Published

27 October 2020

Hundreds of participants from 36 countries around the world - from Spain to Singapore, and from Poland to the Philippines - tuned in today for the launch of the Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform.

The University of East London (UEL) supported the development of the platform, which acts as a marketplace connecting the increasing global market demand for natural infrastructure solutions with innovative enterprises developing nature-based solutions.  

The environmental benefits of natural infrastructure such as living roofs and walls, sustainable drainage systems, natural wastewater treatments, constructed wetlands and so on, are well known. However, its economic impact has yet to be fully explored until now.  

The Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform, which was launched by John Bell, Director of Healthy Planet, DG Research & Innovation at the European Commission, and Hazel Chu, Lord Mayor of Dublin on Wednesday 21 October puts the spotlight firmly on the potential of nature-based enterprises as an emerging industry sector.

The platform has been created through a collaboration between Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin and brings together a number of existing market sectors from landscape architecture to green building construction. 

Connecting Nature, co-ordinated by Trinity, and involving the UEL Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) as a key partner, is a five-year €12m Horizon 2020 project focusing on the large-scale implementation of nature-based solutions to build climate resilience in cities. Demand for these green-friendly techniques has increased exponentially in recent years in line with recognition that they could provide up to 30% of the mitigation required to stabilise global warming to below 20C.

 

Cities and rural areas are facing significant challenges in relation to biodiversity loss, climate change impacts, and unsustainable resource management.

"Nature-based solutions that take a stewardship approach to nature and natural processes represent a necessary paradigm shift in the management of these landscapes. Nature-based enterprises (NBEs) are a vital facilitation mechanism for the delivery of environmental, social and economic benefits from nature-based solutions.

"However, a variety of barriers are preventing the scaling up of this sector to unlock widespread benefits. The new NBE marketplace represents a major step forward in supporting NBEs in addressing these barriers,"

      Dr Stuart Connop, SRI senior research fellow, said.

One of these barriers to growth is the lack of skilled and experienced suppliers. To address this, Connecting Nature is exploring the capacity of the private sector to meet the shortfall. This includes using the SRI's ARENA (Advancing Resource Efficiency and Urban Ecology Innovations) support project as a case study.

Professor Darryl Newport, director of the Sustainability Research Institute at UEL, said, "It is great that ARENA has been used as a case study - the project aims to build on London’s aspirations of a world leading low carbon city in harmony with the natural environment. It does this by supporting London start-ups, spin-outs and SMEs seeking to develop and commercialise their innovative ideas, in the areas of resource efficiency, urban green infrastructure, and nature based solutions for urban resilience."

In launching the platform, John Bell, director, Healthy Planet, European Commission, said:

"The Recovery Plan and the wall of investment which is coming - the largest since the Marshall Plan - will be looking for new ways in which business and economic opportunities can respond to setting out what the geography and economy and society of the future can be in new businesses, value chains, innovations and platforms.

"The nature-based enterprises which feature on this platform can offer really significant potential to deliver on the ambitions of the Green Deal and indeed the EU Recovery Plan."

Related topics