Doctor Ron Chan is Lecturer in Environmental Economics at The University of Manchester’s School of Social Sciences. Here, he introduces ‘ECOSTAR’ – an innovation and investment project that brings together universities, business, and the public sector to deliver ground-breaking, nature-based business initiatives.
- ECOSTAR promotes business ventures that can demonstrate a genuinely positive contribution to the environment and wider society
- Greater Manchester’s work on ‘natural capital’ is a leading example of how new nature-based economic opportunities can be realised
- Encouraging co-operation between universities, public authorities, and businesses, is the only way to deliver sustainability in this area
- The upcoming (15 June) ECOSTAR launch event in Manchester is an opportunity to learn more about this project and its potential
ECOSTAR is the research-enterprise impact hub and accelerator that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation for nature-based businesses. The initiative is promoted by a university-enterprise partnership between European and US-based institutions, and it is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, and other private investors. ECOSTAR has two key activities:
- It’s an Impact Hub that promotes the start-up and acceleration of new business initiatives with a positive impact on environment and society and provides an excellent opportunity for existing start-ups
- It is also a Research-Business alliance that links universities and companies, providing networking and market-oriented training. It focuses on business models that make profit by marketing, promoting and enhancing biodiversity, and ecosystem services. In the UK Ricardo Energy and Environment and The University of Manchester are promoting ECOSTAR. For more information please visit the ECOSTAR website.
Greater Manchester – leading the way in ‘natural capital’
The Greater Manchester is designated by the Natural Capital Committee as the focus area for natural capital improvements in the urban setting, in order to achieve the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan; and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has since established the role of Urban Pioneer. The Urban Pioneer is going to develop tools, coordinate projects and design effective policy using the natural capital approach in the Greater Manchester setting.
These Pioneers will test how a natural capital approach should operate in each setting, providing examples for other areas to follow and adopt. The Urban Pioneer and the Natural Capital Group coordinate on a number of projects for our environment, such as the River Medlock restoration project. The Pioneer also focuses on other areas such as low carbon energy, biodiversity and air quality.
Start-Ups and sustainability – how enterprise holds the key
However most of these projects are currently funded by public bodies and this raises concerns for their sustainability. Enterprises and start-up companies can potentially generate a profit stream from improving natural capital, which can then sustain works restoring more natural capital. For example, ETIFOR, one of our ECOSTAR partners, is working with local authorities, in a project to restore a river in rural Italy and build a park alongside the river. After the restoration, it will be able to attract visitors to the park, generating a stream of profits from recreational activities, and then invest the money into further restorations and hence make it sustainable.
There is certainly a gap between enterprises, universities and public bodies in providing ecosystem services, and we hope that our project will foster synergies between all three and lead to economic and environmental benefits to the UK, Europe and the world.
Find out more – ECOSTAR launch event
To learn more about the exciting opportunities that Manchester and the project are offering, we would like to invite you to the ECOSTAR Launch Event on 15th June 2017 between 9am and 1pm to be held at the Beyer Theatre at the University. Please register as soon you can on Eventbrite.
In the event you will hear more from the Natural Capital Coordinator of the GMCA and nature-based businesses in the UK. Attendees will include students, start-up founders and natural capital professionals, and there will be a round-table discussion among businesses, government and researchers following the presentations.
We hope the event will provide a great networking opportunity for those with an interest in nature based business. The event is free but limited spaces are available so please register soon.