What is Interreg NWE?

A European Territorial Cooperation programme with the ambition to make the North-West Europe area a key economic player and an attractive place to work and live, with high levels of innovation, sustainability and cohesion.

Like the other fourteen European transnational cooperation programmes, we encourage public, private, scientific and civil society organisations to cooperate in order to improve the economic, environmental, social and territorial development of Europe's regions.

Reducing disparities between regions

Interreg NWE is one of instruments to implement the European Cohesion Policy. Its purpose is to reduce disparities between the various regions in North-West Europe. The EU's most recent treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, adds another facet to cohesion, referring to ‘economic, social and territorial cohesion’. The idea is that cohesion policy should also promote more balanced, more sustainable ‘territorial development’.

 In the 2014-2020 budgetary period, the links between cohesion policy and the other EU policies contributing to regional development are stronger, namely rural development and fisheries and maritime policy. More about Cohesion Policy 

Transnational Cooperation as a method

We support cooperation across borders in a large European area: North-West Europe. For that, we fund projects involving partners from at least 3 different countries with a joint approach to tackle common issues. The aim is to reduce the disparities among regions and raise the overall level of performance across the whole area.

Innovation, Low carbon and Resource and materials efficiency

In the 2014-2020, we will focus on three thematic priorities, identified as key to achieve our ambition and to tackle the most pressing challenges of North-West Europe: Innovation, Low carbon and Resource and materials efficiency.

Challenge 1: Boosting knowledge flows to stimulate innovation

This challenge responds to NWE's ambition to be a world key economic player. The aim is to create an enticing environment for individuals, firms, universities and public authorities to cooperate and innovate.

To tackle this challenge, we need to:

  • Stimulate transnational cooperation between organisations, research and higher education institutions, governments and social institutions to develop new or improved links and synergies, especially for emerging sectors and growth sectors in the NWE region (according to smart specialisation strategies in Member States);
  • Develop and implement new technologies, products and services in order to create an impact on societal, spatial and environmental problems and challenges.
  • Strengthen smart specialisation in each region and ensure that the sectoral dimension of collaboration is linked to the regions’ smart specialisation strategy;
  • Close the gap in terms of innovation performance between regions in the NWE area by spreading knowledge and know-how from innovation leaders to innovation followers or moderate innovators;
  • Connect regional clusters at a transnational level in order to create a critical mass for R&D and innovation, skills, funding, cross-fertilisation of ideas and entrepreneurial initiatives.


Challenge 2: SMEs innovative capabilities

Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) have proven to be key operators in fostering innovation. They are the engines of economic growth, and the principle drivers for new employment. Their ability to exploit new technologies and to respond quickly to changing market needs, give SMEs a crucial role in economic growth of NWE, thereby contributing to its overall attractiveness and competitiveness. There is a need to promote the uptake of all types of innovation (social innovation, product innovation, service innovation, etc.) within SMEs, improve access to innovation funding and support their internationalisation.

To tackle this challenge, we need to:

  • Stimulate and facilitate the exploitation of research outcomes and entry of innovations to the market (also related to challenge 1);
  • Tackle persistent problems regarding the transfer of science and technological research into products & other commercial outputs (also related to challenge 1);
  • Stimulate international orientation and cooperation between SMEs and research institutions and other innovation stakeholders;
  • Activate SMEs through ‘intermediary’ structures (for example, chambers of commerce) that can act as bridges;
  • Provide opportunities to develop the international competitiveness of SMEs as well as joint opportunities to respond to new consumer trends (for example, facilitating trade through innovative approaches, such as product standards, processing methods, labelling, online retailing etc.);
  • Share experiences and practices on how to promote the uptake of eco-innovation and social innovation in SMEs (for example, energy audits).

Challenge 3: Resource and materials efficiency

North-West Europe must lead the way in the smart use of water, land, air and materials, considering its high population density and growing environmental problems. The NWE countries are among the highest resource consumers in the EU. The challenge is to further decouple economic growth from material consumption and to make better use of waste materials and energy from waste.

To tackle this challenge, we need to:

  • Implement common transnational strategies on use of resources, increase of resource efficiency and waste management;
  • Promote eco-innovation as a means of contributing the de-materialisation of society
  • Reduce the dependence on imported material resources;
  • Address the opportunities presented by the use of waste for raw material recovery and energy production and opportunities for new material development from waste.
Challenge 4: Energy security and supply

North-West Europe is one of the highest energy consuming regions in the EU with high energy saving potentials (particularly in transport and the built environment). So, it is important for the region to foster an innovative transnational approach to energy security and supply. This involves an optimised distribution and consumption of energy, as well as use and supply of (renewable) energy.

To tackle this challenge, we need to:

  • Increase the share of renewable energies in the production and consumption mix, with a focus on stimulating demand rather than supply;
  • Improve the transport mix and find innovative ways to decrease transport of goods and people (sustainable mobility concepts);
  • Reduce the environmental impact of the transport sector in NWE and decrease emissions;
  • Enhance "soft" aspects of renewable energy development such as ensuring more efficient and transparent permitting procedures, financing feasibility studies, increasing public acceptance and further speeding up the overall infrastructure deployment process;
  • Complement Regional Operational Programmes for EU funds which will be strongly focused on renewable energy production and energy consumption and efficiency.
Challenge 5: Vulnerability to climate change events

In the future, problems stemming from climate change could have strong effects on the NWE area, due to the high density of infrastructure and built environment in urban areas and to their location near coasts and rivers.

To tackle this challenge, we need to:

  • Reduce the risk of the NWE area to climate change events, specifically in the urban areas in NWE;
  • Cooperate on relevant risk mitigation measures;
  • Address specific climate change phenomena and risks and to implement the uptake of climate change mitigation solutions.

Challenge 6: Inclusion

The economic crisis and the accompanying austerity measures have had a negative impact on economic and social inclusion for communities under pressure. As a consequence, the NWE area faces the challenge to ensure the protection and integration of populations at risk of exclusion.

To tackle this challenge, we need to:

  • Address the issue of demographic change;
  • Address health issues related to air and water pollution (particularly within fragile social groups);
  • Avoid the deepening of existing social gaps in the future, fighting poverty and social exclusion, mainly in urban areas;
  • Reduce unemployment (youth, long-term, elderly) and strengthen lifelong learning;
  • Facilitate labour force mobility and integrated labour markets.

Interreg NWE Cooperation Programme 2014-2020

Key figures in 2014-2020

Total budget to finance projects

370 m

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

Co-funding rate

Projects need to provide the remaining 40%

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