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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

Research to support innovating with nature

There is a need for a major transition in society to support the global aim for a more sustainable future. Nature has a tremendous potential to support such transition through the benefits it provides to human well-being. Research supports the knowledge-base that is required to enable a nature-based transition.

These are some of the key points from a policy day ‘Innovating with nature’ that was held on 1 March in Brussels. The meeting was hosted by Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP and organized by the European Commission DG Research & Innovation with two of its research projects on turning ecosystem services into practice: OpenNESS and OPERAs.

Mrs Pietikäinen in her opening statement referred to the current biocrisis, with the global population consuming the production of 1.5 planets per year. In a panel discussion, she and her colleague MEPs Auken and Demesmaeker stressed the importance of nature-based solutions (NBS) for achieving a more sustainable future and the need to ‘teach the policymakers’. Horizon 2020, the EU's €77 billion research and innovation funding programme (2014 - 2020), supports such knowledge building, said Mr Kurt Vandenberghe, Director at DG R&I, and also supports networking and community building to upscale NBS. According to the EC Joint Research Centre, he said, for every 1% land take 2.2% compensation through green infrastructure is needed. Nature has to become an integral part of the development portfolio.

Mr Mari van Dreumel, on behalf of the Dutch EU Presidency, reiterated the need for cooperation between science and policy and called for scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders to explore the potential of natural capital and ecosystem services to provide innovative solutions for a circular economy. The panel was also joined by Xavier Le Roux, CEO at the European biodiversity research funding and networking body BiodivERsA, who referred to the already existing NBS community in Europe and the many success stories of real-life implementation. What is needed is for all stakeholders to come out of their comfort zone, co-design options with nature, and engage stakeholders to achieve a fully systemic approach.

Collaboration came out as a key need to achieve the full integration of solutions offered by nature when combating the effects of climate change, preventing flooding, offering urban green space to increase leisure and health, and many more challenges in society.

A number of examples from the OpenNESS and OPERAs projects demonstrated how research can support policy making. Also, the 220 participants were invited to join a new collaboration platform developed by OPERAs and OpenNESS, called Oppla, and to share experience and ask questions online to help develop nature-based innovation. This Oppla service will equally allow citizens to get engaged in the dialogue with science and policy. During a question and answer session European Commission officials expressed demands they have regarding NBS, and researchers from both projects showed how the projects help answer these demands. These illustrated how the project contributed to the DG R&I priorities of an open science, open innovation and being open to the world, and how they contribute to the Juncker agenda for innovation, green growth and job development.

Photo: Opening statement by Mr Kurt Vandenberghe, DG R&I. © Archie Crofton