Small sums of money can make a big difference if used in the right places.

The following selection represents a small cross-section of EU money-spending (Regional funding alone supports approximately 280,000 projects per year).

You now have the opportunity to vote for one project you like the most, by the end of November 2011.

For easier field orientation the projects have been classified into ten basic categories, which were created for the purpose of this competition.

A special report about the winning project will then feature on this website to give more detail about exactly how the funding made a Europe-wide difference.

The projects

Strategic railway upgrade connecting Europe

ROMANIA - Missing link in South East railway network completed

What's unique: A key section of the Trans-European Transport Network is being renovated and upgraded in Romania. The railway between the town of Câmpina and the Carpathian resort of Predeal is strategically vital for linking the Eastern EU countries, and is the only connection from southeast Europe to the heart of the EU. The section is one of three main national and international railways, also crossing the country's most important tourist area.

The recent completion of the project allows higher speed travel than before, up to 160 km/h for passenger trains and 120 km/h for freight. Station platforms have also been improved according to European technical standards. In other words the travel is much quicker and safer.

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Step forward in breast cancer diagnostics

POLAND - New technology detects about 98% of early stage breast cancer

What's unique: Team of university scientists developed a new technique in breast cancer diagnostics, based on liquid crystal thermograph technology. Covering the costs is not easy for complex research projects. Thanks to EU co-funding the team could allocate necessary time and resources to complete the research.

The method is painless, non-invasive and there are no limits to testing frequency. It substantially contributes to reducing price for early testing and has incredible high rate of early state breast cancer detection - about 98%.

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Creating Green jobs

SPAIN: 28,000 job-seekers are set to benefit from training to find new opportunities as well as support in setting up new green businesses

What's unique: Spain is facing one of the highest unemployment rates in history so there is great need for projects that foster fresh opportunities, jobs and businesses – that is where European money can step in.

This project is even more remarkable because it focuses on supporting green industries and initiatives. The programme is currently running more than 80 projects in Spain. It aims to support more than 28 000 people and create 1 000 new green SMEs and jobs in the future. The project consists of range of activities including training courses, conferences, information campaigns, studies, guides and professional advice to create new SMEs and jobs in the environmental sector.

Priority is given to projects that involve workers who are in a sector undergoing restructuring, those who live in rural or protected areas, workers in the environmental sector, as well as women, the disabled, immigrants, over 45s and under-qualified workers.

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Eco-power supply for remote places

THE NETHERLANDS - More efficient and more easily transported solution for renewable energy storage

What's unique: Access to power supply has always been an issue for remote places (Even more so in developing countries). Connecting to public supply is often costly and ineffective, diesel- based power is nowadays very expensive, not to mention detrimental environmental effects.

Renewable sources such as wind and solar energy can be remote and are environmentally very friendly, but they face complications in terms of storing the acquired energy to be able to use it when it is needed.

University-business knowledge transfer is very important for Europe. In line with that EU funded (25% of eligible costs) a research cluster consisting of both enterprises and university research centres that is tackling this issue.

They developed energy storage solutions that offer higher efficiency and are very easily transportable because of reduced size and weight. They already installed several of them both in Europe and in developing countries.

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Turning mud into gold

UNITED KINGDOM - Unique solution of sludge treatment demanded now around Europe and the World

What's unique: One of the products of wastewater treatment processes is sewage sludge. Every year ten million tonnes of sewage sludge are produced in Europe, containing enough energy to meet the electricity and heating needs for 1.7 million homes.

A LIFE project called MAD but better, set out to demonstrate a new system based on an entirely natural microbial cycle. It harnesses the actions of a series of bacteria to accelerate the mineralization process of complex organic matter, to return nutrients to the soil while destroying dangerous pathogens.

Some 12 EU Member States and 26 countries around the world have now shown interest in replicating the treatment plant. Part of the appeal is the low price: the cost of sludge disposal is further reduced to just €210 per tonne of dry solid, half the standard cost of landfill. The technique also saves farmers around €175 per ha in fertiliser replacement.

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Fighting youth unemployment

LITHUANIA: More than 5,000 young people had the chance to gain new on-the-job skills through subsidised employment programme

What's unique: In Lithuania, youth unemployment is currently the third highest in the EU. The 'Be active in the labour market' project is helping young people under the age of 29 to get jobs.

The core of this project is not just seminars or training, but gaining real work-related skills through work experience.

How it works: employers who are willing to give a job to one or more of the programme participants are (made possible by European Social Fund) entitled to 50% wage compensation and social insurance contribution for a period of 6 months. After this period they can decide to extend or not the contract without subsidies. But even if the contract is not prolonged, the participant will have gained new practical skills and increased confidence which help him to find a new job much more easily than before.

5 710 young people participated in the project. Afterwards about 70% of participants were placed in a permanent job within six months.

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Maltese coast clean thanks to EU funding

MALTA - 100% of waste water treated

What's unique: Prior to EU accession, Malta was dumping all its sewage effluent, untreated into the sea. Using EU funds helped building a sewage system treating 100% of its waste water prior to discharge.

Beside the environmental and health benefits (significant drop in ear infections), the project has a positive economic impact due to the importance of clean waters for Malta as a tourism destination.

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International cooperation brings higher security and new know-how to border controls

GREECE - Officers from 26 Member States helped Greece with border controls

What's unique: For more than a year and a half, colleagues from 26 Member States assisted their Greek colleagues in controlling border areas and tackling illegal immigration. The number of illegal entries dropped by over 70%.

As a part or so-called RABIT (Rapid Boarder Intervention Teams) this professional exchange was managed by FRONTEX, the European agency that ensures help, guidance and assistance to Member States with external boarders. That way it is ensured that Member States with external borders do not carry this "burden" alone but with input and cooperation from others.

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Successful native woodland restoration

IRELAND - 10% increase in forest cover

What's unique: After the industrial revolution Ireland's forest surface represented only 1 per cent of the total surface. During the last hundred years, continuous concern about the woodland habitat restoration has brought an increase to 11 per cent, also thanks to the European Union, who have set the preservation of natural habitats as one of its priorities connected to environment protection.

EU's policy contributed to this achievement through the LIFE Nature programme, under which 550 hectares of native woodland were restored and enhanced, while at the same time promoting restoration techniques, demonstrating the relevance and value of priority woodland and raising public awareness.

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How to be green without being business insane

SLOVENIA - Marketing and planning advice for introducing green practices

What's unique: EU projects bring often together people, regions and/or countries that would not collaborate otherwise.

One can often hear that only big or highly specialized companies can actually afford to invest in developing and implementing green techniques that minimize negative environmental effects of their activities and that it is much harder, even impossible for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The main aim of this partnership is to help small and medium enterprises in the regions with adopting green techniques assisting especially with strategic planning and market leveraging (using their ECOMARK brand) of such changes.

The project is managed by international team and involves six industrial regions in five countries including Slovenia. In the first outcomes of the project there are more than 40 published case studies of involved industrial areas describing among others their Environmental management system or Logistics and mobility management.

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Mountains come alive in Nicosia

CYPRUS - New Cultural Centre keeps both locals and tourists attracted to village

What's unique: Kalopayiotis, a picturesque mountain village, a stone's throw away from Nicosia, is listed as apart of UNESCO world heritage. Its traditional architecture and narrow cobbled streets have lured holidaymakers for many decades. Until very recently, the original community, largely unaffected by modern day civilization, has been in significant decline due to ageing and decreasing population trends, resulting in a sombre and abandoned atmosphere.

By the revitalisation co-financed by EU, the community has improved cultural and rural attractions and facilities, including a new cultural centre, which keeps tourists in the area for much longer, boosting business and contributing to the livelihood of locals. Helping regions that are for any reason behind others is in the core of European philosophy. In Kalopayiotis, European money helped to preserve cultural heritage in the form of lively community life.

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Miniature "Spectroradiometer" – leap forward in measuring and analysis

BULGARIA - Smaller, cheaper and easier to use

What's unique: Lower price of purchase together with compact design and no need for expensive extra equipment are the biggest added value of this project. This highly exact and reliable technique of measuring and analyzing is now accessible for a much broader spectrum of users in Bulgaria and South-east Europe in general, some in important areas such as early cancer detection or food quality control.

European Union selects and funds innovative research projects with potential for considerable impact for several Member States or Europe as a whole. These resources help in the first place to carry out the project (EU contributed 75% of this project costs, often there are no other sources of money that can provide such a substantial coverage for research projects because of uncertain outcome). Secondly, the funding also substantially decreases the price of the final research.

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Green technology trials for small businesses

BELGIUM - Over 300 companies received assistance

What's unique: The Prodem (PROmotion and DEMonstration centre) project, hosted by VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research), supports small businesses in taking the step towards sustainable production by setting up demonstration projects and feasibility studies.

In the centre located in Mol, companies learn how to green up their production processes. Thanks to EU subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund, they can assess their appropriateness and feasibility of existing and proven environment-friendly technologies, or participate in demonstration projects to test new technologies, before finally deciding to invest in them. More than 300 small businesses have already benefited from the professional advice, coaching and operational training on sustainable technologies.

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Innovations take the region up to the stars

GERMANY - Innovations in space research bring new contracts and customers to businesses in Saarland

What's unique: Saarland in Germany was a region that did not care about space at all. BUT It has always had a number of well-grounded high-tech businesses, namely in nanotechnology, biotechnology, automotive, IT and healthcare sectors. If you look closely, innovations in these sectors can have tremendous influence on space research, especially in planning and executing any of the long-term missions to the Moon or to Mars.

The "SpaceInnovation SAAR Initiative" is coordinating the cooperation between the European space community and non-space sectors in the Saarland region thanks to EU regional funding which made the idea possible. Examples of constructive projects include: intelligent logistics being developed by the German centre for artificial intelligence (DFKI) in Saarbrücken or customized technology from a company mainly developing medical applications (Sarastro GmbH).

The innovative partners from Saarland are benefiting from new contracts and customers, while the space sector is benefiting from leading-edge technologies and solutions from outside traditional supply and delivery chains.

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Restoring the calm after the storm

FINLAND - No to urban flooding

What's unique: Climate change may result in a 15-20% increase in annual precipitation in northern latitudes. Therefore, new solutions for managing urban floods and pollution problems are needed. To support the research in this field, the EU subsidised a promising project initiated in Finland. Stormwater explores the seasonal quantity and quality of urban run-off generated from roofs and paved areas during rain storm and snowmelts, as well as the capacity of the soil to reduce its pollutant concentrations.

Cooperation and knowledge transfer between universities and municipal partners is crucial: practitioners present real problems to the scientific research work, while scientific know-how, notably for cold climates, helps practitioners. Ultimately, citizens benefit through better water quality and lower risks of urban flooding.

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How green is shipping of your goods? Compare, rank and choose!

SWEDEN - Clean shipping index tells you what the effect is of your shipping on the environment

What's unique: Two scientists from Sweden, an environmental engineer and a toxicologist join efforts to develop a tool which would enable to compare different shippers according environmental performance of their ships or whole fleets.

Moreover, they managed to launch an attractive and user-friendly website to encourage spreading green practices among both shippers and their customers. In 2010 they opened the index and site to shippers and manufacturing companies outside Sweden. Since their index is very compact and easily communicated it has been embraced by a number of corporations in their Corporate Social Responsibility policies.

The European Union is widely supporting applied science innovations for business and thus helping markets to develop into more sustainable and competitive. EU supported 'Clean Shipping index' from its emergence in 2007 until 2010.

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Greener sludge energy

LUXEMBOURG - A thousand tonnes of CO2 reduction by switching to solar power

What's unique: Sludge is a semi-solid material left over from industrial wastewater, or sewage treatment processes. One of the ways of disposing of it is drying and using as heating fuel. To make this process greener, scientists from Luxembourg decided to use solar power for this purpose, resulting in annual CO2 reductions of 1 000 tonnes.

The process takes place in eight large glasshouse-type constructions in Bettembourg, where the dried sludge is compressed into bricks to produce heat. Also thanks to the European Regional Development fund a massive 6 500 tonnes of sludge will be dried every year, resulting in about 2 500 heating bricks.

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Samsø 'Renewable island' houses Energy Academy

DENMARK - 100% of Energy needed is produced from renewable sources on island

What's unique: The Danish island of Samsø is a role model for sustainable energy-making processes. Home to the Samsø Energy Academy, the focal point for all information on sustainable energy, the island produces 70% of its heating requirements and 100% of its electricity requirements using renewable energy.

Researchers and visitors are offered the advantage of ready to access facilities such as wind turbines, straw-based heating systems and thermal solar panels. Several energy bodies are based at the academy, providing energy advisory services for commercial and private customers, guided energy tours, talks, lectures, workshops and seminars, and promoting 'energy tourism' for professionals.

The development of sustainable energy is one of EU's priorities and similar role models are highly appreciated. This is also why the Samsø project was allocated a grant from the European Regional Development Fund.

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By train under the Alps

AUSTRIA - Travel time from Innsbruck to Bolzano reduced by half

What's unique: Imagine travelling from Innsbruck (Austria) to Bolzano (Italy) in less than an hour. Safely while being friendly to the environment. Sounds like a dream but it is becoming a reality by constructing the Brenner Base Tunnel under the Alps.

Even though all Member States are investing in smooth infrastructure on their own territory, they often hesitate when it comes to invest in connections across boarders. This is the time and place that EU funding steps in (41% of all costs in this case), because smooth and fast connections between individual Member States are key for releasing the full potential of the internal market which brings opportunities back to the individual Member states (especially free move of people, goods and capital)

In coming years there are going to be even more resources for transport across Europe (see Connecting Europe Facility). Specifically, the completed tunnel will bring following benefits:

  • Shorter travel
  • Switch of freight transport from road to railway
  • Sustainable way of transport protecting valuable nature in the region
  • Jobs and other opportunities connected to the construction

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First steps towards a European immunomonitoring platform

FRANCE - Decoding and tracking immune responses in medical treatment

What's unique: Around 13% of all human deaths are caused by cancer every year. Fighting this malign disease is extremely exhausting for the patients and complex for the medical staff. Unfortunately, the existing gap between laboratory and clinical investigators severely hampers the translation of fundamental discoveries into clinical applications. Here the EU plays an important role, supporting promising research in this field.

According to accumulated knowledge, the immune system plays an essential role in host defence against cancer and can be exploited for effective cancer therapy. The Platine project, Europe's first immonomonitoring platform, seeks to help deciphering immune responses and identify immune signatures in order to predict the course of cancerous diseases various immune system disorders. This would enable clinicians to choose a better therapeutic approach or to assess and improve efficacy of trials.

Other goals include meeting the needs of biotechnology companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and ultimately the European market. This would speed up each drug's development process while cutting down the costs.

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Tackling marine pollution in Estonian waters

ESTONIA - New ship can arrive in 6 hours to save the situation

What's unique: If an oil spill or another related accident happens, it is necessary first to think of saving people and animals in danger and second of removing the source of pollution. Both will be much faster in Estonian waters and nearby, thanks to EU co-funding that permitted the purchase of) a multifunctional ship that is fully equipped for quick action

This response vessel is capable of arriving at the scene of an accident within six hours and can start working within 12 hours after accident occurred. Removing the source of pollution is, under normal conditions, reduced to less than 48 hours. Moreover, the ship will have important role in accident prevention too.

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Seaside resort and international traffic benefit from big bypass

LATVIA - New Motorway makes living easier and travelling faster

What's unique: A newly completed 20 km bypass to the north of Riga is Latvia's biggest road-building project in the last two decades. Known as the Saulkrasti Bypass, it forms part of the Via Baltica – a key 670 km road, stretching over five countries and linking the capital cities of Poland and Estonia.

Apart from reducing much of the through traffic and noise pollution that long plagued the small town of Sualkrasti and increasing the safety of pedestrians, the bypass has also helped to split vehicles into local and bypass traffic, the latter mainly made up of huge international trucks travelling up and down Via Baltica.

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Active steps in the fight against hidden viral infections

SLOVAKIA - New serums against hidden pathogens for clinical practice

What's unique: Some viral infections remain undetected in healthy individuals that make them even more dangerous because they can become a serious threat if they are given opportunity to develop, in their "host" or spread to other people.

This Slovakian project was supported by EU funds - clinical tests need a lot of time and resources which are scarce if the research is not carried within a large pharmaceutical company. EU funds are one of the few that fund such research (75% of the eligible costs) if they have potential for several Member States at once or Europe as a whole. It is aiming at improving diagnostics of these undetected pathogens in general and specifically at developing new types of relevant serums up to a standard when it can be used in clinical practice.

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Weaving the future with threads from the past

PORTUGAL - New approach to wool production helped preserve jobs and attract visitors

What's unique: The town of Covilhã, situated in the mountain region of Beira (Serra da Estrela, Portugal), has a tradition of wool production dating back to the 12th century. Due to the industrialization this tradition and jobs depending on it seemed to be doomed.

To prevent it, European Regional Development Fund has initiated the transnational pilot project Arqueotex. Other regions with textile traditions and facing the same industrial crisis, such as Catalonia in Spain, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in France, the region of Cork in Ireland and the West Midlands in the United Kingdom, have joined the Portuguese to carry out this project.

The project focuses on preserving jobs in the industry through innovations and on building new opportunities through developing a touristic and cultural itinerary based on the theme of textiles: a sort of 'European textile tour'.

The wool museum in Covilhã has pioneered the way by creating a documentation centre in a specially equipped building where a series of interconnected activities such as textile crafts, design, restoration and conservation are put in the spotlight.

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Pioneering triple-hybrid fuel cell transport in new EU Member states

CZECH REPUBLIC - Ecobus brings comfort both to inhabitants and to the enviroment

What's unique: As the fuel of the future, hydrogen is entirely environment friendly. It produces no CO2 emissions and substantially reduces dependence on imported fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas. Until recently, this potential has not been used in the new EU Member States, due to lack of additional funding and sufficient know-how. This is where the EU stepped in to help overcome the initial difficulties and encourage international cooperation.

The citizens of central Bohemian town of Neratovice witnessed the introduction of the Triple Hybrid Bus, unique also for the absence of noise and vibration. The TriHyBus, a product of Czech-German-Norwegian cooperation, is filled with 20 kg of gaseous hydrogen at 350 bar and does more than 250 km per tank with a maximum speed of 65 km/h. The fuel cell is an energy converter which uses chemical energy to produce electricity. Several other towns in the Czech Republic are now testing the TriHyBuses operation, and there has been significant interest coming from abroad.

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Clean waters of the Danube River

HUNGARY - Budapest waste water almost 100% biologically treated

What's unique: At the beginning of 1990s only 10% of collected waste water in Budapest was cleansed biologically. This resulted in significant pollution of the Danube River downstream, in Romania, Bulgaria and the Black Sea.

The building of the complex Budapest Central Wastewater Treatment Plant was completed in 2010, as a part of the Living Danube Project (the largest environmental investment to be implemented in Central Europe). The costs would have been horrendous for a national government alone, which is why 65% of the costs were financed from the EU's Cohesion Fund, 20% by the Hungarian state and 15% by the local council.

To the great relief of the Danube's animal inhabitants, as well as their human neighbours living on the riverbanks, it now ensures the biological treatment of almost 100% of Budapest's waste water. By implementing the project Budapest meets the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Directive.

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Use, reuse and succeed

ITALY - Recyclable boxes now used 110 million times a year

What's unique: At the beginning there was an idea to replace waste-generating fruit and vegetable packaging with reusable and recyclable plastic boxes. The European Union is very supportive towards sustainable business ideas and EU co-financing helped to put many of them into practice, including this one. From 900 000 boxes at the start of the project it grew to today's 12 million boxes which are used 110 million times in a year.

Moreover this gave substantial savings in packaging waste and disposal costs and new job opportunities for the region. Such examples can spread practices of successful and responsible business across Europe.

The voting is over. Results soon!