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CLEVER Cities Meeting at EBN Congress

13 July 2023

CLEVER Cities Meeting at EBN Congress

13 July 2023


Under the auspices of the EBN Congress 2023 co-hosted by EU|BIC JIC and as a CLEVER Cities partner EBN organized a topical workshop. The workshop brought together participants in a trusted setting with the aim of encouraging the exchange of ideas and creating new collaborations in the context of the workshop topic “Sustainable Societies”.

EBN Congress is the largest gathering of European incubators, accelerators, science parks, innovation centres, and innovation supporters of all kinds. Every year, EBN Congress unites people around the potential of scientific breakthroughs, entrepreneurship, and company creation to drive sustainable economic development and greater well-being in Europe – and beyond.

The networking component featured experts from the industry and governmental institutions, Brno Urban Garden, SME4SmartCities, Connecting Nature, Clever Cities partners as well as members from the EBN community. It provided ample opportunities for organizations with an interest in sustainable urban solutions to build new connections and links for further collaboration.

The Workshop entitled “More sustainable and resilient societies: nature-based solutions at the service of cities, people and planet” took place in June in Brno Open Gardens.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) recently gained high policy attention due to their potential to address pressing environmental, social and economic challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the need for sustainable development. NbS respond to the goals of several top-priority policy agendas, at the European and international level, including the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the European Green Deal, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

EBN members were presented with various reasons on why they should be interested in NbS projects.

Innovation opportunities: NBS projects offer opportunities for developing new products, services, and business models that can help to address environmental challenges and create sustainable solutions. By engaging in NBS projects, business incubators can support the development of innovative start-ups and SMEs that can bring new ideas and technologies to market.

  • Social responsibility: NBS projects contribute to sustainable development by promoting social, environmental, and economic benefits. By supporting NBS projects, business incubators can demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility and contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Access to funding: NBS projects are often eligible for funding from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private sector companies. By supporting NBS projects, business incubators can provide their start-ups and SMEs with access to funding opportunities that can help to accelerate their growth and development.
  • Market demand: There is a growing demand for sustainable products and services among consumers and businesses. By supporting NBS projects, business incubators can help to create a pipeline of start-ups and SMEs that can meet this demand and capture market opportunities.

Overall, NbS projects offer a range of benefits for business incubators and their start-ups and SMEs. By supporting these projects, business incubators can play a crucial role in promoting sustainable development and creating new business opportunities.
Participants to the meeting had the opportunity to have free access to the full EBN Congress.

The workshop started with the Presentation of the Open Garden and its activities. Originally, the area was quite abandoned, now the premises have an intensive green roof with a system for the collection of rainwater used to manage the building. Brno is the first city in Czechia to support green building in the city centre. They have an educational centre; they invest in childhood and community. They are mainly supported by EU grants and with a few private contributions from companies.

Martin Krekeler, coordinator of Clever Cities, welcomed the idea of having the CLEVER Cities meeting in Brno Open Gardens, as “the venue fits very well as the aim of CLEVER Cities is natural based solution linked with social inclusion”. He presented the project, combining economic and social innovation, and focusing on regeneration. The project is adopting a digital and in person co-creation exercise where people come together from the different municipalities. The project allowed to test new forms of inclusive governance and participatory processes.

Martina Zimpel (District Council of Hamburg) and Marina Trentin (City of Milan) presented the NbS plans for their respective cities in a “pitch format”.

In her intervention, Laure Raso, Head of international initiatives CEEIM presented the role of EU|BICs as drivers of opportunities for cities and how innovative SMEs can help cities to overcome social and environmental challenges. Through SME4SMARTCITIES, an EU funded project, framed within the ENI CBC Med Programme, that intends to strengthen the collaboration between Mediterranean SMEs and cities around the Smart City sector. On the one hand, the project supports Mediterranean SMEs to guarantee that their products and services meet the expectations and needs of Smart Cities. On the other hand, it helps cities to be the front-runners of innovation, using Public Procurement of Innovative solutions. The SME4SMARTCITIES web platform aims to create a space that allows the development of such a collaborative network around Smart Cities. This community has the opportunity of benefiting from the activities implemented during the project and the materials and tools generated.

Kieran Farrell, Strategic Growth & Operations, at Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform presented the project. A European Union-funded project that aims to address societal challenges by integrating nature-based solutions (NBS) into urban planning and development. The project brings together a consortium of partners, including academic institutions, local authorities, non-profit organizations, and businesses, to collaborate on the implementation of nature-based solutions in urban areas.

In summary, innovative SMEs can contribute to overcoming social and environmental challenges in smart cities by providing technological innovations, adopting a collaborative approach, conducting pilot projects, bringing an entrepreneurial mindset, stimulating job creation, facilitating bottom-up innovation, and offering data analytics expertise. Their agility, creativity, and close connection to local communities make them valuable partners in building sustainable and inclusive smart cities.

White flowers in a meadow by "Lukasz Szmigiel"