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What happened in 2020 and perspectives for 2021


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Dear Colleagues,

The year 2020 has been an extra ordinary year, which nevertheless did not stop ESPON in its activities. On the contrary, we were searching for new ideas under the changed conditions, which helped experimenting also for the future. Today, we would like to inform you on the main achievements of the ESPON 2020 Programme of the year 2020 and provide you with an outlook on the coming year of 2021.

In particular, we would like to share some interesting insights on the future ESPON programme based on the results of the public consultation on the strategic orientation of the next ESPON 2030 Programme.

1. Main activities in 2020

2. Perspectives for 2021

3. The strategic orientation of the future ESPON 2030 Programme

4. Citizen summary of the Annual Implementation Report 2019

1.        Main activities in 2020

As we are moving towards the end of the 2014-2020 programming period, two key strategic objectives guided the Annual Work Plan 2020 of the ESPON EGTC:

  • Complete the production of territorial evidence towards key ongoing and new policy processes at all levels building on the results of finalised research;
  • Capitalise on the available research outputs and ensure their contribution to key policy processes and specific target audiences at European, national, regional and local scale. The focus is now on tailor-made outreach products and active engagement with stakeholders, researchers and media in the design and implementation of outreach activities.

The related activities were implemented with reference to the four strategic objectives of the ESPON 2020 Programme:

1) An enhanced European territorial evidence production through applied research and analysis

In 2020, the ESPON EGTC has kicked-off three new Applied Research projects:

At the same time, in order to increase the national, regional and local relevance and application of ESPON’s evidence in policy processes, several additional country case studies were carried through to complement ongoing or closed applied research activities.

The EGTC also developed a short-term research project on Covid-19, a study about the geography of COVID-19 outbreak and the first policy answers in European regions and cities addressing the territorial impact of COVID-19 pandemic and regional policies in Europe during the first months of the outbreak. The results of this study will be used in a wider applied research activity in 2021 on the territorial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for European places.

2) An upgraded knowledge transfer and use of analytical user support

The targeted analyses primarily aim to use European territorial evidence in concrete policy processes at national, regional and local level as well as within territorial cooperation areas. These activities are proposed by stakeholders, which remain involved in the research work throughout the project lifetime. The last Targeted Analyses projects were launched in 2020 on the following themes:

At the same time, in order to increase the national, regional and local relevance and application of ESPON’s evidence in policy processes, several additional case studies in a range of countries were carried through on the topics of the finalised activities. The ESPON EGTC also launched two new TEVI – Territorial Evidence Support of European Territorial Cooperation Programmes projects one for the macro-regions and one for the outermost regions.

In addition, further Policy Briefs and Working Papers were produced with reference to:

The EGTC launched a dissemination service of on-demand Info packs to deliver rapid support to policymaking. The main rationale of Info packs is outreach at micro level – e.g. support / background / briefing material for working meetings, taskforce and committee meetings, consultations, preparation of speeches of local officials or meetings with employees of European institutions (DGs, CoR, etc.).

Furthermore, the EGTC launched the preparation of the online Territorial Atlas of Europe. Unlike the State of the European Territory report, which online version was made available in June 2020, this Atlas edition will be based on key messages and visual elements such as maps and other data visualisations, sourced from research outputs of the ESPON 2020 Programme. The EGTC also contributed in large terms to the Atlas for the Territorial Agenda 2030, which is planned to be translated to all EU languages.

3) An improved territorial observation and tools for territorial analyses

Under Specific Objective 3, the ESPON EGTC updated key data and maps of applied research projects conducted at the beginning of the programming period including the ESPON 2020 Database Portal, maps and the related description in the ESPON MapFinder.

Furthermore, the ESPON EGTC continued to support TIA workshops, which are enjoying a great interest. Beyond that, the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions have continuously requested support for using the TIA tool to examine territorial impacts of policies and legal proposals.

To promote and facilitate the use of tools and data, the ESPON EGTC organised and participated in multiple European and transnational national and regional events, workshops and seminars and work jointly together with other organisations such as the Committee of the Regions, Eurostat and scientific organisations. However, due to the COVID outbreak, most of these events were held online since mid-March 2020.

4) Wider outreach and uptake of territorial evidence

The ESPON outreach activities were directly impacted by the COVID crisis.

Under Specific Objective 4, two major seminars were planned in the countries of the Presidency as well as workshops. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation these events were held in a following digital format:

The planned conferences, roundtables, peer-learning workshops and tool training events of the Transnational Outreach (TNO) 2019-2022 were either rescheduled and organised in an online format in 2020 or were shifted to 2021. The EGTC, in agreement with the TNO service provider, already in the second half of 2020 introduced an alternative delivery channel which allows for organising events online without excluding possibilities of physical events. In addition to the ESPON EGTC’s publications, the TNO project delivered a series of territorial fiches (including country fiches) and event briefs.

Following the recommendation of the mid-term evaluation of the ESPON 2020 Programme, the ESPON EGTC launched the competition for PhD and/or Postdoc students with an aim to support their presence in the scientific community with ESPON related research to ensure an improved presence and wider outreach of ESPON’s evidence also in research and the scientific world.

Besides, ESPON also fostered cooperation with the media since ESPON disposes of a large amount of interesting material and evidence on territorial development, which is of high interest and relevance for journalists.

The ESPON EGTC participated in a series of external events organised by partner organisations to ensure a continuous impact of ESPON in policy and public spheres.

For more detailed information, please visit the ESPON website (

2.        Perspectives for 2021

One new Applied Research project under European territorial evidence production through applied research and analysis will be launched in 2021 on the territorial consequences of the COViD-19 pandemic for European territories.

No new targeted analyses are foreseen in 2021 - considering that the output target will be reached with the activities already selected and implemented.

Policy briefs will be built on the outcomes of previous and ongoing ESPON research activities and will be drafted in close cooperation with target audiences: 4 policy briefs dedicated to the Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies, Interregional relations, Regional strategies, Sustainable land-use, Circular Economy, Special economic zones, Cross-border territorial cooperation and Employment dynamics.

In addition, info packs will be used as an outreach tool fostering an increased uptake and satisfaction of targeted audiences with ESPON territorial evidence support and thereby contributing to the achievement of the results of the Single Operation: case study-based and thematic, case study-based and cross-thematic or cross-territorial and thematic.

Under territorial observation and tools for territorial analyses in 2021, the EGTC will introduce a strategy for the ESPON tool portfolio, seeking integration across the existing tools, and will work on a user-friendly interface of the toolbox that will make use of a new online dynamic mapping solution (ex-RIMAP and MapFinder tools). The ESPON website that hosts the tool portfolio will be adjusted to avoid fragmentation and frictions along the tool user experience trajectory.

Under outreach and uptake of territorial evidence, two major seminars are planned in the countries of the Presidency (Portugal and Slovenia) as well as workshops. In case it is not possible to hold physical seminars, the “ESPON week” will go digital following the format developed with the German Presidency in 2020.

At least two issues of TerritoriALL, the ESPON magazine, will be published in 2021 to support the outreach of the ESPON seminars and to test new approaches in order to reach a wider audience with the ESPON outputs.

The implementation of the Transnational Outreach (TNO) 2019-2022 project will continue including the organisation of conferences, roundtables, peer-learning workshops and tool training events in 2021 via the already introduced new delivery channel.

The ESPON EGTC will keep publishing and sharing content of European and Transnational outreach activities via the new website, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), media activities, direct mailing etc.

For more detailed information, please visit the ESPON website (


3.        The strategic orientation of the future ESPON 2030 Programme

As the next programming period approaches, the exchanges between the participating Member and Partner States, organized in the so-called Joint Working Group to shape the next ESPON programme, were further intensifying. The process is driven by a strong commitment from all involved to reflect on the lessons learned from current and past experiences to further develop the programme in a changing environment and make it more effective and efficient. The Joint Working Group is further focusing the thematic interventions of the ESPON programme to better match the evidence needs of all stakeholders and target groups and to develop further the details of the implementation model.

The next major steps by the Joint Working Group consisted in launching a public consultation concerning more specific themes for which evidence is needed. During the summer 2020, the consultation was open to policy-makers (56% of the respondents) and practitioners from all levels as well as researchers (44% of the respondents) and raised a high interest (over 600 respondents). The objective of the consultation was to test whether the territorial challenges identified match the actual needs of policy-makers and to understand what type of evidence and which specific support in knowledge development would be needed.

Please find the link of the second edition of the ESPON magazine -TerritoriALL including the article of the Managing Authority on the main results of the public consultation (pages 82-84). Please also consult the dedicated web page on the future ESPON 2030 Programme including information about the preparation process with its indicative timeline.


4.        Citizen Summary of the Annual Implementation Report 2019

Please find attached to this email our Citizen Summary 2019, which was approved in 2020.