The origins of ERIH date back to the last millennium, into the year 1999: on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation and the 25th anniversary of the " European Architectural Heritage Year 1975" and to celebrate the transition to the year 2000, the Council of Europe had called on its member states to participate in a campaign under the theme "Europe, a common heritage". The objectives of this campaign were, among other things, to raise public awareness of the values of the man-made environment (cultural landscape and architectural heritage), to highlight the economic resources of this heritage for sustainable development and to encourage voluntary work to protect and preserve this heritage.

The Ministry of Urban Development and Monument Preservation of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (D) then approached institutions and organisations with the request to submit project ideas for participation in this campaign. The (now dissolved) German Society for Industrial Culture (DGfI) proposed to implement a pan-European network that would help to support the establishment of industrial heritage as a tourism brand. The network should also help to promote the recently opened "Route of Industrial Heritage" in the Ruhr area, in the development of which DGfI was involved, in its start-up phase. Since industrial heritage has hardly ever been marketed for tourism anywhere, both tourists and in particular tourism organisations should be convinced of the attractiveness of industrial heritage locations as excursion and travel destinations and include these locations in their advertising campaigns.

What’s behind this idea?

Industrial history is a crucial part of Europe’s past since nothing has left its mark as clearly as the two centuries following the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

A swathe of European common ground is waiting to be discovered. First of all the Industrial Age’s living and working conditions were more or less the same, assuming that a miner in the Ruhr district or in the valleys of Wales dug for same coal in a very similar way. They even migrated all across Europe in search of the ‘black gold’. The example illustrates that the peoples of Europe share the same memories of industrial history which are part of the common European identity. Today people in all European countries are looking back to those days that turned into the past, symbolized by thousands of industrial monuments that are cultivated and preserved as witnesses of our technical, social and migration history and as landmarks of a cultural identity of all citizens that has evolved through history. They urgently need our protection since there is no future without past.

During the last two decades the same industrial monuments often turned into symbols for change. They are not only revitalized in a museum context but also are reused to live and work in them. They set the scene to create new as well as classical products and even goods and services of the so called Creative Industries, following the concept of ‘regeneration through heritage’. Not least, the thousands of ‘cathedrals of work’ became most popular as attractions of Europe’s cultural tourism with millions of visitors generating a spirit of change in the old factories. Industrial tourism is not a niche market, but a broad movement inspiring many people.

However, the preservation of old industrial facilities and their presentation as museum is a challenge that requires innovative solutions. This should be fun, not a burden, since we have the chance to transform the industrial areas of the past into vibrant centers of our cities. ERIH as a network seeks to support this by relevant tourist information on Europe’s industrial heritage.


The NRW state government accepted this suggestion and supported DGfI in its search for interested partners from other European countries. Institutions of diverse countries (B, D, GB and NL) joined the ERIH idea and united in successfully applying for funds from the EU Interreg II C North-West Europe programme (that's why the compass rose on the cogwheel in the ERIH logo is oriented to the northwest) to work out a master plan. This plan, submitted in 2001, illustrates the economic potential of industrial heritage as a tourist brand and presents the possible structure of a pan-European network with anchor points (including their quality standards), regional routes and theme routes.

ERIH Masterplan - Summary
Duisburg Declaration

Further EU funding (INTERREG IIIB-north-western Europe) ensured the implementation of ERIH, starting with the countries in the north-western part of Europe but already extending to further countries at the end of the initial phase.

  • The funding request in detail

    The original funding request for the implementation of the ERIH network reads as follows (concise description):

    "North-west Europe was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. The legacy of the most radical change in economic history is a crucial element in the continent’s identity. Yet, as a result of modern structural changes, many parts of Europe have de-industrialised, leaving unemployment and physical dereliction. Dealing with such sites is expensive, calling for innovative solutions; a redundant plant is rarely viewed as a heritage resource. As industrial history is a common European heritage and the protection of such sites is such a difficult task, it was felt that it is an issue that could be appropriately tackled through co-operation between member states. To encourage the appreciation, understanding, protection and promotion of this common history as a means of achieving economic growth, the European Network of Industrial Heritage was formerly established under the ERIH Interreg II C project. Within this first ERIH a Master Plan was developed, identifying concrete ideas and activities to promote European Industrial Heritage.

    The aim of the five year project, which brings together a dozen authorities, academic institutions, not-for-profit industrial heritage organisations and tourism bodies from three different member states that formed the heart of the Industrial Revolution, is to implement the master plan developed during ERIH I. The underlying objectives are to protect Europe’s industrial heritage sites and use their preservation as a motor for the development of regions that are often suffering from economic decline.

    ERIH seeks to establish itself as a European brand for industrial heritage. To make this brand visible, ERIH develops a corporate design, including a logo, signage and print products.

    Main actions
    The ERIH network intends to encourage the trans-national transfer of knowledge and the development of joint marketing strategies and cross-border initiatives. The project’s main instrument of communication will be the ERIH website, which will act both as a forum for experts to share knowledge and experience and a promotional tool to market industrial heritage to the public. Links to tourist websites and other organisations will help to raise public awareness, attract more visitors and ensure ERIH’s cross-sector integration. The website will also act as a promotional platform for Europe’s industrial heritage and a virtual library for the reports and documents produced during the project. The project will also publish a trans-national leaflet in four languages and promotional brochures for the regional routes.

    The route system
    A key element of the project is the establishment of a network of Anchor Points, approx. 60 important industrial heritage sites possessing a well developed tourism infrastructure. For the final selection of the Anchor Points a Seal of Quality will be developed.

    The job of the anchor points, which will be distinguished by common external and internal signage to show they are part of the network, is to provide information about industrial heritage and promote the ERIH philosophy. From each of these anchor points ‘regional routes’ will start, linking to smaller industrial heritage sites, so-called Key sites. The creation of the regional routes, which will be piloted in the partner regions, is designed to encourage tourists to visit the regions’ industrial heritage sites, thus stimulating local tourism. Alongside these actions, the project will develop Trans-national Theme Routes showing the historical and industrial links between the different European countries. Unlike the regional routes, the virtual thematic routes will be targeted at encouraging the exchange of information between experts and special interest groups.

    ERIH intends that the network will become a pan-European one, integrating partners from across the world. To this end, it will organise seminars and workshops to inform the wider public about the network’s benefits."

  • Project partner in the build-up phase


    D:  Nordrhein-Westfalen Tourismus e.V. Cologne/Düsseldorf (Lead Partner)
    D:  Ministry of Building und Transport NRW, Düsseldorf
    D:  Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy NRW, Düsseldorf
    D:  Projekt Ruhr GmbH, Essen
    D:  World Heritage Site Voelklingen Iron Works, Völklingen
    NL: Stichting Industriecultuur Nederland, Alkmaar
    NL: Provincie Noord-Holland Afdeling Zorg, Welzijn en Cultuur, Bureau, Monumenten & Archaeologie, Haarlem
    UK: Essex County Council, Chelmsford
    UK: Borough of Telford and Wrekin, Telford
    UK: Torfaen County Borough, Torfaen
    UK: University of Manchester, Field Archaeology Centre, Manchester


To promote the new brand, ERIH developed a corporate design, including a common logo, signage at the ERIH sites, and information material.

The project’s most important communication tool is the ERIH website. As the main promotion platform it presents the industrial heritage to the general public, thus encouraging people to visit the industrial monuments. Large scale information and a plethora of links to other websites, tourist offices and further organizations and initiatives help to attract visitors. With its comprehensive background information on Europe’s industrial history the website can also be seen as a virtual library aiming at offering a forum to exchange experiences between experts and laymen with a strong interest in the topic.

A more personal form of exchange is ensured by conferences and workshops. News concerning the network and industrial heritage in general are promoted via newsletter, press releases and the ERIH Facebook site. Not least, ERIH strengthens co-operations between heritage sites and relevant destination marketing organisations.


Network marketing within a topic-based network is one of the few opportunities to promote industrial heritage sustainably while vieing with abundant tourist brands and immense media coverage.

The topic ‘industrial heritage’ is already well represented on the European market. The problem is that individual sites often are badly or not at all perceived. But instead of competing with other sites and regions it seems more effective to raise the topic’s public perception by co-operation. This strategy is more promising than struggling for attention alone.

And: The millions of visitors flocking to the already well-known and well-established sites document the public interest in this issue and hence in further industrial heritage sites. Our aim is to inform all those visitors right on the spot (and via internet) about all the rest of the network’s sites. That dramatically increases the number of the crucial direct customer contacts, at least in comparison to classical marketing based on one single site. The best thing is that this leverage effect is available at reasonable prizes – our membership fees. A more economic way to install a similar effective marketing strategy is out of range for individually operating sites.

Shopping centers are well-known evidence that this strategy works. The shared advertising message leads to a shared success on site. And please note: attention is not only determined by an attractive issue, but in particular by the quality of location. That’s why selected and well-perceived sites with high quality standards take a leading marketing role as ‘anchor points’, thus promoting the whole network. From this hierarchy of external perception the smaller sites that are part of the Regional Routes and the European Theme Routes benefit as well – according to the motto ‘all for one and one for all’.

Presentation of the ERIH Masterplan
Duisburg. Germany | December 2001


ERIH has become the largest information network for tourists interested in the industrial heritage of Europe.

It is a registered association established under German law with a permanently growing number of members, founded after the end of INTERREG funding in 2008.

While the ERIH website counted roughly 650 attractive industrial heritage sites at the end of the funded set-up phase it now includes more than 2,200 sites from all 51 countries that are partly or entirely considered part of Europe from a political, cultural or geographical point of view.


Thanks to a renewed EU funding ERIH is able to extend its information portal and to finance numerous further activities. Recognized as pan-European network to promote Europe’s industrial heritage it was granted another funding period since October 2014, provided by the Creative Europe network funding programme. This funding is, amongst others, invested to drive networking forward in favour of the exchange of experience on a regional, national and European level. This is particularly assured by the annual ERIH conferences, each of which focuses on a currently discussed topic with regard to industrial heritage and tourism.

Since 2019 the European Route of Industrial Heritage has been a 'Cultural Route of the Council of Europe".

Are you interested? Please check here for further information on ERIH membership.

19 February 2008: Founding meeting of the ERIH association
Zollverein Mine WHS Essen. Germany