EU sustainable energy and research projects pick up regional innovation awards.
A solar power station on the French island of Réunion and a centre for aeronautical research in the Belgian region of Wallonia fetched two of the EU’s annual awards for best regional projects. Wales, Greece and the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia were also winners at the RegioStars ceremony on 16 February.
The awards – crystal trophies with a laser-engraved star – were presented by regional policy commissioner Danuta Hübner and Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, the jury’s president. “Stimulating Europe’s competitiveness and employment, particularly in this difficult economic climate, calls for new ideas and progressive thinking,” Ms Hübner said.
Two other projects received special mentions. One was a joint effort by Scotland, Greenland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland to develop new tools and methods for improving roads in northern regions. The other was a successful effort by research institutes in Saarland, Germany, to market their expertise with the space industry.
More than 50 projects from 18 countries competed for this year’s RegioStars prizes. The contest is open to projects in receipt of EU funding for regional development.
The EU’s different regions have many issues in common, including ageing populations and a need for sustainable energy. RegioStars awards offer a showcase for innovative projects that might be an inspiration to other regions.
Twenty-five projects were shortlisted for the awards. From the UK, the award-winning Welsh project supported new, greener technologies in the regionally important print industry. Through case studies with business partners, the Welsh centre for printing and coating (WCPC) in Swansea identified ways of encouraging innovation and helping firms – especially small businesses – to apply new technology.