15 Apr 2010

Today's post is about ESPON (not to be confused with a North American TV sports network!). It is in fact the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion and many Regional Studies Association members are involved in it, whilst many others are interested in it. Originally, ESPON stood for 'European Spatial Planning Observation Network' but this has now been replaced, though the acronym remains. But, what exactly is ESPON, what does it do, and why should you care?

ESPON has been around for a while, but the main activities are policy development and research, as well as making lots of lovely maps. The current mission of ESPON is therefore to:

Support policy development in relation to the aim of territorial cohesion and a harmonious development of the European territory by (1) providing comparable information, evidence, analyses and scenarios on territorial dynamics and (2) revealing territorial capital and potentials for development of regions and larger territories contributing to European competitiveness, territorial cooperation and a sustainable and balanced development”.

The question of why we should care is important and can be answered simply. We all want more efficient and effective policies on regional development, and ESPON seeks to support this. This is achieved via five key guiding principles - also fully explained in this PowerPoint presentation.

As many of our members know, ESPON also supports research and puts out calls on a regular basis. Many of these projects will be of interest. Further information on ongoing work can be found here - they often have very interesting names, such as TIPTAP, DEMIFER, METROBORDER, SURE and ReRISK! Some of this work will be covered during a special session at the RSA conference in Pécs if you want to know more. Take a look at this document under track K - or better yet, come along to the session itself.

If you have ever seen one of ESPON's hard-copy publications, you'll know that the maps they produce are interesting and visually appealing. An example of this is the 'Extreme temperature index' map shown below.