As cities across Europe continue to implement growth and modernisation-focused urban planning initiatives, former industrial zones are being redeveloped into state-of-the-art business centres, retail parks and residential areas. However, one major challenge to such urban planning initiatives is that all too often, these former industrial zones are what urban planners refer to as ‘brownfields’, or areas characterised by being contaminated with hazardous waste or heavy pollution. The regeneration of these brownfields not only promotes urban renaissances, it also presents an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact they have on the surrounding communities. But, in order to get to this point of regeneration, efficient and cost-effective methods for managing the valuation, acquisition and disposal of hazardous materials must first be implemented. The EU-funded BRODISE project aims to develop such methods by mobilising public and private purchasers within the field of soil decontamination and pairing them with networks of cities seeking such services for their brownfield redevelopment initiatives. By bringing together both providers and urban planners with soil decontamination needs, researchers will be better able to understand what the current state of soil contamination technology is and, more importantly, how this technology falls short of cities’ current brownfield needs. In other words, by identifying the innovation gap, the BRODISE project can bridge this gap via a specific R&D initiative. ‘By leveraging the know-how of consortium partners, we were able to acquire cost-effective and innovative solutions whilst also creating new jobs and business opportunities – particularly for SMEs’, says project manager Begoña Benito of CBGP in Spain. Putting together the pieces Prior to the BRODISE-facilitated network, the availability of soil decontamination products and services was extremely fragmented. When a city or developer wanted to clean up a brownfield site, they needed to get service A from company X, product B from company Y and service C from company Z. Not only was this fragmented approach more expensive and less efficient, it also served as a built-in-barrier to innovation. Essentially, there was no incentive for the soil decontamination companies to combine their expertise in order to develop more streamlined technologies. For example, for the past several decades there has been a shift away from ex-situ soil contamination treatment technologies, where the affected soil is removed from its original location and cleaned off-site, in favour of lower impact in-situ methods. However, there are now numerous advanced treatment technologies that combine the best practices of both ex-situ and in-situ technologies, including bioremediation, phytoremediation, chemical oxidation and the use of nanotechnologies for environmental remediation. In order to move away from in-situ only technologies and towards the use of these innovative technologies, there had to be an incentive for these individual companies to come together. For the BRODISE project, that incentive was public procurement. A win-win situation: thanks to pre-commercial procurement According to Benito, the key driver behind the BRODISE project was economics. ‘By sharing common social-economic conditions, soil characterisations and common needs, we were able to establish and promote a network of public procurers’, she says. ‘This network reduced the demand for the traditional, fragmented approach to soil decontamination projects by preparing a joint, pre-commercial procurement aimed at finding new, fit-for-purpose and cost-effective solutions for brownfield decontamination initiatives.’ By creating a procurement process for such brownfield work, the BRODISE project was able to successfully enlarge the potential market where soil decontamination companies could sell their products and/or services. At the same time, by using a procurement process, the procurers (in this case, municipalities, regional administrations and public owners) were able to secure a lower price and more efficient results. In other words, it was a win-win situation for all.
BRODISE, PCP, Pre-Commercial Procurement, brownfield, pollution, SMEs, soil decontamination, nanotechnology, industrial zone