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The keys to success in Interreg Europe

interreg europe projects
Aurora García

Aurora García

Regions and Cities Knowledge Area Leader

To improve the implementation of regional development policies by promoting the exchange of experiences and capacity building through the identification, exchange, and transfer of good practices between the main actors involved in the elaboration and implementation of regional policy instruments. This is the main objective of the EU’s Interreg Europe sub-programme under the European Territorial Cooperation Programme, better known as Interreg, one of the key instruments supporting cross-border cooperation through project funding.

When shaping the partnership of an Interreg Europe interregional cooperation project and determining the policy instrument to be enhanced by its implementation and operation, some key aspects need to be considered.


First, we need to know what kind of entities part of the consortium can be. Interreg Europe is the cooperation programme par excellence for the authorities responsible for regional development policy instruments, so the beneficiary entities may be:

  • public authorities (national, regional, and local);
  • other bodies responsible for developing or implementing regional development policies: business support organisations (e.g., development agencies, innovation agencies, chambers of commerce, clusters, etc.), environmental organisations (e.g., NGOs, environmental and energy agencies) or educational and research institutions (e.g., universities, research centres, etc.); and
  • authorities responsible for developing or implementing investment programmes for jobs and growth.

Secondly, we need to determine their role in the partnership. Since Policy responsible authorities (PAR) are the main target group of Interreg Europe, their direct involvement is key for the cooperation project to achieve its aims. They may enter as:

  • project partner (PP), a participating entity with a budget line, which is counted as part of the partnership; or
  • associated policy authority (APA), a participating entity without a budget line, which is not counted in the consortium.

The participation of policy authorities as a partner is mandatory for at least half of the policy instruments addressed. For any other policy instrument, where the responsible authority could not be available to be involved as a partner, it must participate as a partner. In this case, it is important to underline that, for the proposal evaluation process, not only the inclusion of the policy authority as a partner will be considered, but also the political relevance of the relevant partner and its capacity to influence the policy instrument addressed will be assessed.

It should also be noted that the partnership must be represented by at least one partner from each of the following geographical areas.

  • North: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden.
  • East: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.
  • South: Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain.
  • West: Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland.

The political instrument

To talk about the responsible authority is also to consider the policy instrument it deals with, so they are two relevant and inseparable aspects of Interreg Europe projects. They cannot be separated when it comes to shaping the partnership and determining what kind of policy instrument, we want to address with the cooperation project.

The terms policy instrument or regional development policy refer to any policy, strategy or law developed by public authorities and implemented on the ground to improve a specific territorial situation. Here are just three of the many possible examples.

  • In most cases, a policy instrument is associated with financial resources. However, it can also refer to a strategy or legislative framework without specific funding.
  • In the context of Interreg Europe, operational programmes under the Investment for jobs and growth objective are also considered as policy instruments.
  • Beyond EU Cohesion Policy programmes, local, regional, or national public authorities may also develop their own policy instruments, which can be addressed by projects under the umbrella of Interreg Europe.

The Interreg Europe projects

Once we have formed the partnership and defined the policy instruments to be addressed, we must take the last step to elaborate our interregional cooperation project: identifying the topic (topic in the language of EU funding programmes), i.e., the challenge shared by all participating regions. This could be, for example, the slow penetration of digital technologies in SMEs in a specific sector, the difficulties in preventing flood disasters in rural areas, the insufficient development of renewable energies, or the lack of integration of disadvantaged groups in the labour market.

An interregional cooperation project makes use of the experiences gained between the participating regions. Through the exchange of experiences and best practices, they will work together to identify innovative solutions with the aim of integrating them into their development policies.

In the framework of Interreg Europe, good practice is understood as any initiative related to development policies that has proven to be successful in one region and is transferable to other regions. It is successful when it has generated tangible and measurable results in achieving a specific objective. In this programme, however, it is understood that lessons learned from failed experiences can also be considered.

The activities

The question arises as to how the participating regions can conduct the process of exchange of experience and good practice, learning and knowledge transfer. The activities of an interregional cooperation project will be implemented in two phases:

  • core phase, lasting three years, will be devoted to the exchange of experiences between project partners and the integration of lessons learned into the policy instruments addressed; and
  • follow-up phase, with a duration of one year, to monitor and evaluate the results of the improvements achieved.

Interreg and Zabala Innovation

Endowed with 8,050 million euros for the period 2021-2027, Interreg seeks to jointly address familiar challenges and find shared solutions in fields such as health, the environment, research, education, transport, and sustainable energy, among others. It is one of the objectives of the EU’s Cohesion Policy and is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Beyond Interreg Europe, in Zabala Innovation we have a long and successful experience in the management of European projects in the framework of other Interreg funding programmes (such as Poctep, Atlantic and Sudoe) or Horizon Europe, Innovation Fund and LIFE, among others. In addition, we have first-hand knowledge of the needs and barriers faced by Public Administrations when looking for funding sources, so we can bring together the best of both worlds.

These and other funding opportunities can be found in our guide Funding Opportunities for Regions 2023-2024.

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Aurora García
Aurora García

Seville Office

Regions and Cities Knowledge Area Leader

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