Brussels, 31 March 2014
RegioStars 2014: top awards for Europe's most innovative regional projects
Europe's most promising and innovative regional projects will be in the spotlight tonight as Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy presents the RegioStars 2014 Awards. Together with the Jury chaired by former Committee of the Regions President, Luc Van den Brande, Commissioner Hahn will present the Awards in four categories to the winning projects from Paredes in North Portugal, Cornwall and West Wales and the Valleys in the UK and the Polish region of Gdynia. The winners have been chosen from 19 shortlisted projects co-financed by investments from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.
This year's event comes at a crucial time as Member States are finalizing their strategic investment plans, the so-called "Partnership Agreements" on how to spend the European Structural and Investment Funds over the next seven years. The Awards Ceremony will showcase the first projects that reflect the reform of Cohesion Policy.
The Award categories for 2014 are:
Commenting before the event, Commissioner Hahn said, "These 4 winners chosen by the jury show Regional Policy in action. They and all the finalists are an inspiration for other regions and cities around Europe and I congratulate them all most heartily. They demonstrate innovative and dynamic approaches in the use of Structural Funds for boosting growth and creating jobs embodying the spirit of our reform. The projects address the biggest current challenges like tackling youth unemployment, combating pollution and climate change, promoting sustainable transport and supporting SME innovation. They demonstrate that EU Regional Policy relies above all on the energy and creativity locally."
Reacting to the winning project from Cornwall co-financed by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commissioner László Andor said: "To be prosperous the tourism sector requires a skilled workforce, which is precisely the aim of the Fifteen Cornwall project. Creating jobs for the younger generation is an area of particular importance for the new generation of European Social Fund investments. Together with additional funding from the Youth Employment Initiative, European regions will be able to use the Social Fund to finance concrete projects and actions to make a real difference where unemployment is the most acute. I would like to congratulate all the participants, finalists and winners who are making the EU's Cohesion Policy a reality."
In this 7th edition of RegioStars, the Jury singled out 19 finalists from 80 projects on the basis of four key criteria: innovation, impact, sustainability and partnership. The finalists come from regions and cities in 17 Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The winners of 2014:
Smart Growth - "Art on Chairs" – Paredes/North Portugal
The furniture industry has been one of the most important economic activities in the northern Portuguese city Paredes with the highest concentration of chair factories in Europe accounting for 65% of national furniture production. Although the industry was once highly productive, its image is now seen as old-fashioned and conservative. Art on Chairs has breathed new life into this traditional industry by bringing them together with the designer world to transform chair making into an art. This cooperation has boosted creativity in this industry, enhanced productivity and an increase in international exports.
“Sustainable Growth” - BEACON – West Wales and the Valleys (UK)
The BEACON project faces a major challenge for Europe: developing new technologies to meet the growing demand for energy and resources. The project focuses on biorefining: a process using non-food crops to create biomass to be used in products instead of crude oil. By producing renewable products from biomass, BEACON represents a green alternative to polluting fossil fuels, helping Europe to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. This pioneering initiative is attracting investments to one of the UK poorest regions creating vital jobs and developing advanced know-how.
“Inclusive Growth” - "Fifteen Cornwall Apprenticeship Programme" – Cornwall
A passion for cooking is transforming young lives in one of the poorest parts of England. Inspired by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the Fifteen Cornwall restaurant is part of a public-private social enterprise, which offers a chance to disadvantaged unemployed 16 to 24 year olds the opportunity to train as chefs. This ground-breaking project has trained almost 130 young people, many of whom are dealing with serious challenges such as criminal records, substance misuse, mental illness or disability. Each year, the project invests around €1.2 million back into the local economy supporting local suppliers and high-quality food production.
Thanks to a new eco-friendly urban transport system with innovative and accessible electric trolleybuses, the city of Gdynia has less traffic congestion, fewer accidents and lower levels of pollution. The modern vehicles have improved the comfort of passengers, reduced their travel times and brought benefits to the local economy of the Tricity area - Gdynia, Gdańsk and Sopot – in northern Poland.