Sustainable Smart Specialisation for the Re-Opening of Industrial Sites in the Danube Region (RIS4Danu)

Project; June 2022 – May 2024

A Horizon Europe project (preparatory action) with the aim to facilitate a social-sustainable-technological transition in the Danube Region through the revitalisation of disused industry sites.


  • Drafting strategic business development plans for the re-opening of more than 20 recently closed industrial sites in the Danube Region. The focus is both, on the growth of the digital industries and the transformation of traditional industries as well as on the integration of sustainable and inclusive growth aspects in the development of transformative activities for structural change.
  • Providing tangible policy recommendations. The focus will be on the identification of innovation barriers and on the creation of synergies with other European, national, and/or regional R&I funding programmes.
  • Further developing the existing Smart Specialisation (S3) methodology towards Sustainable Smart Specialisation (S4) to facilitate “green structural change”. Consortium partners will contribute to the emerging academic and policy debates on linking smart specialisation with mission-oriented policy for sustainable development.

The project argues that the reopening of old industrial sites shows the potential to build transformative resilience in less-favoured regions. These sites could serve as innovation anchors, unleashing opportunities for the entire Region to strengthen their capacity to develop innovative solutions to place-specific ecological, social, and economic challenges.

Need and (expected) impact:

  • The mitigation of the negative socio-economic effects of plant closure in the 21 selected regions in the Danube macro-region.
  • The establishment of new sustainable and inclusive regional industrial ecosystems along the Danube River and the provision of new impetus for green transition in the Danube macro-region.
  • A positive contribution to added value, productivity and competitiveness of the 21 selected regions in the Danube macro-region.
  • Thus, the advancement of debates on the design and implementation of S4+ in the scientific community in economic geography, regional science, innovation studies and policy studies.

Macro-regional dimension:

At the heart of the RIS4Danu project is the goal of applying an evidence-based approach to support place-based innovation for green/digital and inclusive transitions in regions along the Danube River that face manifold economic, social and political challenges resulting from the closure of important industrial sites.

Danube neighbouring states share a proud and centuries-old history of manufacturing and industrial production, yet political upheavals, globalisation and technological advancements have confronted many regions with the challenges of structural transformation and have triggered the closing down of numerous industrial plants and sites. In many regions, plant closures and the associated displacement of workers caused severe socio-economic effects on workers, local communities and regions.

Stakeholders involved:

The RIS4Danu project relies on a solid consortium of seasoned partners who have a long history of collaboration and reached a high-level of mutual trust. The participating leading organisations and the associated local support partners and regional authorities and owners of disused industrial sites have been selected for their unique abilities to respond to the project’s specific challenges.


VDI/VDE INNOVATION + TECHNIK GMBH (Coordinator), ecoplus. Niederösterreichs Wirtschaftsagentur GmbH, University of Vienna, Anteja ECG D.O.O., BAK S3 Association (Subcontractor)

Associated regional Partners: Smart Expo Ltd. (Croatia), Czech Invest (Czech Republic), IHK Schwarzwald-Baar-Heuberg (Germany), Hajdú-Bihar County Government (Hungary), Intersection / Science and Technology Park Čačak (Serbia), Municipality of Moinesti / City of Sănic Moldova (Romania), Regional Development Agency for Podravje – Maribor (Slovenia), Regional Office of the Banská Bystrica Self Governing Region (Slovakia)

21 private and/or public owners of disused industrial sites in 11 Danube regions

Various participants from Business, Research, Public Administrations and Civil Society in 21 workshops in 11 Danube regions.

Budget and Funding: EUR 1 Mil. (Horizon Europe grant)

Further information:


RIS4Danu Coordinator, Dr. Oliver Ziegler (

RIS4Danu Flagship Certificate