Improve access to brands of natural heritage sites to generate economic value, enhance sustainability of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the North Sea Region (NSR), develop innovative marketable offers and products through co-creation – those were the objectives of INTERREG project PROWAD Link under a nature-business-benefit-cycle, engaging SMEs in nature conservation.
From 2018 to 2022, 15 partners from Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and UK developed and tested innovative tools and strategies for SMEs in the regions Geirangerfjord, Wadden Sea, and The Wash & North Norfolk coast. The project achieved a new level of transnational cooperation between the partners enabling innovative updates to established, transnational platforms and co-development of new products.
Network creation is a fundamental pillar of brand engagement and a focus of PROWAD Link. Existing partnership schemes were enhanced or extended, such as for the Norfolk Coast Partnership programme and the World Heritage Partnership of the Danish Wadden Sea National Park. The Geiranger Green Fjord partner programme was reformed into the Smart Fjord partner programme with a new concept around off-season. In the Dutch Wadden Sea, a new World Heritage ambassador programme was created. The transnational Wadden Sea World Heritage Partnership Hub, a “network of networks”, now connects local and national partner programmes (750+ organisations), networks, and other initiatives for transnational knowledge exchange on many different levels and topics to support the Wadden Sea World Heritage. A Funding Guide supports project applicants. A new interactive exchange platform offers space for networks and thematic working group to connect in future.
The development of an online branding toolbox improved access to the Wadden Sea World Heritage brand. The user guide on how SMEs can connect with the brand includes free-to-use content and examples of use. At The Wash & North Norfolk coast, a brand option analysis suggested combining the existing destination brands into one nature-based brand "Norfolk Coast Protected Landscape" to better unlock the economic values of designated areas.
The project partners further collected, created, and shared knowledge on sustainable entrepreneurship in form of tools and products, all compiled on the TENS website for SME and academic learning. For examples, the “Nature-Business and Community development canvas” is a tailored framework and tool to work with SMEs in the regions and improving their sustainable business models. A “Wadden Sea Tourism Radar” provides communities with an innovative tool to self-determine their acceptable limits of tourism. The report on "Added values of sustainable tourism" presents findings of the transnational Wadden Sea visitor survey and summarises case studies of SMEs in the NSR. Social media clips remind visitors of respectful behaviour in nature in Geirangerfjord and the Wadden Sea.
Over 800 organizations engaged in activities or adopted new solutions through co-creation activities. In this co-creation approach, over 30 ideas were developed by SMEs, associations, NGOs, and educational institutions. A training concept for nature guides makes the Wadden Sea World Heritage more tangible in guided nature tours. The "North Sea Sustainable Innovation Challenge 2022" on sustainable entrepreneurship contributing to a happier and healthier NSR brought forward five new solutions. The co-creation approach was inspirational to several activities that will continue after the project, e.g., the Danish School Camp network, the Dark Sky Initiative, the Fjord Co-work platform, and new sailing boat trip offers in Norfolk.