Portugal dominates RegioStars Awards with innovation, culture projects

regiostars [European Commission]

Portugal was the big winner of the RegioStars awards 2018 in Brussels, a project promoting regional innovation, cohesion and culture in the EU, with two awards for its innovation in sustainable industrial technologies and the promotion of cultural heritage.

The RegioStars awards has been established as a celebration of regional innovation and socio-economic cohesion, in a bid to show that successful approaches in regional projects constitute the living proof of how European money can be invested for growth and social understanding.

“RegioStars are true ambassadors of Cohesion policy. In our effort to better communicate what Europe is doing for its citizens, these projects are valuable assets and I hope they inspire many regions when they select EU-funded projects”, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu told the ceremony.

Markku Markkula, the First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions, added that “the future of Europe needs to be built by these communities. And that is why Cohesion Policy in its 30 years of history has shown that this is the right way to move ahead”.

The winners were announced in Brussels on Tuesday (10 October), in a ceremony with 1,200 participants, during the European Week of Regions and Cities.

This year could be also the last opportunity for the United Kingdom to participate in one that is among the Union’s most important forums for regional policy. However, negotiations regarding the ongoing projects are still to be concluded.

From South to North and East to West

The Portuguese town of Fundão, in Centro region, won in the category “Supporting smart industrial transition” with its Business and Shared Services Centre, a project combating economic decline and population loss by providing infrastructure and IT skills to businesses and helping innovative start-ups to enter the market.

“Thank you to the European solidarity and thank you to those who help these difficult territories not give up”, the representatives of the project told the gathering.

Portugal also won the public choice award for the “Vista Alegre Heritage Museum” project in Ílhavo, which promotes the 200 years of the area’s historical connection with porcelain production.

The award for impactful work against migration challenges went to the Spanish region of Murcia and the “Labour integration & social inclusion of refugees” project, a special integration programme that helps migrants become a true part of society.

“The program has been very helpful to me and to my family in order to put the horror behind us. I hope one day my son will understand how the wonderful region of Murcia has given us life, peace and opportunity for many great things,” a Syrian refugee who took part in the project said in a live stream from Spain.

“TeKiDe – textile fibre recycling”, a Finnish project from Helsinki-Uusimaa that produces new textiles by recycling poor quality cotton waste, won the prize “Transition towards a sustainable, low-carbon economy”. This project has revolutionized the industry with its sustainable “cottonfields”, creating at the same time a hub for investments both in research and the economy of the area.

In one year and a half, as the representatives of the project announced, the product could be further commercialised, introducing its revolutionary concept into the wide market.

The “Better access to public services” prize was awarded to the Czech Moravian-Silesian region and its project of Social Housing in the City of Ostrava. Thanks to the project, 105 apartments have been renovated from sub-standard housing conditions. The project has also developed a framework of cooperation with city districts and social support for the tenants.

“We believe that housing is a condition to be part of the society, part of the city and the neighbourhood. Thanks to this project on social housing we can offer this opportunity to vulnerable members of the society, like the Roma people”, the winners underlined.

Nant Gwrtheyrn, an abandoned mining village on the North West Wales coast, received the “Investing in cultural heritage” award, as it has been restored to become a true ambassador of the Welsh culture and language.

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