A journey in the Atlantic Area
My name is Gaïd, I am a French student in European affairs, and last February, I joined the Interreg Atlantic Area Joint Secretariat as a Youth volunteer. As a true European believer, it was my ambition to participate to the dissemination and visibility of initiatives supported by the European Union on its territories.
The Atlantic Area gathers coastal regions from five European countries: Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal. Granted with an inestimable cultural and natural heritage, and an existential relation to the ocean, these territories have a lot to offer, and what could be better than enhancing their cooperation to make the most of these assets?
In a few facts and figures, 36 regions from the five Atlantic countries are connected through 72 projects, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, a financing instrument of the European Union. Projects are brought together by public and private actors, such as universities, public authorities, research centres, small and medium companies, NGOs, associations, and so on. After identifying common challenges in different places of the Atlantic Area, these actors share knowledge, capacities, good practices, technologies, networks, and much more to enhance the potential of the Atlantic regions in many different sectors.
Being a bretonne myself, I often think of the Atlantic Area as the best place to live, but also as a place where many things are possible. As part of my volunteering activity, I had to go through all the projects supported by the Atlantic Area, and I must say that these are highly inspiring. I then started to think: what is the best way to expose these great initiatives?
I therefore invite you to an immersive journey into the Atlantic Area and its cooperation projects. From the North of Ireland to the South of Portugal, going through the UK, France and Spain, follow me into a travel about nature, culture, tradition, innovation, sharing, and caring. We will visit the places where the projects are creating, experimenting, implementing, and making their ideas come true concretising their ideas. I hope that this journey will make you discover how various, ambitious and successful Interreg projects are, how ambitious and how successful.
But first, what does a traveller needs to travel? A means of transportation of course! Let’s
think of something ecological, fun, practical and accessible to everyone to make the most of this trip… Yes, bikes!
The project AtlanticOnBike proposes itineraries to cycle along the coast, from Northern Ireland to the South of Spain. So get on your bike, and let the journey begin!
First stop: Lough Foyle, in Northern Ireland, to discover the pilot project of SAFER, that which brings together actors of the seafood industry of the Atlantic area. In Lough Foyle, the project works on oyster production, to support this sector as a driver of regional economy. How can you enjoy it? Tasting the oysters obviously! of course!
Riding our bike along the Irish Wild Atlantic Way, let’s stop at the Bureen & Cliffs of Moher. This UNESCO Global Geopark is a must-do of the Irish coast. This place is where the GeoAtlantic project held one of its study visit, the project aims at promoting the geological and cultural heritages of Geoparks all around the Atlantic.
After this oceanic wave in Ireland, we can continue our travel to Great Britain, where initiatives on business development are carried out.
A stop in Liverpool, at the Baltic Triangle, a converted industrial zone, alternative neighbourhood with alternative business housed in an old warehouse, that hosts the AYCH Liverpool platform (1). AYCH is a project of Interreg Atlantic Area that provide guidance to youth under 30 years who wish to seek a career in the creative sector. In Liverpool, youths can find advice and help to develop ideas and their own business.
If you want to visit Cardiff, stop by its Victorian indoor Central market, in the city’s heart. A place for pilot action to USER-FACTOR project(2), providing guidance to the market traders.
Now let’s cross the English Channel and make our way to France, and more precisely, to Mont St Michel bay, where the Couesnon river ends. Welcoming large biodiversity, it is a space of experimentation for ALICE project, whichthat is developing an integrated approach to conciliate human activities and protection of coastal and territorial biodiversity.
I now invite you to take a deep breath and to be ready to enter an amazing region: Bretagne. This place of cultural, natural and traditional singularity has always had a special place in my heart, but it is also a very dynamic region for the Interreg Atlantic Area programme.
Through my volunteering work, my heart was beating every time I was finding out that actors from the region are partners of the projects. At the top of these initiatives, Brest Technopôle concentrates many activities related to oceans, with Ifremer and many universities and research centres oriented towards marine and maritime issues. Many projects are partly being developed in this place, situated on the coast, along the Iroise sea. Moses, ADSA, BluePorts, and much more are the projects that include partners from the Technopôle. If you find your way there (after a few hills that I must congratulate you if you did not put the feet on the ground from your bike), visit the La Pérouse library, probably one with the best view in the history of libraries.
Leaving Brest, you can continue to discover Bretagne wanders by going through the Parc régional naturel d’Armorique. Between sea and land, the park offers an overview of the natural wealth of this region. It was the place for another visit of Atlantic GeoPark project.
Along the French Atlantic coast, wild beaches are spreading on kilometres, on your way down to Spain, you will have many occasions to stop and discover some of thesem. It is the perfect moment to play Cluéd’Eau mégot (if you speak French of course), a game created by a CleanAtlantic project partner, to raise awareness on the effects of cigarette butts on the environment.
Arriving to Spain, in Basque country, you might cross the way of Cluster Energia, involved in various Atlantic Area projects, they notably propose a demonstration of how to use drones in the maintenance of renewable energy power in the Atlantic region, in the framework of DURABLE project.
Next destination: Ria de Pontevedra, in Galicia. Much aAppreciated by the tourists, this
place offers many leisure activities. Let’s start with something more serious but still interesting: exercises of deployment of materials against marine pollution, led by MyCoast project, that which aims at building a coordinated Atlantic Coastal Operational Observatory in the Atlantic Area, to support threat and emergency response. Indeed, due to its geographic but also strategic localisation, the Atlantic coast is likely to be reached by natural as well as anthropic threats, that MyCoast projects wishes to tackle, developing engineering to respond as fast as possible and enhance the resilience of the territories.
But now, let’s move on to delectationpleasure: imagine that it is a sunny day, you are in Bueu market, and you meet a local fishmonger who shows you how to prepare and cook great seafood products. Here we are more particularly talking about cephalopods, which the project Cephs&Chefs proposes to put in the light, ensuring sustainable fishing of these species and highlight the quality of these products in the Atlantic regions, with the help of cooking chefs. Please check the Youtube channel of the projects to find out the delightful potential of these mollusks!
We are now reaching the last country of our adventure, and the fifth country included in the Atlantic Area programme: Portugal. The State has always shown its active participation into the driving of Interreg programmes, and regional development led by the EU. Indeed, the joint secretariat of the programme is in Porto, from there, all the projects are coordinated. Do not hesitate to stop by this sunny and colourful city on your bike adventure through the Portuguese coast!
Speaking about coast, Portuguese ports are the place of experimentation for treatment of polluted waters. Instead of rejecting these at sea, the BluePorts project is finding some innovative solutions to create a port based reception/ treatment of contaminated waters. This challenge is a major one for the maritime sector and its sustainability.
And to finish this journey in beauty ,And to end on a high note, what’s best than a day at the beach, with on the programme, nautical activities! This is what the project Capiten proposes you, to experience environmental friendly coastal activities. If you are lucky enough, you could have an ocean ride on their splendid ecological stand-up paddle (3)…
One more thing: you can use this journey to turn yourself into a scientist, and take part tof a project… by taking picture of the water colour for example! iFADO project proposes you to contribute to their work through the EyeOnWater app (4), to observe the algae and organic content of the water that feeds organisms. The project aims at creating marine services using the EU Atlantic Waters as case study. So wherever you stop on your Atlantic journey, pick up your smartphone and take pictures!
We are coming to the conclusionend of this trip, but for sure, it is not the conclusion of Interreg projects. What you have been able to discover here is only the visible part of the iceberg. Most of the Atlantic Area projects are still in the making, in laboratories, research centers, universities and so on.
Experimentations in the middle of the Macaronesia waters, between the Azores and the Canaries, are taking place in this very time! iFADO and Jonas projects are indeed using a waveglider to collect meteorological and oceanographic data, such as acoustic traces of cetaceans. These last data will be used by Jonas project in the implementation of measures protecting the ocean animals from underwater noise pollution produced by human activities.
Wondering what a wale sounds like? :
On Atlantic coastal waters, a new type of reef can be observed: 3D printed reef, created by 3DPARE (5) project, to intend recreating biodiversity in some ecosystems impacted by human activities, as natural reefs are disappearing.
Energy, tourism, fishery, gastronomy, medicine, biology, environment and so on, Interreg projects are as diverse as the assets of the Atlantic regions. From this journey, one thing is left to be remembered: Interreg is everywhere, in inspiring places, oriented towards innovation and cooperation. You, people from the Atlantic coast, all know a place, an activity, someone, related to an Interreg project. Interreg connects people, and make them see further than their living space. With new horizons come new opportunities, I hope that I contributed to opening yours on what the Atlantic Area has to offer.
Liverpool Platform, AYCH: https://www.aych.eu/aych-platform-your-ideas-in-liverpool/
USER-FACTOR Cardiff Market: http://userfactor.eu/2019/08/01/cardiff-market-service-design-programme-2019/
CAPITEN eco-friendly stand-up paddle: https://capiten.eu/2019/08/20/capiten-day-at-porto-santo/?lang=en
EyeOnWater app: https://www.eyeonwater.org/
3D Pare artificial reef printing: https://www.giteco.unican.es/proyectos/3dpare/index.html
Atlantic area Map: https://www.atlanticarea.eu/page/3
Burren Cliffs and Moher: https://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/environment/the-burren-cliffs-of-moher-unesco-geopark/
Couesnon river: https://www.wikimanche.fr/Couesnon
Technopôle Brest : http://www.wiki-brest.net/index.php/Ifremer
Ria de Pontevedra : http://www.cruiserswiki.org/wiki/Ria_de_Pontevedra