Interregional cooperation delivers tangible results in regions across Europe. During the European Week of Regions and Cities, we shared some very inspiring and concrete examples of the impact and benefits resulting from the exchanges and cooperation in projects. 

In short, the key benefits of interregional cooperation can be summed up in three points:

  1. Addressing local needs
  2. Accessing new knowledge and getting inspiration from other regions
  3. Bringing concrete benefits that can lead to long term impact

At #EURegionsWeek, these points were demonstrated with two concrete examples:

  • Lilita Sparane (Ministry of Culture in Latvia) shared the inspiration drawn from an Interreg Europe project Design4Innovation;
  • Ian Bloomfield (Durham County Council in UK) shared the lessons learned and impact of an INTERREG IVC project RENERGY.

Sharing good practices and influencing policy with design

In Latvia, the Ministry of Culture was looking for ways to turn their Design Strategy into action. Exchange of experiences with European partners in an Interreg Europe project ‘Design4Innovation’ has helped with that. Besides sharing good practices, this cooperation has helped to integrate design thinking in strategies and policies.

Interregional cooperation has inspired tangible actions. For instance, a visit to Flanders (Belgium) to discover design support instruments inspired the Latvian Investment and Development Agency to create their own design voucher programme to encourage design-driven innovation in SMEs.

The importance of design thinking is now recognised on all levels of decision making, marked by the ‘Latvia Design Strategy 2020’ introduced in 2017. This interdisciplinary strategy transcends traditional sectoral boundaries. It reflects the learnings from interregional cooperation, including the understanding that design is a strategic process, an approach, and a way of identifying and solving problems.

Inspiring local action for renewable energy by exchanging experiences

In Durham (UK), the County Council was looking for ideas on how small communities can make use of renewable energy. To find new solutions, they joined the INTERREG IVC project ‘RENERGY’.

During RENERGY, a study visit to Denmark helped staff and stakeholders from Durham plan a project supporting local SMEs to cut CO2 emissions. Stakeholders also understood what a small community can accomplish by creating their own renewable energy source.

These exchanges resulted in the Durham BEEP project (Business Energy Efficiency Project) funded by ERDF and ESF under the Investment for growth and jobs programmes. Since 2016, 90 energy audits have been conducted among local SMEs. Moreover, inspired by their Danish peers, the local community of Oakenshaw has built their own wind turbine, which provides the community an income of around 23,000 EUR per year. This is used for other renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. 

Benefits and impact at multiple levels - interregional cooperation brings true added value

These stories illustrate the richness of and variety of results achieved with interregional cooperation projects. The story from Durham shows how sharing inspiration sparks bottom-up action in a local community, while the story from Latvia is demonstrates how regions can change strategies and policies thanks to interregional cooperation.

Furthermore, beyond these examples, there are countless other excellent stories and inspiring initiatives. Discover more by checking out: 

Have a look also at the EURegionsWeek website for more information about this session, or see the slides from this session.