To analyse the ‘sustainability’ of European regions researchers have succeeded in calculating the intangible by creating a mathematical model. The new model and Geographical Information System tool will allow planners and policy-makers to make meaningful decisions on regional development. EPSILON was one of 36 projects funded under the EPROS (European Plan for Research in Official Statistics) area of the IST programme, that brought together National Statistical Institutes, universities, administrations and private companies and was managed by the European Union’s Statistical Office, Eurostat.
The team first defined its model through four ‘pillars’, environmental, economic, social and institutional. Each of these pillars was subdivided into four ‘themes’. For example, the environment pillar is broken-down into themes such as air, soil, water and land, and each of these was further subdivided into ‘sub-themes’. The water theme is broken down into freshwater quantity, surface water quality, coastal and groundwater. The data is entered into a mathematical model that estimates sustainability indices for themes and pillars per region. This model is also rendered into a GIS that links the model’s output into a colour-coded map outlining the relative sustainability of particular regions, or the relative sustainability of one region in different scenarios.