North Sea Region hotspots revealed

We have crunched the numbers to connect the dots and discover the epicentres of North Sea Region project activity.

The North Sea Region Programme supports place-based, transnational approaches to improving the future and creating vibrant communities in our region. Nearly 900 organisations are currently engaged in North Sea Region projects, but exactly where are they all located and how are they interconnected?

To find out, we mapped all current North Sea Region partnerships and found some interesting patterns. Note: The results reflect engagement levels, not budgets.

Project city hubs

The top five cities for North Sea Region Programme engagement are revealed below. For this purpose, we ranked cities according to the number of project beneficiaries they host (an organisation engaged in two projects counts twice).

  • Top 5 North Sea Region project hubs

  • #5 Leeuwarden

    With only 107,000 inhabitants, this Dutch city is home to surprising powers of innovation.

  • #4 Gothenburg

    The second largest Swedish city is renowned for its sustainability innovation.

  • #3 Ghent

    This serene Flemish city is in fact a strong Interreg project dynamo.

  • #2 Hamburg

    Bustling Hamburg is the home turf of many Interreg ideators and innovators.

  • #1 Groningen

    Groningen of just 200,000 citizens is the North Sea Region capital of innovation!

You might have expected to find the five largest cities in the region in this list. As it turns out, it covers the full range from very large to small cities, demonstrating that North Sea Region Programme funding is accessible to organisations everywhere in the region interested in transnational cooperation.

In fact, project beneficiaries are located in over 300 cities spread out across the region, with the largest number found in the UK. This level of involvement across the entire region helps reduce regional disparities in line with the EU Cohesion Policy.

Country location of 300+ cities hosting beneficiaries

Priority hotspots

We also took a closer look at the four specific Programme priorities. In the maps below, the size of each dot indicates the number of links to partners elsewhere in the region. The maps show that project partnerships are linking multiple places across the entire region – and each priority has its own geographic strongholds.

Priority 1: Thinking growth

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Projects in Priority 1 support regional smart specialisation strategies and often focus on building the innovation capacity of the public sector and small and medium sized enterprises.

The Dutch city of Groningen is clearly a major networking hub for regional innovation funded by the North Sea Region Programme. Groningen is followed by Flemish Kortrijk, Danish Aalborg and Aarhus, Swedish Malmö, and Dutch Leeuwarden.

Priority 2: Eco-innovation

Projects in this priority support the green energy transition, resource efficiency and the circular economy. They do this within different business sectors and often in private-public partnerships.

Danish Odense is the largest priority 2 hub, while Swedish Gothenburg and Dutch Groningen are additional centres of priority 2 activity.

Priority 3: Sustainable North Sea Region

Priority 3 projects centre mainly on climate adaptation and ecosystem management. Flood defence, nature-based solutions, and citizen engagement are key aspects covered by these projects.

German Hamburg and Oldenburg as well as Flemish Aalst are prominent within this priority, while all North Sea Region countries are well represented.

Priority 4: Green mobility and transport

Priority 4 projects support green mobility and transport, including freight and passenger transport. They cover a broad range of topics, from shared mobility to autonomous driving and low-carbon fuels.

The Flemish city of Gent is the largest hub for beneficiaries of North Sea Region transport projects. The UK cities Inverness, Leeds and Aberdeen as well as Dutch Assen are additional strongholds for this priority.

Above all, these colourful maps demonstrate the high level of transnational networking and cooperation that goes on within our Programme. Bringing people together around a common challenge is a core aspect of every project we fund.

We are proud to see this visual proof of how extensively projects are linking people, organisations, and places across the North Sea Region!

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