Skip to main content

Nature Based Urban Innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NATURVATION (Nature Based Urban Innovation)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

As cities grow, their impacts on the environment and the challenge of ensuring their resilience is attracting increasing attention. Across the world, policy-makers and urban developers are turning their attention to the possibilities that NBS offer for achieving urban sustainability. NBS involve creating new forms of blue and green infrastructure – such as green roofs or ponds for storing flood water - restoring urban environments – such river or coastal areas – and harnessing those forms nature that we find in cities – such as parks and gardens – to improve urban life. NBS can use the natural properties of ecosystems to limit impacts of climate change, enhance biodiversity & improve environmental quality while also contributing to economic activities and social well-being. Because they have the potential to address multiple goals at the same time, NBS are increasing promoted as a way in which cities can achieve sustainability.

Despite the promising potential of NBS, there remains a gap between the growing interest being expressed in their use & how they are being implemented on the ground. The aim of the NATURVATION project is to help overcoming this gap & support a step-change in how cities use NBS to address urban sustainability. Our primary purpose is to ensure that there is a robust evidence base to support decision-makers in identifying whether and how NBS can contribute to the goals of their organisations, communities and cities. This is important because our current understanding of how NBS work is very fragmented – usually based on individual examples and case-studies – and often focuses only on the ecological benefits of NBS rather than also taking into account their economic, social and cultural contributions & the challenges of implementing and maintaining them over time.

We will work to support decision-makers in 3 ways. First, we are developing the evidence base and assessment processes required to evaluate how NBS are being used and the extent of their ecological, economic, social and cultural contributions towards sustainability. Second, we are investigating how innovation is taking place with NBS and focusing on the governance arrangements, business models, finance & citizen engagement needed to develop and implement these kinds of responses in cities around the world. We will also explore the contexts within which NBS have to be established and consider the challenges that they face. Finally, we are working in partnership with municipal governments & stakeholders through Urban Regional Innovation Partnerships (URIPs) and a Task Force, as well as with the wider policy and practitioner communities, to create the knowledge, capacity, outputs and tools needed to build momentum for NBS on the ground.
The second period of the NATURVATION project has been focused on the final stages of building the evidence base and tools required to understand the potential of nature-based solutions to address urban sustainability challenges and increasingly on translating our findings into outputs for both the knowledge and practice communities. We have continued to develop the depth of our transdisciplinary practice with the URIP forums and Task Force members and have generated a substantial body of work that is now informing our work to generate impact from the project with our key target audiences both globally and locally.

During Period 2, we completed WP 4 which has generated a new body of evidence on how nature-based solutions are being implemented in eighteen cities globally, producing case-study reports on 54 different examples and generating key findings on the innovation pathways, governance arrangements, business models and forms of citizen engagement that are essential to their success. Our extensive comparative analysis of these cases is also forming the basis for a range of outputs aimed at advancing understanding of the potential and challenges of nature-based solutions for cities, including through a special issue for Cities which was submitted in October 2019 following a successful international workshop (held in November 2018) and writing retreat (held in June 2019). In addition, we have made substantial progress with the development of the Urban Nature Navigator, the main output of WP3, which was developed as a prototype in the first part of the year and is available for testing in its online version. P2 has also involved substantial work to develop the evidence base that can inform our understanding of how, why and with what consequences nature-based solutions are becoming mainstreamed in cities across Europe, with research having taken place across six EU countries (Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK) as well as at the European level to investigate the ways in which regulatory, financial and urban development dynamics shape the possibilities for the uptake and embedding of nature-based solutions. Working papers summarising the key findings will be produced by November 2018, and these will form the basis for additional outputs targeted at diverse user communities during Year 4. Work has continued to update the Urban Nature Atlas and to analyse its contents in order to demonstrate how cities are working with nature towards diverse goals, including biodiversity and climate change, as well as ongoing work to analyse the ways in which nature-based solutions are related to health, well-being and economic issues in different cities
The NATURVATION project has already produced some important results that go beyond the state of the art, in terms of building a new state of the art understanding of how, why and with what effects NBS can be used in cities, creating an assessment of the current role of NBS in EU and national policy, and providing the first Urban Nature Atlas for Europe.

Of particular significance has been the development of our impact work. Work Package 6 has already made good progress in developing monitoring and reporting approaches for colleagues across the project. WP6 has supported the development of impact planning across the project, with impact plans developed and implemented for key Deliverables produced throughout P2 and monitoring and learning processes underway. In addition, as project co-ordinator, Durham University has taken the lead in brokering relationships with key organisations and processes within which urban action with nature towards biodiversity, climate change and sustainability goals has come to be a key focus of attention in the past eighteen months, in order to embed our findings and key messages within these organisations such that they can shape the emerging agenda in relation to the post-2020 governance framework for the Biodiversity Convention and inform the growing interest in using nature-based solutions to address climate change.