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05.07.07
EU Commissioner hails South West innovation as model for cohesion policy

South West England has been praised as an 'exemplar' region for the way it has invested European structural funds to help develop a thriving economy.

The comments were made by European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hübner, who was speaking at an international summit on innovation hosted by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA) at the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) main campus near Falmouth.

During her visit, which was arranged following a personal invitation from Juliet Williams, chairman of the South West RDA, the Commissioner also toured innovative projects in Cornwall that have been invested in jointly by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Objective One Programme and the RDA.

These included Newquay Cornwall Airport, the Jamie Oliver-inspired Fifteen Cornwall restaurant, Tolvaddon Energy Park and the CUC.

Summit participants included delegates from 25 EU regions and 19 member states and examined how regions can develop an innovative culture to turn ideas into business opportunities.

The summit was especially timely as regions across Europe are negotiating with the European Commission about how they intend to invest the next round of European structural funds between 2007 and 2013.

In the South West more than £600 million will be available through the new Convergence and Competitiveness European Regional Development Fund Programmes. The majority of this investment will be managed on behalf of partners by the RDA, and promoting innovation is a key part of new EU regional policy.

Commissioner Hübner said: "South West England is among those exemplar regions in Europe that have truly grasped the opportunity presented by EU structural funds. The examples of investment I have seen today show what can be achieved by a region that recognises why knowledge and creativity are all vital ingredients to fostering a modern, innovative economy.

"As we move forward with the new Convergence and Competitiveness programmes I have every confidence that South West England will continue to be a beacon among EU regions."

South West RDA chairman Juliet Williams said: "In welcoming Commissioner Hübner to Cornwall once again we are showcasing what has been achieved and how we intend to build on those achievements. The Commissioner outlined how European regional policy is shifting from 'opening roads to opening minds' by focusing on spreading knowledge and innovation among the regions, and that's what we and our partners will do through sharing best practice."

Carleen Kelemen, director of the Objective One Partnership, said: "It is a great pleasure to welcome Commissioner Hübner and our many international guests to Cornwall. The Commissioner and Juliet Williams, together with Cornwall County Council, have created this opportunity to showcase Cornwall's innovative investment projects to the rest of Europe. It is a credit to the many people, businesses and partnership organisations that have made Objective One the success that it is."

Councillor Andrew Mitchell, Cornwall County Council's executive member for the economy said: "I am grateful for the interest Mrs Hübner has shown in what we are doing here in Cornwall with the funds through the Objective One Programme and the support she has offered to ensure Cornwall continues with best practice for the Convergence Programme.

"The visit allowed us to show how innovative and diverse projects have all benefited from European money and the impact they are having on making the Cornish economy one of the fastest growing in Europe for assisted areas. That skill and best practice is why we had the Commissioner visiting us two years running and over 20 regions from across Europe attending this important joint Cornwall – RDA summit."

Commissioner Hübner arrived in Cornwall at Newquay Cornwall Airport where she was briefed on the expansion of facilities which aim to increase passenger numbers to 700,000 by 2011. She also viewed the new £3.3 million terminal extension, which has been supported by £1.25m from Objective One.

The South West RDA has committed £8 million to support Newquay Cornwall Airport's development, with £12 million expected from Objective One in recognition of the airport's vital contribution to supporting the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

From there Commissioner Hübner travelled to Watergate Bay to visit the Jamie Oliver-inspired Fifteen Cornwall restaurant which is helping disadvantaged young people from Cornwall pursue new careers by training as chefs.

The RDA and Objective One jointly invested more than £1 million in the social enterprise which opened in May last year. The restaurant has provided a valuable boost to Cornwall's tourism industry and makes use of the abundance of high quality local food producers in the region. The individual trainees receive ESF support through Jobcentre Plus and the Learning and Skills Council co-financing programme.

The Commissioner then travelled to the £4 million Tolvaddon Energy Park in Camborne and was briefed on the comprehensive regeneration plans for the area by Nigel Tipple, chief executive of CPR Regeneration, the urban regeneration company for Camborne, Pool and Redruth.

Tolvaddon, which opened in April 2002, is home to several hi-tech businesses and was invested in jointly by the RDA and Objective One. It was one of the first projects to benefit from the Objective One Programme and remains one of the mostly energy-efficient developments ever built in Cornwall.

The Commissioner then spent the afternoon at the CUC main campus at Tremough where the international innovation summit was held. The CUC is seen as a model for other EU regions and has been praised at the highest level in Brussels.

The £125 million CUC has been the cornerstone of the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Objective One programme and has lead to a huge expansion of higher education facilities across Cornwall. Objective One has invested a total of £63.5m in the project, with £18.2 million coming from the RDA.

Commissioner Hübner visited Cornwall in May last year when she inaugurated the second phase of the CUC and visited the Eden Project.

For further information please contact Clare Morgan, Media Relations Manager, Objective One Partnership on 07973 813647 or email cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk.

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Editor's notes:

1. The South West of England Regional Development Agency was established by government in 1999 to promote the long-term economic success of the region. It does this by working with others to give people the skills they need, encouraging enterprise, improving infrastructure, helping communities with regeneration and promoting the strengths of the region.
2. The Objective One and Objective Two programmes in South West England ran from 2000 to 2006.
3. The Convergence European Regional Development Fund Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will succeed the current Objective One Programme. The new programme is valued at around £470m between 2007 and 2013.
4. Outside Cornwall (ie the rest of the region) will be covered by the new Competitiveness Programme which is valued at around £181 million for the same period.
5. Draft Operational Programmes, which set out how the European funding will be invested in the region, were submitted for each Programme to the European Commission in May. There now follows a period of negotiation before the Programmes are approved, which is expected to be in the autumn.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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