cities and regions is slowly narrowing down.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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, wich facilitate our path to full accessibility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
Natural disasters are becoming more and more common in central Europe. They put people at risk but also our cultural heritage. They have struck some of central Europe’s most valued cultural attractions in recent years and threatened to destroy historic city centres. 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: Preservation experts and army rescue teams train together, they learn to speak one language and ensure that our heritage will not be lost.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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."
"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.
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.
Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects are invited to submit their best stories in our contest "Long story cut short".
Win professional social media training and take over Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE's social media channels as "editor of the day"!
Send us your stories that show why #cooperationiscentral for you and your project partners.
To help you get started we have created a brand new tool, our story outline generator.
Find out more information about the contest and the support we provide further below.Cut a long story short and submit it to our contest
Take part in our storytelling competition, win a social media training and take over our social media for a day!
Cooperation projects funded by Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE have a unique opportunity to send us their best project story. You do not have one, yet? No problem, you can easily create one with our story generator (see boxes to the right)!
What is in this contest for you beyond the award? Well, you will have a perfect story about your project ready to present and share at any time.
You will also increase your visibility because Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE programme bodies will further use your stories for:
Our story generator is a tool that will help you to "pitch a story" of your project to someone who does not know much about what you do.
This simple tool will give your project story a strong structure that you might have missed until now!
You can certainly build on the story and give more details. Just follow the structure that works with any audience best and fine-tune your content to fit your main message.
Our story generator is an easy-to-use tool. You can simply download it and get started. Or you take a look at our explainer video first.
In this short video you will see how to:
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.