Transition in coal intensive regions

The implementation of the EU Energy Union transition towards a low-carbon economy poses significant technological, economic and social challenges, in particular for coal-intensive regions that have to prepare for the reduction or phasing-out of coal production, both due to market-driven trends and environmental policies. These regions need an effective roadmap to make the necessary transition to a more diversified economic base and a more sustainable energy system, while safeguarding the social cohesion for communities and regions dependent on coal production.

Smart Specialisation strategies, which are also a precondition for benefiting from European Structural and Investment Funds, are expected to help organise the structural changes. The involvement of the private sector, researchers and local governments in the process of 'entrepreneurial discovery' is a key challenge in itself. Developing joint strategies, built on complementarities and respective strengths, can be valuable for better realising the individual and combined potential of coal-intensive regions.


The objective is to support European coal-intensive regions to design research and innovation strategies to facilitate their transition towards a sustainable energy system. The proposed action will assist policy makers to develop, implement and review their strategies by providing information, developing methodologies, expertise and advice. Main deliverables are a set of blueprints and tools for Member States, Associated Countries and regions. Special consideration will be given to the Implementation Plans jointly developed by European countries, as part of the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan).

Specific issues to be addressed include:

  • Assist regional actors in developing Research and Innovation strategies for smart specialisation, including the development of public R&I capacities, consistent with the SET Plan;
  • Investigate relevant social challenges including the re-skilling needs of the workforce;
  • Identification and exchange of best practices, including industrial roadmaps from coal towards new technologies and transformation strategies for coal based combined heat and power production to low carbon electricity and district heating generation;
  • Guidance to regional actors for the access to available European funds and programmes, such as; (a combination of) the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), Cohesion Policy funds and Horizon 2020, and leveraging additional national public and private co-financing.

The project should develop synergies and complementarities to the European Commission's Smart Specialisation Platform on Energy (S3PEnergy).

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 and 2 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

The proposed action should lead to new and deepened cooperation in R&I between coal intensive regions that will facilitate their transition to a more sustainable energy system. This cooperation should in the short to medium term contribute to reach the targets set in the SET Plan and stimulate investment in the low-carbon energy sector, with the long term aim to boost innovation-driven growth and industrial competitiveness, create opportunities for employment, meet the COP21 targets and safeguard environmental protection.

Cross-cutting Priorities

Socio-economic science and humanities

Application date
Humanities : History, Anthropology & Ethnology
Social sciences : Pedagogic & Education Research, Sociology