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.
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 lightning 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 lightning systems on a much larger scale, with 17.000 new bulbs the future of Split will be for sure brighter.
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.
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.
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."
Many industrial processes generate heat as a byproduct. Unfortunately, this heat is more often wasted than used - despite its huge potential for reducing regional energy consumption.
So why is it not used? Among the main problems are 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 are working together to improve this situation. They partnered up in our CE-HEAT project and developed a new methodology for better utilizing waste heat. This methodology is now tested in a Slovenian hydro-power plant in Fala, where the immense heat produced by the plant will no longer drift away into the atmosphere. Instead it will warm the nearby Hydroelectric Power Plant Museum and help it to cut energy bills by about 60 percent.
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.
Museums and their collections are there for everyone to enjoy. Too often reality is different, however: Various barriers may prevent disabled people from accessing them.
Partners in our COME-IN! project embrace the challenge of making our museums more accessible. Cooperation is central for them to remove barriers in museums and to make them more inclusive. Thanks to their new guidelines for museum operators more of us can hopefully soon enjoy more exhibitions across central Europe.
On European Cooperation Day 2018, COME-IN! presented achievements to policy makers from EU finance ministries. At the fringe of an Austrian EU Presidency meeting, financial attachés could experience the Vienna art history museum as visitors with visual impairments.
"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.
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.
More than 300 rail links exist across country borders in Europe. Unfortunately, not all of them are fully exploited and people in border regions often suffer from bad connections. Partners in the CONNECT2CE are working together to improve these underused rail links in central Europe. What their cooperation can achieve became clear only recently: in June 2018 the project launched an experimental extension of the Italy-Austria cross-border train Mi.Co.Tra. Over summer, passengers can now enjoy train journeys all the way from the Austrian Alps to the Italian seaside. Or the other way round of course.
Check connections and travel on the Mi.Co.Tra train.
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.
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.
This is one of the key conclusions of the newly published study by The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw).
Read more and download the study
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.