The first round of INTERREG IVC projects were approved at the end of 2008. As most of the projects run for 3 years, it means that in 2011 the programme started to reach a critical mass in terms of achievements.
In the annual report 2011, which has recently been submitted to the programme Monitoring Committee for approval, the programme is proud to present that its projects have already successfully improved 102 regional or local policies. In addition, 110 good practices have been transferred to other European regions.
The interregional exchange of experience has increased the capacity of 3,600 staff members involved in the projects. This represents an average of 29.5 people per project.
Moreover, the first and second call projects have already reported 88 new projects, activities and approaches resulting from the interregional exchange of experience.
In total, 2,675 good practices have been identified within the 115 Regional Initiative Projects (Regional Initiative Projects are classic interregional cooperation projects comparable to those already supported under the INTERREG IIIC programme. They allow ...) of the two first calls for proposals – an average of 23 good practices per project. The good practice database available on the INTERREG IVC website presents many of these good practices in more detail.
To have a better understanding from the projects’ perspective, partners from different programme areas were asked to describe their experience with INTERREG IVC. Below you can find the answers of County Council Maramures (Romania), Dublin City Council (Ireland), Larnaca District Development Agency (Cyprus) and the City of Ulm (Germany).
Why did you decide to take part in INTERREG IVC projects?
Maramures: Maramures County Council is a partner in MINI EUROPE, MORE4NRG, CLIMACTREGIONS, SMART EUROPE and Regions4GreenGrowth. The reason for joining INTERREG IVC projects was to gain knowledge and expertise from other European regions in strategic fields such as climate change, energy, innovation and SME development. We wanted to explore new ideas, identify new fields of action and make things better in our region. A concrete problem that was addressed was regional planning in energy and climate change with the aim to define measures and actions to increase energy efficiency, develop renewable energy installations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Maramures.
Dublin: Dublin City Council is a partner in B-TEAM and RE-GREEN. The City Council faces challenges in progressing regeneration projects (private and public) on vacant and underused sites in its city centre. These challenges have persisted for a long time, despite past financial and planning initiatives as well as years of prosperity and growth within the city. In the current economic context, sites are not likely to get redeveloped in accordance with ambitious master plan proposals. Vacancy and under use is likely to persist over a longer timescale. There is a need to consider innovative proposals for temporary land uses, temporary activities and interesting pilot projects that capture the attention of the wider public, engage with the local community and help the process of regeneration to commence.
Taking part in the INTERREG IVC project was a valuable opportunity for Dublin City Council to learn from other city authorities about the extent of vacant and underused sites they have, how they are stimulating progress on these sites in the context of an economic recession and how, through new interesting proposals, they are bringing social, physical and environmental improvements to city centre areas. The participation of universities with expertise in improving the environment and the opportunity to work with partners in the hands on manner, through workshops and site visit case studies, was considered valuable. The project offered real case studies and identified real proposals that a Council could follow through.
The project also gave an opportunity to focus public attention on these issues, bring positive publicity for the Council on its planning and regeneration work, bring positive publicity on partnership with other EU countries through the INTERREG programme and engage with politicians on the importance of shared learning to improve brownfield policies.
Larnaca: Larnaca District Development Agency is the Lead Partner of Regioclima and a partner in PERIURBAN. The main goal of the Regioclima project was to assist societies in adapting to the new climate conditions, both by minimising the risk of damage and by exploiting new opportunities arising from a changing climate. The development agency wanted to establish interregional cooperation (Part of the C strand of the ETC (as well as of the former Interreg III Community Initiative), its aim is to promote exchange and transfer of knowledge and best ...) across Europe in order to improve the effectiveness of regional policies in adapting to climate change. The best way to accomplish it was though an INTERREG IVC project.
Ulm: Ulm City is a partner in MMOVE and CLIQ. INTERREG IVC gave Ulm the chance to work on its problems in an interregional way. There was a need to develop new concepts on sustainable mobility management in cities of up to 250,000 inhabitants and to adopt sustainable transport solutions from European cities that are leading in sustainable mobility issues. Ulm also needed a fresh look at the role of the city in innovation processes for our SMEs, especially within our Science City. Moreover, the participation of citizens in all planning and innovation processes was also a "hot topic" for the city.
The framework of INTERREG IVC was wide enough to propose projects in the fields of both sustainable transport and innovation.
What was the most challenging aspect of participating in INTERREG IVC projects?
Maramures: Finding ways to transfer the relevant good practices shared by the partner regions within the project was rather challenging. It was sometimes difficult to discover the differences and also the similarities between our region and other European regions, trying to make the most of these and applying the knowledge gained.
Dublin: There are no real challenges in participating in the project. The project needs to be resourced with staff and time needs to be allocated. However, the benefits of learning through the project far outweigh the challenges. The time spent on this project is helping to improve the skills of staff members and the learning can be transferred to other projects across the city and region, particularly in approaches to brownfield regeneration. Working on the project has also assisted interdepartmental collaboration within our organisation as well as provided the opportunity to work with elected councillors in critiquing past policies and suggesting improvements.
Larnaca: The coordination of a partnership comprising eight organisations from eight different EU Member States with different regional public administrations and different backgrounds on adapting to climate change has been a challenge. This has, however, turned into an enriching element, since it required us to come together and compare views, policies and procedures of all regions.
Ulm: The greatest challenge is the management of the projects and especially the financial aspects of it. To combine national and European financial rules is not always easy and we would have sometimes wished that INTERREG IVC rules were more flexible and less mandatory.
How did your participation in INTERREG IVC projects benefit your organisation and your region?
Maramures: The benefits are related to the outputs and results of the projects, but also to the cooperation and the support between partner regions. Several energy projects were initiated by the County Council as a result of the project activities and based on the good practices exchanged between partners.
The most important benefits obtained to date are the preparation of a regional energy action plan (is a strategic document that defines precisely how the good practices will be implemented in the operational programme of each region participating in a Capitalisation ...) , the preparation of a regional innovation action plan, the creation of an Observatory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, establishing good contacts in view of future cooperation and projects, gaining expertise in managing international projects, and improved skills in the fields of sustainable energy and climate change.
Dublin: It is the shared learning through real on-site examples, the benefit of shared workshops during the Brownfield Days, the benefit of European dissemination events to assess progress with the project and involve politicians, the networks established with new European colleagues and the innovative focus to brownfield regeneration that provide the most benefit to Dublin City Council. Studying issues facing other cities and giving recommendations helps to refine our own city’s approach to brownfield challenges. Receiving recommendations from other partners after hosting our own Brownfield Days and taking a Brownfield Pledge to implement a tangible action is positive, creates focus and gets positive publicity for the Council.
Larnaca: The Regioclima project helped us emphasise the need to adapt to climate change – raising awareness as well as understanding opportunities and threats. It was a possibility to jointly develop the capacities of the participating regional authorities. Regioclima gave us the opportunity to integrate adaptation into existing and forthcoming policies as well as to elaborate related strategies. Finally, we chose 2 of the identified 17 good practices to be transferred to Cyprus. This is currently ongoing, even though the project finished in 2011.
Ulm: For Ulm it is important to establish a reliable and sustainable network of European partners working in interregional projects. Our European network is much stronger now and also the local and regional networks for innovation have gained much strength. This has already led us to a new European project.
Would you consider participating in future interregional cooperation projects? Why?
Maramures: Yes, definitely, because we would now like to move from planning to action and generate concrete energy investments in the region. We have just started two new INTERREG IVC projects, approved in the fourth call for proposals (period of time in which applications can be submitted to the Joint Technical Secretariat) , that are the continuation of our completed INTERREG IVC projects.
Dublin: Yes. The networks and contacts made are valuable and extend beyond the initial project timeframe. Local authorities have to deal with many integrated and complex issues. Bringing best practice examples, getting advice from European colleagues, validating current approaches and being innovative are all made possible through project collaboration. The city will continue to learn from and contribute positively to urban research by participating in interregional projects.
Larnaca: We would like to continue participating in interregional cooperation projects. The knowledge gained from working together with other partners from different countries and the exchange of experience in a policy field is of great value.
Ulm: The experience of our participation in INTERREG IVC projects was positive in so many ways that we would gladly take part in another interregional project. In URBACT we are part of the project ENTER.HUB, where we work on questions of sustainable transport and urban planning. We are now waiting for the next funding period and would like to take part in an interregional project as partner or lead partner.
We would like to thank the following people for their contributions to this article: