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REGION OF THE WEEK: WALLONIA (BELGIUM)

Wallonia (Belgium)

28/03/2011

Among Belgium’s three federal regions, Wallonia is Belgium’s francophone region, which lies adjacent to Brussels. Its population is 3.4 million and in 2008, per capita GDP was 84% of the EU27 average.

What are the region’s priorities?

Heir to a long industrial tradition, Wallonia is engaged in on-going economic restructuring which draws on its strengths: it hosts 9 universities, 30 research centres and 11 000 researchers, making it an advantageous location for research and innovation. The region seeks to restore the attractiveness of its urban centres and revitalize them as engines of development.

How does EU regional policy contribute?

The European Development Fund (ERDF) supports the region through two programmes, one in the Hainaut province (convergence), and the other covering the remaining Walloon territory (competitiveness), for a total European investment of €731 million for the 2007-2013 period. The priorities are the same for each programme:

  • Supporting individuals and organisations seeking to invest and create new businesses
  • Developing human capital (training, human resources)
  • Furthering knowledge, know-how, and research (granting research support to small and medium-sized enterprises, supporting research centres).
  • Achieving balanced, sustainable area development: revitalisation of brownfields, urban renewal.


To date, Hainaut has absorbed 30.34% of the ERDF funds (7th position among European convergence programs) and the rest of Wallonia has reached the 23.75% level of fund use (6th position in Europe for competitiveness programs).

The region is also involved in a cross-border programme  with France: the total programme budget amounts to just over 248 million euros (of which 138 million are ERDF funds).

Examples of projects

Since the inception of the ‘RegioStars’ awards in 2008 (rewarding the most innovative European projects funded under European regional policy), Wallonian projects have been nominated each year.

  • Cenaero (2009 RegioStars winner) is a centre of excellence in aeronautics research and plays an important role in the economic development of Wallonia. Its success is based on high-level cooperation between universities and industry and it is recognized in Europe as a leader in the area of digital simulation, particularly for aerospace applications.
  • Site Pieper (special mention in 2010): this project adopted an innovative approach to converting a brownfield site into a business park. The main objective was to attract businesses compatible with the nearby urban residential area.
  • 31 communes au soleil’ is a 2011 RegioStars finalist; the winners will be announced on June 23rd. The project objective is the advancement of solar energy in 31 target municipalities through the installation of photovoltaic panels.

 

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