Bring Science into the Danube Region


The Danube Region covers parts of nine EU countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia) and five non-EU countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova).

The region is facing several challenges, such as environmental threats, insufficient energy and transport connections, uneven socio-economic development, as well as shortcomings in safety and security. Better coordination and cooperation between the countries and key players are needed to address these challenges.

The European Commission and scientists and policy makers from the 14 Danube Region countries launched in Bratislava on May 16, 2013, six clusters to support economic development in the region. The six clusters will focus on : water; land&soil; bio-energy; air; data exchange&harmonization; and smart specialization.

Presented at a high-level meeting in Bratislava, the clusters will provide scientific evidence to support the Danube Strategy, and will also serve to foster scientific cooperation across the region. The launch event was attended amongst others by the Slovak Prime Minister H.E. Robert Fico and the Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic.

Speaking at the launch, Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission, said : “The EU Strategy for the Danube Region aims to boost growth and jobs in the are through better policy making and funding. Science can really help by providing evidence-based data to policy makers, helping them to make informed decisions for a region that boasts enormous geopolitical and economic diversity.

Four thematic clusters will focus on some of the key resources of the Danube Region, namely water, land and soils, air, and bioenergy.

The Danube Water Nexus (DWN): This flagship cluster will cover various water-related issues such as water availability, water quality, water-related risks and the preservation and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity. It will also analyse the interdependencies of between different water-intensive economic sectors such as agriculture and energy.

The Danube Land and Soil Nexus (DLSN): This flagship cluster will study various issues related to the state and use of land and soils in the Danube Region, including land and soil availability and quality, land and soil-related risks and the preservation and restoration of above- and belowground ecosystems and biodiversity.

The Danube Air Nexus (DAN): This flagship cluster will cover various issues related to air, such as air quality and the assessment of the impacts of air pollution on ecosystems, on climate change and on public health.

The Danube Bio-energy Nexus (DBN): This flagship cluster will address the challenges related to energy in the Danube Region. It will focus on the high potential of the Danube Region for developing renewable energy from materials derived from biological sources.

The water, land&soil, bio-energy and air clusters will look at these key resources in relation to identified needs: environmental protection, irrigation&agricultural development and energy.

The reference data and service infrastructure cluster is meant to facilitate the exchange and harmonisation of clear and comparable  data in areas such as biodiversity, river morphology, flood and droughts risks, soils, crops or energy resources and potential. It will also set up a common data access point for the whole region – the first operational version should be available by December this year.

The smart specialisation cluster will use the Danube Region as a pilot area to study and foster the integration and coordination of regional or national research and innovation strategies for Smart Specialisation at macro-regional level. This approach can stimulate the constructive use of regional diversity by avoiding uniformity and duplication in regional investment goals as well as help develop critical mass to tackle major common challenges.

What were the steps followed to launch the scientific support initiative ?

During the first phase, the JRC launched the initiative and consulted the relevant stakeholders at scientific and political level. Cooperation agreements were set up with 9 Academies of Sciences in the Region and the Danube Rectors’ Conference (representing 54 universities) that had envisaged in broad areas of mutual interest such as environmental information systems, modeling, sustainable management of natural resources and environmental risks.

In a second phase, the JRC and the scientific partners identified a set of limited priorities: environment protection; irrigation and agricultural development; navigability; and energy production. These were presented at the first high-level meeting held in Brussels on 24 April 2012.


The third phase, which concludes with the high-level event in Bratislava, held on May 16, 2013, corresponds to the identification and validation of the flagship clusters. This process involved scientific partners, who were identified following the consultation of the coordinators of the relevant priority areas in the EU Strategy, and the national contact points, as well as many other stakeholders. In March 2013, more than 130 scientists from all over the Danube region gathered at the JRC site in Ispra to finalise the clusters’ concept, which was launched in Bratislava in the presence of high-level political representatives.





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