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Finance Minister unveils action plan to increase funding to Wales through EU collaborative projects

Finance and Government Business Minister Jane Hutt will tell leaders in Brussels of Wales’ ambitions to increase the value of EU investments from collaborative projects with other EU regions to help boost the Welsh economy.

Launching Wales’ European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programmes action plan, the Minister will highlight the collaborative opportunities for Welsh organisations and businesses presented through the EU funding programmes 2014-2020 to address common social, economic and environmental challenges.

Wales participates in five ETC programmes, also known as Interreg, including the Ireland Wales programme which was launched by the Minister in March this year.  During 2007-2013, Welsh partners participated in 94 projects with Wales benefitting from €43 million of EU funds. The aim is to increase the value of ETC investments to Wales to €60m – an increase of 40%.

The Minister said:

"The EU’s key programmes for supporting co-operation between partners across national borders and regions have paved the way for many fruitful partnerships over the years.

“Looking ahead, we are committed to strengthening relations between regions building on partnerships and networks to increase joint working so we achieve maximum benefit for our region. This source of funding is additional to the Structural Funds that Wales receives and provides many opportunities for collaborative projects with our European counterparts.  It is yet another example of how UK membership of the EU is vital to sustainable growth and jobs in Wales.”

Celebrations to mark 25 years since the inception of Interreg recently were held across Europe. One project supported through the ETC programmes 2007–2013 was the Energetic Algae (EnAlgae) scheme.

The four-year transnational project, led by Swansea University, was funded by the INTERREG IVB North West Europe Programme, attracting £0.75m to the Welsh economy through the European Regional Development Fund.

The strategic initiative brought experts together from across Europe to develop the potential of using algae as a source of sustainable energy. Its aim was to reduce CO2 emissions and dependency on unsustainable energy sources in North West Europe by developing algae-based fuel as a renewable power source.

This algae-based resource was obtained by cultivating microalgae using wastewater and CO2 emissions.

Dr Alla Silkina, Biosciences Research Officer at Swansea University, said:

“The pilot provided opportunities for us to work with experts from eight EU member states to demonstrate innovative ways of using algae to generate not only bioenergy, but also other products and services; for example, algae can be used as a food source, in pharmaceuticals and also in beauty products.

“Working collaboratively through EnAlgae, we were able to accelerate the development of technological innovations for algal cultivation using nutrient rich wastewater and CO2 from local industries.”

Due to algae’s ability to consume high levels of CO2, the EnAlgae project benefited local industries such as Tata Steel and Welsh Water by reducing their emissions. A previous EU-backed research project, ACCOMPLISH, installed algal growth platforms to capture CO2, and other gases from Tata Steel’s coke oven’s flue gas in Port Talbot. The EnAlgae scheme utilised these platforms to undertake their own research.

One of its key outputs was the project’s dashboard – an ICT tool – which combines information from the cultivation of the algae and the systems used to process the data. The dashboard can guide decisions and identify gaps in knowledge and capability.

It has since been made publicly available to help algae stakeholders and businesses in North West Europe identify areas where they can improve their current algae farming and cultivation.

The EnAlgae project partners were from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

While in Brussels the Minister will also meet Lena Andersson Pench, Director, DG Regional Policy, European Commission.

Channel website: http://gov.wales

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