The ECOSTAR launch event
The European Commission recognises that the UK is a leader in generating small, nature-based businesses; other EU countries such as Italy, Spain and Belgium, are far less prolific. The ECOSTAR hub was created as a network for entrepreneurial education and to encourage eco-minded individuals to start their own small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) focused on natural capital and ecosystem services, the bioeconomy, ecotourism, new technologies and more. I attended the launch event, in conjunction with the University of Manchester and Ricardo Energy and Environment (EE). Currently, it’s been recognised that the UK tends to consider ecosystem services in terms of costs saved; ECOSTAR, and other environmental entrepreneurs, hope to tip the balance and reshape our mindsets to see them as revenue-generating. This could be a sustainable way to protect the environment, and encourage our most innovative thinkers to enter the environmental sector, which will ultimately help to tackle climate change.
Kieran Conlan, from Ricardo EE, facilitated the event and introduced the audience, a mix of professionals, academics and students, to ECOSTAR. An e-learning programme, which is accredited at 4 universities but open to anyone for a fee, will begin in October 2017, and educate participants in business and entrepreneurship, and optional modules such as natural capital accounting and ecosystem services. There’s then a competition, where 8 start-ups will be chosen to receive investment and various accelerator services.
We then heard a selection of case studies of green business from Greater Manchester, which aimed to pique our interest and perhaps inspiring some potential contest entrants. Judging by the engagement of the audience through q&a, and overhearing informal feedback between audience members, they were successful! David Winnard from Discover the Wild described his extremely varied activities in ecotourism and supplying local ingredients to Manchester-based catering businesses. Gillian Sinnott discussed the Smithills Estate, which has recently been bought out by the Woodland Trust in hopes to make it a more accessible and pleasant green space with abundant biodiversity.
Krista Patrick from the GMCA explained the GM Natural Capital Group, which works with the Manchester Climate Change Strategy (among other resources) as a guide. The group hope to demonstrate the benefit of natural capital to the city, which can not only be revenue-generating and therefore a great boost for the local economy, but can protect the environment and allow GM to do our bit in reducing global climate change.They run the Urban Pioneer Project and work with partners such as City of Trees to “create a natural liveable city region” using community leadership and public engagement.
The event gave attendeees a great insight into the benefits of business and commercial innovation in protecting biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Please visit http://www.ecostarhub.com/ for more information