19 June 2024

First small projects finalising, first great outcomes

Written by Susie hacquin
As our first 17 small projects are coming to an end, let’s embrace the first results in place and invaluable experiences of people working as if there were no borders. Dive with us into the stories of three of our small projects and discover the nature of small projects as such.
Small steps for a big change!

Small projects play a special role in our Programme. They are meant to be an instrument easing access to Interreg. Indeed, 38% of project partners in small projects are new to the Interreg family. Small projects in particular facilitate building trust, initiating and keeping networks that are important for the region, remaining close to the people. By developing practical and durable outputs and solutions, small projects allow for a swift response to unpredictable and urgent challenges. On a practical level, small projects differ from core projects in several aspects. First, their duration is shorter than core projects: up to 24 months, against 36 months for core projects. Small projects also have smaller budgets (up to EUR 500,000) than core projects and reduced administrative burden coming along.

17 projects and a wide array of topics covered

Our first small projects tackle a variety of challenges in the Baltic Sea region. Involving as many as 112 project partners’ organisations from all Programme area countries around the Baltic Sea, small projects contribute to our goals of building Innovative societies (5 projects), Water-smart societies (5 projects), and Climate-neutral societies (7 projects). For instance, the projects LakesConnect or AdvIQwater address water quality improvement challenges while the project BalMarGrav harmonise data for safer navigation. The projects BSR Food Coalition and StratKit+ ensure consistent access to organic meals in schools and help public authorities run sustainable procurement. Economic development is bolstered by Prosper BSR partners, supporting the immigrant and refugee workforce in the region. Additionally, several projects make advances toward climate-neutral societies: BOWE2H in the topic of offshore wind energy and PV 4 All – regarding the implementation of photovoltaic systems. By collaborating across borders, the partners have provided benefits to more than 650 organisations in the Baltic Sea region, helping them build green and resilient communities and economies. Let’s now focus on three of these innovative projects.

Partners

ERDF in million EUR

1st call small projects

Newcomers in %

GlassCircle: a “small” project only in the name

Even though this financial instrument is called a ‘small project’, the topics and challenges addressed by the partners are definitely crucial for the region. That is one important aspect that was mentioned by Birgitha Nyström from PodComp, one of the project partners in the project GlassCircle. GlassCircle tackles the issue of waste from the production in the glass fiber industry. Podcomp, a glass fiber manufacturer in Sweden, admits to generate a lot of waste from their production, which is a big concern. When producing bathrooms, every door frame is always cut off, which leaves a lot of unused material, as Birgitha Nyström explains. The goal of the project was then to find a way to reuse this material and prevent waste. In the case of this partner, the project’s solution could additionally prevent the firm from financial loss. In that sense, the project was only ‘small’ in the name.

Started in October 2022, GlassCircle project successfully ran several workshops. It allowed universities to work together with companies on solving the problem of production waste. In these workshops, students tested some ideas on how to turn glass fiber waste into real products in the future. In parallel, the project prepared a GlassCircle database for companies to find partners interested in sharing or acquiring glass fiber residue. Concretely for PodComp, they have successfully developed three products using production scraps that are currently available on demand. Additionally, they are actively exploring other innovative ideas stemming from the project, with a primary focus on improving manufacturing cost-effectiveness. This is how GlassCircle actively contributed to reducing glass fiber residue.

According to Birgitha Nyström, this project is an important step in the right direction to spread a common solution about how to re-use this material. She believes the transnational aspect of the project had two big advantages: first, industries and universities from different countries were able to connect to work jointly on a common solution. Second, the solution could also be later spread more easily to people and industries at a transnational level as the platform is under preparation. Birgitha Nyström is not new to the Interreg world. Based on her previous project experiences, she noticed that there was less reporting, and thus administrative burden, which was more adapted to the size of the project. All in all, GlassCircle is a good example of a small project which shows that even small concerns can tackle big problems for industry.

AdvIQwater: small projects as an opportunity to work on a transnational level

Small projects can also be seen as a way to enter the arena of transnational cooperation. In the project AdvIQwater, a project manager from the University of Technology of Gdańsk, Anna Zielińska-Jurek, told us about the difference between cooperating on a national and a transnational level. AdvIQwater was her first Interreg transnational project and she in particular appreciated the complementarity of partners on a transnational level. In her opinion, there was a synergy between the partners from different countries. What she observed is the fact that partners from different countries have different experiences on the same topics. In this project, these different experiences allowed her to work on the development of technologies that are complementary to biological treatment processes developed by the other partners from Poland, Denmark and Estonia.

AdvIQwater project worked on improving the quality of water in the Baltic Sea region. The project adopted a proactive approach to prevent the presence of contaminants and thus improve the quality of water. With this common goal, wastewater treatment companies worked together with universities. Anna Zielińska-Jurek explained that partners came from a variety of countries and sectors, which allowed a diversity of points of view to emerge on the topics. As a university professor, she focused on studying the degradation processes. But the partners needed to find a compromise between the development of new processes and processes in use in the wastewater treatment plants because they cannot change everything all of a sudden. The cooperation helped them understand what was and wasn’t possible to do. So far, the project partners have developed pilot installations for the degradation of pharmaceuticals present in waters. The joint solution they reached will be used by the industry in practice and the cooperation between partners and associated organisations will be remembered for a long time.

BEACON: small projects as a “stepping stone for bigger projects”

BEACON was not the first Interreg Baltic Sea Region project for the lead partner Finnish Environment Institute, nor was it for Kari Lehtonen, the project manager. However, it was the first small project they took part in. And his first remark is that this small project can be a stepping stone for a bigger project.

BEACON project worked on pollution effects and contamination of the Baltic Sea waters. More precisely, it was about “supporting the implementation of effect-based methods in monitoring and assessment of a chemical contamination in the Baltic Sea”. These methods can detect the mixture effects of all active known and unknown chemicals in a sample, which cannot be addressed by chemical analysis alone. Compared to his previous Interreg Baltic Sea Region project experiences, Kari Lehtonen highlighted that on top of having smaller amounts of funds and shorter duration, small projects require less work from the partners. He saluted to the fact that small projects are more straightforward and less demanding, as the expected outcomes can be part of a bigger solution. He overall likes the idea of a small project results being taken up by a bigger project. Nevertheless, an even lower amount of project administration could be a goal to take.

He also highlighted the added value of pressure placed on communication. Kari explained that scientists often discuss within their circles but rarely meet the practitioners. The requirements of a small project forced the partners to communicate more actively with their target groups. He admitted that collaboration was the cornerstone of work, but also “the only way to go”: a very hopeful idea for the future of transnational cooperation!

Small projects: a springboard to cooperation!

From trying out new technologies or approaches to exploring what it is like to work in a transnational project: small projects have brought lots of benefits to the partners involved proving that every step in cooperation matters. At the same time, results of small projects stay with the people and will have its own share in advancing water-smart, climate-neutral, and innovative societies.

More about the projects

GlassCircle

Exploring full cycle circular economy for glass fiber industry
The project GlassCircle helps glass fiber manufacturers reduce the environmental impacts of glass fiber waste by bringing it back into use.
Read more about the project

AdvIQwater

Improving quality of BSR waters by advanced treatment processes
The project AdvIQwater tests photocatalysis, fungal treatment and biofilms methods to efficiently clean wastewaters from pharmaceuticals.
Read more about the project

BEACON

Application of biological effects methods in monitoring and assessment of contaminants in the Baltic Sea
In the project BEACON, public authorities and governmental organisations develop harmonised methods to assess contamination in the Baltic Sea waters, sediment and biota.
Read more about the project

BSR Food Coalition

Baltic Municipality’s Food Coalition
The project BSR Food Coalition connects local farmers and public authorities to ensure regular access to organic food meals at schools, and thus a continuous demand for healthy food supply.
Read more about the project

StratKIT+

Innovative Strategies for Public Catering: the Expansion of the Sustainable Public Meal Toolkit
The project StratKIT+ guides public authorities, catering providers and others on sustainable procurement for schools, daycare, hospitals and other public institutions.
Read more about the project

Prosper BSR

Promoting Perspectives for promising potential workforce in the Baltic Sea Region
The project Prosper BSR empowers business support organisations to integrate refugees and immigrants into labour markets, and ensure access to skilled workforce at the same time.
Read more about the project

PV 4 All

Photovoltaics for All
The project PV4All develops models and advisory services for companies, organisations and individuals to overcome challenges and barriers in the uptake of small-scale photovoltaic systems across the Baltic Sea region.
Read more about the project