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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

How small businesses operationalise ecosystem services

‘SMEs are the most important source for innovation’, said Kurt VandenBerghe, Director at the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation when speaking at the OpenNESS SME event about investing in nature-based solutions. His keynote speech described in an excellent way the challenges posed by EU research funding and how small businesses play an essential role in shaping research of the future. Ecosystem services and natural capital are key elements that can drive such innovation and the event on 28 October in Brussels was set to demonstrate this point. It was also very welcome to hear Mr Vandenberghe say ‘There is no better place for DG RTD officials to be than at the OpenNESS event, as openness is the key mantra at the Directorate-General these days. The OpenNESS project does exactly what the Horizon 2020 funding programme aims to achieve: research in action!’

After a presentation of the OpenNESS project by ECNC’s Ben Delbaere, Member of the European Parliament Sirpa Pietikäinen addressed the 30-odd participants through a video message on circular economy and the role of SMEs. Professor David Hill CBE, Chairman of The Environment Bank Ltd gave a keynote speech on opportunities for business to protect and value nature. Also he stressed that the private sector is essential to help save nature, warning that ‘If we ran a business like we’re treating biodiversity, the business would be bankrupt.’ Part of the solution to save nature therefore is to make nature economically more visible.

Countryscape’s Paul Mahony then introduced the progress in developing Oppla, an online platform in development together with the OPERAs project, and how SMEs can benefit from using the platform. This was followed by an interactive session during which participants identified potential clients, how they would reach them and how Oppla could help in this process. Guy Duke from EBL, chair of the meeting, then presented experiences from OpenNESS SMEs in working with and for ecosystem services and natural capital.

Being the only event of this kind in the OpenNESS project, it was regarded as highly important and successful. The outcome of it will feed into upcoming OpenNESS events for policy makers and the final conference in September 2016.

Photo: Kurt VandenBerghe states that "OpenNESS does exactly what the Horizon 2020 funding programme aims to achieve: research in action!"

Kurt Vandenberghe about investing in nature-based solutions: "SMEs are the most important source for innovation." pic.twitter.com/dP2bXC0ohH

— OpenNESS (@OpenNESS_eu) October 28, 2015