EMERGREEN uses transnational cooperation to create greener communities in 5 NPA regions

Partners have shared new innovative models for participative public services in remote areas.

EMERGREEN, or Emerging Technologies for Greener Communities project, funded under Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme 2014 – 2020, has finished its innovation path and achieved all its sustainable goals and objectives.

With a budget of €1.6 million, EMERGREEN has introduced new emerging technologies into public services to assist in creating greener communities in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Finland, Faroe Islands and Sweden. “The EMERGREEN partners have created innovative new public services that raise awareness on sustainability issues and engage citizens in actively contributing to everyday sustainability solutions and greener lifestyles.”, explains Anne Marie McLaughlin, EMERGREEN project leader. A stakeholder-led common approach has been followed by the partnership to select and test different emerging technologies in the provision of green growth public services.

The common territorial challenges tackled by EMERGREEN are delivering quality and sustainable public services in remote areas, addressing factors such as long distances, high service delivery costs due to low demand aggregation, shortages in human and material resources, and lack of access to the latest innovations. “Leveraging new social technologies to help governments engage with citizens – especially those in remote or sparsely populated areas – is key to increasing participation in climate change actions and creating green communities”, adds Anne Marie. The EMERGREEN achievements are evidenced by the following project results:

  • Creation of 5 green growth services:

    • Coastal Stories data and storytelling app in Donegal (Ireland)
    • Recycling Chatbot and App in Derry City & Strabane (Northern Ireland)
    • Digital Citizen Participation Platform in Mikkeli City (Finland)
    • Localised Renewable Energy Information Portal in Faroe Islands
    • Solar Energy Advisory Service Chatbot in Västernorrland (Sweden)

  • Public service delivery model outlining the requirements and benefits of these types of innovative public services
  • A transnational platform highlighting the services and giving other technology-led public service providers the opportunity to join

EMERGREEN’s achievements

EMERGREEN’s project partners achieved all the planned outputs by working together, learning from other partner regions and developing new networks. Thanks to EMERGREEN’s approach, the project packaged new models and solutions for five NPA regions with enhanced capacities to provide quality and sustainable public services. These are the services created through the EMERGREEN project:

  • Donegal (Ireland): Coastal management app gathering data on coastal erosion. Donegal County Council developed ‘Donegal Coastal Stories’ in conjunction with NUI Galway. The service is designed as an engagement and educational tool, which over time will provide an understanding to the dynamics at play in marine coastal erosion. It engages the public as citizen scientists to capture coastal dynamics. Citizens are invited to submit photos at several specific locations overlooking areas of coastal erosion concern. These will be used to monitor coastal zone changes over time and form a valuable resource as a baseline for climate adaptation and mitigation measures. The data is supplemented with stories from locals about how the coastlines have changed over the years.
  • Derry and Strabane (Northern Ireland): Zero waste circular management service. Derry City and Strabane District Council created a recycling website, app and Recycling Information Assistant (RIA) chatbot providing 24/7 information on recycling and waste management to citizens. The EMERGREEN project contributes directly to the council’s Zero Waste Circular Economy Strategy. Implementing these three new technologies will allow the council to manage public information services more effectively while at the same time providing members of the community with access to information to help them live more sustainably.
  • Västernorrland (Sweden): Green growth advisory services Our partners from Region Västernorrland say that solar energy is a hot topic, with many people looking for more advice and guidance that pertains specifically to their situation. A chatbot that can answer localised solar panel questions (in both Swedish and English) was seen as the perfect solution to both provide answers to citizens’ questions and to direct them to their local energy advisors for more specific details. The SolcEllen chatbot is now providing region-specific advice regarding solar energy to the public 24 hours a day.
  • City of Mikkeli (Finland): Intelligent citizen participation in green initiatives. The University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute, developed a digital participation platform “Omaidea” to promote innovative and versatile citizen participation in the City of Mikkeli and South-Savo region. The platform is raising awareness on sustainability issues, such us circular economy and climate change, and engaging citizens to actively contribute to and promote green lifestyles. The youth engagement activities on the Omaidea platform were particularly successful and sparked the formation of a youth climate awareness group in the city of Mikkeli.
  • Faroe Islands: Data storytelling to promote sustainable energy solutions. Umhvørvisstovan Environment Agency created a web-based information portal to assist local stakeholders on the islands in choosing an alternative renewable heating solution for their homes. The service is guiding people towards choosing a smart heating solution with better efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint. The data storytelling element of the portal shares locals’ energy data and stories of their own renewable energy experiences in their own words.

Sharing expertise

A transnational platform has been created, making the services accessible on a transboundary basis, with the vision of expanding and hosting other technology-led public services from other NPA regions and service areas.

Visit our platform at emergreen.ernact.eu.

In the medium and long term, the project will serve as a demonstrator, testing new technologies and approaches that will ease future adoption by other regions and expansion into other public service areas. The new technologies piloted in EMERGREEN, the open innovation approach, and the new business models identified have huge potential and can be replicated in other public service areas on a transnational basis.