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EU 2020 highlights that the EU and Member States should enable SMEs to turn environmental challenges into opportunities. Green growth can offer significant benefits, however as stated in the Small Business Act (EP 2014/2209 INI)) policy makers need to fully understand the potential of the green economy, whilst being aware of the barriers that SMEs face regarding the greening of their products, production processes, business practices and services. The circular economy is a key concept of the green economy, based on optimising systems rather than components, away from ‘Resource to Waste’ to resilient and productive circular systems. Strategic alliances between support organisations such as Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey Company, etc and multinational enterprises have been at the forefront of circular economy exploration and application. SMEs rarely have the same access to knowledge networks to stay up to date with new technologies, or communicate with potential clients or investors. It is therefore key to understand how SMEs can exploit the opportunities of circular value chains.  The CESME project addresses SME inclusion in the circular economy, by interregional meetings identifying good practices aiming to examine how best regional and local authorities and business development agencies can improve relevant policy instruments and design support packages to assist SMEs to enter the circular economy. Through the creation of a return on investment analysis - Circular Economy Toolkit quantifying the economic and social benefits of circular value chains as well as a White Book guiding SMEs step by step into circular economy, the CESME partnership hopes to introduce new circular initiatives targeted SMEs. These initiatives will be implemented and tested for feedback and adaptation in order to be replicable tools across EU as well as monitored against their expected impact. Finally, this will lead to the improved effectiveness of the policy instruments addressed by the project partners.
Lead Partner: Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia
Matching conservation priorities with regional development policies while paying special attention to ERDF fund availability is a critical challenge to deploy robust and effective biodiversity conservation strategies at European and regional levels. However, the development of conservation priorities requires the adequate mobilisation of consistent, relevant and structured biodiversity information aimed at feeding and eventually guiding decision-making. Better prioritization of biodiversity conservation efforts using evidence-based methods BID-REX aims to enhance natural value preservation through improved regional development policies by creating/reinforcing the link between relevant biodiversity data and conservation decision-making processes. More specifically, it aims to facilitate the use of biodiversity information and increase the impact of ERDF allocation in the preservation of the European natural heritage by providing decision-making processes with appropriate biodiversity information.
Lead Partner: Foundation FUNDECYT Scientific and Technological Park of Extremadura
INDUSTRIAL SYMBIOSIS FOR A RESOURCE EFFICIENT ECONOMY SYMBI project will contribute to improve the implementation of regional development policies and programmes related to the promotion and dissemination of Industrial Symbiosis and Circular Economy from 7 participating countries faced to policies alignment with the Circular Economy strategy of the European Commission to transform Europe into a more competitive resource-efficient economy. INDUSTRIAL SYMBIOSIS looks at interactions between the environment, the economy and industry, and promotes the sharing of materials to minimize waste, following the example of a natural ecosystem, where everything is reused.Industrial symbiosis strengthens regional growth and competitiveness fostering: Material and energy savings, reusing waste and energy by-products of industrial processes;New business models with secondary raw resources trading and innovative waste management services;Mitigation of external volatility risks, reducing dependencies on imported materials and fossil fuel. PROJECT OBJECTIVES SYMBI General objective is to empower regions to build sustainable economies, resilient to environmental pressures and climate change.The project will support the implementation of policy instruments and measures for the diffusion of industrial symbiosis, to add value, reduce production costs and relieve environmental pressures through increased resource efficiency and green house gas emissions. SYMBI aims at supporting the transition towards a resource-efficient economy through industrial symbiosis, establishing territorial synergies to manage waste and exchange energy & by-products as secondary raw resources Furthermore, through the development of the activities, SYMBI will get: Encourage regional waste transformation systems;Promote the use of secondary raw materials and the emergence of regional secondary raw materials market;Prioritize green public procurement;Unlock investments by regional and local financial actors;Explore, assess, expand, and enhance current practices in ecosystems of industrial innovation;Raise public awareness on industrial symbiosis and circular economy.
Lead Partner: Agder County Council (until 31/12/19 Vest-Agder County Council)
Europe’s maritime & fluvial regions exist in great diversity, yet show parallels in spatial & political challenges. The Cultural heritage of these regions form an essential part of coastal landscape. This heritage is considered particular vulnerable exposed to spatial changes in transport, industrialisation of fisheries and use of coastal zones for tourism.  Regional policy instruments will be improved through new projects, improved governance and structural change. Seven MEUR in Structural Funds are estimated to be influenced by the project, as well as 1.030 MEUR of other funds. The number of visitors to cultural heritage sites is expected to increase and public access to these sites expected to improve. The partnership covers 8 partners from 6 countries (NO,RO,ES,IT,NL,IE). A 3-step interregional learning process will be applied:       1) Identification and analysis of heritage & territorial situations;       2) exchange of experience and good practice within heritage management;      3) development of regional action plans through participatory involvement of stakeholders. A methodological framework and a toolbox for assessing & developing heritage will serve as backbone to the learning process. This video shows the rich tangible and intangible Heritage of      
Lead Partner: Politecnico di Torino
RETRACE – A Systemic Approach for Regions Transitioning towards a Circular Economy RETRACE aims at promoting systemic design as a method allowing local and regional policies move towards a circular economy when waste from one productive process becomes input in another, preventing waste being released into the environment. RETRACE addresses the EU challenge of transitioning towards a Circular Economy following the priorities set up by the “Flagship Initiative for a Resource-efficient Europe” for a shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth as enshrined in Europe 2020 strategy and the EC Communication “Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe”. What is a Circular Economy? A Circular Economy is a new eonomic paradigm which has been defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as "restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital" (source). RETRACE Objectives  RETRACE’s main goal is to promote the adoption of Systemic Design as a method allowing regional and local policies in their transitions towards a Circular Economy, focusing thus both on a territorial/regional policy perspective and on systemic approaches for a Circular Economy. To that end, RETRACE will achieve the following outputs and results: - Development of 5 regional/national Holistic Diagnoses - Identification and exchange of 30 good practices in 5 target policy areas - Holding of 7 interregional exchange of experience activities with the participation of stakeholders and partners - Engagement of 5 regional/national stakeholders groups all along the exchange and strategic thinking process leading to the definition and implementation of 5 Action Plans - Outreach of politicians and policy-makers with specific activities and publication for increasing the ownership of process at target policies and RIS3 level - Issue of policy recommendations and road map for the adoption of method and good practices by other EU regions.  RETRACE POST COVID-19_Additional activities In 2021, the RETRACE project was further funded to carry out additional activities on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. RETRACE regions, Piedmont (Italy), Biscay (Spain), New Aquitaine (France), North-East (Romania) will analyse how should the next Circular Economy look like in the post-pandemic era. Therefore, this following part of Retrace will address the upcoming regions' recovery strategies, proposing innovative circular strategies to build back more resilient EU regions. The consortium aims to assess how the COVID has worsened/improved the Policy Gaps related to the Circular Economy in all the partner regions. The main goal is to boost the current and upcoming policy instruments on Circular Economy through an exchange of experience that identifies new Good Practices generated in this accelerated innovation process produced by COVID-19. The results will be shared through two Virtual Policy Learning events. What is the Systemic Design? The Systemic Design approach, developed by the research group of the Department of Architecture and Design at Politecnico di Torino (Italy), seeks to create complex industrial systems. It aims to implement sustainable productive systems in which material and energy flows are designed so that output from one productive process becomes input to other processes, preventing waste from being released into the environment. RETRACE partners deem that the adoption of more systemic approaches at territory/regional level can play a leverage effect in such transition.  The video provides a brief expalination of Systemic Design in Italian; more information can be found here.
Lead Partner: Association Regio Water
The waterway regions involved in SWARE all share unique natural and cultural heritage: protected areas with rich biodiversity and a bunch of enticing historic cities and buildings connected to water. These amenities make them more and more attractive for leisure activities resulting in an ever growing number of visitors (30-50% increase in the past 10 years) which causes tensions with heritage conservation aspects. All SWARE partners recognize that the socio-economic future of their regions is fundamentally depending on finding the synergies between preserving the cultural and natural values for the next generations and at the same time "opening their gates" with a controlled visitor management. By demonstrating the economic value that a „green” leisure industry can bring to a region, it can build strong public and political support both for heritage protection and sustainable valorisation thereof. What SWARE strives for is achieving a better balance between protection and sustainable exploitation of the valuable natural and cultural resources through improving the development programmes and policies of the partner regions, based on the transfer of good practices of other participating regions. Partners share the common bottleneck of fragmented governance structures without proper cooperation forms, therefore SWARE will stimulate the establishment of new participatory governance schemes having a much better potential to implement efficient policies contributing to the sustainable regional development. As an overall result, decision-makers, public and private players, as well as inhabitants will gain a better knowledge and commitment towards protecting and sustainably “using” their environmental and cultural assets.
Lead Partner: Euroregion Pleven-Olt
What is the problem? Digitization and digital technologies became an integral part of people’s life and economy’s development. However, it is acknowledged that most natural and cultural values that are unique or can actually be seen in a single place, are not subject to digitization yet. This hampers the access to the general public. The issue on how to improve this situation is a common challenge for all regions in Europe. It is clear that conventional approaches do not give the necessary results. Innovative solutions are required so that they could ensure both conservation, promotion and development of natural, cultural and historical heritage. Digitization is an innovative approach the application of which can be addressed to solving a large part of the visible problems in the management of natural and cultural heritage. It is necessary also synchronization with international standards related to the information structure of the digitized objects. What is main project`s objective? To improve adoption of the digitization policy for natural and cultural heritage and to be prepared the implementation of best practices into the participating regions, according to their needs. The implementation of this common plan for cooperation work on interregional level will contribute for establishing of uniform standards in the mass digitization of natural and cultural heritage. What are main products of project implementation? Regional strategies and plans for better organization of the management and exploitation of natural and cultural heritage. It is expected that inspired by the project results, to implement a number of new initiatives in the participating regions that directly improve 8 policy instruments, related to Growth & Jobs or ETC programmes. All the stakeholders, participating in the project, will benefit from them.