Priority 1: Cooperating for a smarter central Europe

Central Europe is a key economic area in the EU with a robust industrial core. Long-lasting cooperation on trade, as well as on investment and industry issues have resulted in strong functional ties across the programme area. To remain competitive, territories have to manage the transition to a more digitalised, greener and more resilient economy. Crucially, they have to achieve this in a socially inclusive and just way.

Specific objectives

SO 1.1: Strengthening innovation capacities in central Europe

Why we fund this

Strong innovation capacities bear enormous relevance for central Europe considering its strong industrial base and the importance of sectors such as agriculture and food, or tourism. Innovation is also central for strengthening central Europe’s economic resilience.

Capacities for innovation need to be fostered especially in regions that are struggling with the transition to a more globalised, digitalised and green economy. Knowledge and technology transfer, especially for SMEs, is a critical need.

Potential fields to be addressed by project proposals

Green economy, bio-economy

Cultural and creative industries and tourism

Silver economy

Technology and innovation transfer to SMEs

Innovative schemes for financing innovation

Industry 4.0, robotisation, mechatronics, digital technologies, key enabling technologies

 Innovation in health (care)

 Social innovation

Interregional partnerships along value chains


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SO 1.2: Strengthening skills for smart specialisation, industrial transition and entrepreneurship in central Europe

Why we fund this

The strong industrial base of central Europe and its dependence on adequate skills underlines the strategic relevance of this specific objective. Small and medium enterprises (SME) are the main providers of employment in central Europe and it is important to foster locally available human skills, especially for the transition to Industry 4.0, digitalisation and a green economy.

Capacities need to be improved for an efficient entrepreneurial discovery process as well as for the preparation or updating of smart specialisation strategies. The place-based development of skills is also crucial for reducing urban-rural disparities. Overall, there is the need for a just transition process that is socially responsible.

Potential fields to be addressed by project proposals

Skills for sectors of relevance for smart specialisation, e.g. industry 4.0, digitalisation, green economy, bio-economy, silver economy, health and life sciences, cultural and creative industries, sustainable tourism)

Matching skills to labour market needs of regions in industrial and digital transition

Capacity-building and institutional learning for smart specialisation

Competences for innovation management in smes and entrepreneurship, including social entrepreneurship

Counteracting regional (urban-rural) disparities of human capital and brain-drain


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Funded projects

In December 2022, we selected 53 new transnational cooperation projects with a budget of nearly 100 million EUR from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 14 of these projects are cooperating to make central Europe smarter.