Nature-based Solutions integrated to protect local infrastructure (Horizon Europe)
The aim of the topic is to expand the knowledge on Nature-based Solutions (NBS) and their ability to enhance infrastructure resilience in cities and urban areas against natural and man-made hazards. Thus complementing other traditional security measures.
Cities are undergoing a rapid transformation most notably due to their digitisation. Besides this, the need for solutions to make them more sustainable and environmentally friendly has been addressed in many research projects, mainly from the perspective of climate adaptation. In this regard, nature-based solutions combined with local knowledge offer a potential also for security research on infrastructures. Such solutions can help and provide business opportunities to make cities more resilient against natural disasters and possibly other security challenges. The European Commission defines NBS as: ‘Solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions.’ Nature-based solutions must therefore benefit biodiversity and support the delivery of a range of ecosystem services.
EU-funded and national research activities have demonstrated the significant opportunities of NBS with regard to for example improved resilience, climate adaptation and the reduction of pollution in cities. What concerns security, projects have been focussing on the effects that NBS can have for prevention (for example flood-plains and mangroves for flood protection, natural source water protection, green roofs and pavements for heat and water absorption). The reduction of disaster risks and the potential for enhanced resilience of cities against different natural hazards are a priority to be put in place when applying NBS. Besides man-made hazards, Europe is facing increasingly frequent and intense natural hazards, including epidemics, droughts, heat waves, storms, floods and wildfires, which trigger needs for constant innovation when it comes to the protection of people. With the continuing increase of population concentrated in cities and urban areas and increasing impacts of climate change, such risks present a significant challenge in this regard.
NBS can offer the tools to address the potential to improve risk management and resilience using approaches that can provide greater benefit than conventional tools at the same time, like for example heat waves and wildfires, or storms and floods. The detailed understanding of ecosystems and how nature responds to different external shocks can help to strengthen existing strategies for urban resilience and deliver new approaches in protection, for example by integrating natural components in the different infrastructure assets.
Proposals should include a strong involvement of citizens/civil society, together with academia/research, industry/SMEs and government/public authorities. The testing and/or piloting of the tools and solutions developed in a real setting with one or more local authorities and/or other relevant authorities is an asset; regardless, actions should foresee how they will facilitate the uptake, replication across setting and up-scaling of the capabilities - i.e. solutions, tools, processes et al. – to be developed by the project.
In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation with countries pioneering the development of NBS is advised.
In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.
Projects are expected to contribute to some or all of the following expected outcomes:
- Integrated Nature-based solutions (NBS) into overall concepts for the protection of infrastructures and existing integrated risk management plans for cities and urban areas with a view of complementing existing methods for protection and resilience
- Adaptation and mitigation strategies for infrastructure protection applied by local authorities and operators, including lessons learned from studying reactions of natural eco-systems to different external shocks
- Resilience of local infrastructures enhanced by integrating local knowledge from population and historical documents, as well as natural components in their physical assets preventing potential damages from different types of hazards, including storms, floods and heatwaves.
- Novel construction materials and solutions resulting in more durable and damage resistant infrastructure
- Full potential of Nature-based Solutions exploited by local authorities and operators to mitigate the risks related to multiple hazards manifesting at the same time, while also taking into account social empowerment and environmental co-benefits like leisure, clean air, and immunity and response to cyberattacks etc.
Specific Topic Conditions:
Activities are expected to achieve TRL 4-5 by the end of the project – see General Annex B.