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Brussels, 20th May 2010

Commission reveals winners of "RegioStars Awards" celebrating Europe's most innovative regional projects

Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Jury, will tonight announce the winners in the six separate categories of the "RegioStars Awards" 2010. The prize giving ceremony recognises the most innovative projects that have been supported by European cohesion policy. The annual event takes place during a two-day conference in Brussels entitled "Regions for Economic Change – Building Sustainable Growth".

Commissioner Hahn said: "I am proud to present the winners of the RegioStars awards which can serve as an inspiration for other European regions. As well as bringing tangible benefits to citizens in the regions, all the winning projects clearly demonstrate the important contribution that European regional policy makes to promote innovation, competitiveness and social inclusion."

President of the Jury MEP Jan Olbrycht said: "This year's record number of high quality submissions convincingly demonstrates the important role of local and regional projects in fostering innovation all over Europe. The finalists and winners provide clear examples of how regions and cities can act as driving forces to achieve a better quality of life for their citizens."

All EU regions were invited to submit projects which had received funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) or the Cohesion Fund after 1 January 2000. A record 87 eligible applications were submitted from all 27 Member States, out of which 24 projects were shortlisted by the jury. This year six awards were on offer: two "CityStar" awards - a new category highlighting the role of cities in ensuring sustainable economic development - three awards on ICT themes , and one award for information and communication.

The winners:

Category 1: CityStars category - Innovative use of brownfield sites in an urban context

C-Mine Centre, Genk, Belgium (€3.2 million in EU funding from the ERDF)

Building upon the legacy of Genk's mining foundations, the multi-purpose C-Mine centre has transformed a former industrial site into a hub for entrepreneurs and visitors alike. Its two concert halls, exhibition space and design centre are scheduled for opening in September 2010.

Category 2: CityStars category - Integration of migrants or marginalised groups in urban areas

Micro-Finance Institute, East-Mid-Sweden (€340,000 in EU funding from the ERDF)

Set up in 2008, this project focuses on improving access to finance for migrant women who often face difficulties in trying to secure capital to start-up or develop their own business. The main aim of the project was to establish a permanent micro-finance institute to help overcome these barriers. So far the project has supported 80 new female entrepreneurs and contributed to the start-up of 15 micro-enterprises, creating 20 jobs.

Category 3: ICT applications for e-inclusion (€2 million in EU funding from the ESF)

Computer literacy basics for a Lithuanian e-citizen, Lithuania

In 2002, a group of companies, banks, and telecommunications and IT businesses formed the Langas j Ateitj alliance. The aim was to provide training, establish public internet access points and stimulate growth in e-services, to enhance computer literacy skills. The main target groups were the elderly, disabled and people living in remote areas with little access to digital services. 50,400 adults completed courses over the two years.

Category 4: ICT applications by or for SMEs (€86,000 in EU funding from the ERDF)

New business model for ambulatory monitoring of patients, Brandenburg, Germany

The first of its kind in Brandenburg, this project combined the expertise of various regional partners in using tele-medicine to monitor and treat people, outside a traditional medical environment, who have suffered from a heart attack. Its overall aim was to reduce the number of hospital admissions per patient. Over 100 patients have benefited.

Category 5: Broadband coverage in less developed regions or rural areas

High-speed broadband in Auvergne, France (€10 million in EU funding from ERDF)

High-speed broadband is an essential ingredient in ensuring competitiveness in today's world. But in sparsely populated areas, private telecommunication operators are frequently reluctant to take on all the risks of investing in these so called "white areas". Faced with this challenge, Auvergne established a public/private partnership (PPP) in 2005 to extend high-speed broadband coverage to 100% of households, which was achieved by early 2009.

Category 6: Information and Communication (Web sites)

www.esparama.lt, Lithuania (€110,000 in EU funding)

"Esparama" in Lithuanian means EU assistance - this official website provides information on all EU structural funding in the country from data supplied by content administrators in 15 government institutions. The site's easily navigable homepage clearly presents separate sections for funding applicants, beneficiaries, media and general public, institutions and news.

Four other projects received special mentions from the 2010 jury:

Pieper Site, Wallonia, Belgium

Part of a wider urban business renovation process, this project took an innovative approach in re-developing a former industrial brownfield site into a business park. The main aim of the site has been to attract companies compatible with the surrounding urban residential area.

Successful integration of Roma children, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority in central and eastern European countries, and often struggle with discrimination and social exclusion. This project seeks to address some of these problems with the help of Roma teaching assistants, aiming to strengthen the links between Roma children, their schools and their parents.

eREGIO, North Karelia, Finland

This project aimed at extending high-speed broadband coverage in rural and very remote areas of Finland. Despite the challenge, eRegio achieved excellent results, with almost 99% of the region having broadband access by 2008.

entdecke-efre website, Brandenburg, Germany

The website "entdecke-efre" – "discover ERDF" – sets out, in an easily navigable format, lots of information on EU-funded projects and processes involved to benefit from the funds.

Note for editors:

The winners will receive crystal trophies representing a star as well as a project video which may be used by the region and project holders in promoting their project. Information on all the finalists, eligibility criteria, and members of the jury can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.htm

Launched by the Commission in 2006, the annual 'Regions for Economic Change' conference provides an opportunity for politicians and practitioners from Europe's regions to discuss key themes around European cohesion policy and showcase projects funded by EU regional funds.

More information on the conference:

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/conferences/sustainable-growth/index_en.cfm?nmenu=2


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