ARC FUND / Blog / CityZen – Enhancing scalable innovations and new business models based on urban farming ecosystem values

CityZen – Enhancing scalable innovations and new business models based on urban farming ecosystem values

CityZen is an initiative of Applied Research and Communications Fund, started in 2019 and funded by the Programme for Interregional Cooperation INTERREG EUROPE 2014-2020.

Due to the fast pace of urbanisation, it is expected that by 2050, 67% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. This raises concerns over food availability and climate change impact on the local resources. One of the possible solutions to these challenges is urban farming – a global trend that brings more nature into the cities and motivates local governments and communities to use city resources in a more sustainable, smart and efficient way. According to the EU Action plan on the circular economy, urban farming can contribute to EU targets of reducing annual food waste per capita by half by 2030.

CityZen endorses a multitude of benefits the urban farming can have for sustainability and prosperity of cities and regions. The initiative will explore the values emerging from the urban farming ecosystem, and link them with new business models, entrepreneurship and innovative supply chains. It will create a knowledge pool of urban farming policies, initiatives and business processes that can support the decision makers and leverage the efficiency of their actions to transform social and business settings of cities and regions in favour of growth and sustainability.

The main objective of CityZen is to integrate urban farming models and practices into the regional policies on green innovation and resource efficiency. CityZen will produce 5 Action Plans (one for each participating region) with the following targets:
– better efficiency of existing and development of new support services for green innovations, new business models for enhancement of urban farming, better resource efficiency, and regeneration and transformation of neglected urban areas into attractive spaces for citizens;
– better targeting of the support services to different beneficiaries depending on their business models (SME, social entrepreneurs, public-private ventures, sharing economy models, etc.);
– ensuring synergies between policies and support services for urban farming with other cross-cutting policy areas;
– improved monitoring of the impacts of policies and measures for resource efficiency in cities and showcasing of success stories among policy-makers, stakeholders and citizens.

The CityZen initiative is implemented by regional authorities, research institutes and a business support organisation from five European countries.
– Applied Research and Communications Fund from Bulgaria (the coordinator of CityZen);
– Regional Development Fund of Central Macedonia from Greece;
– Municipality of Beja from Portugal;
– Baixo Alentejo Intermunicipal Community (CIMBAL) from Portugal;
– Higher Technical School of Agrarian Engineering, University of Valladolid from Spain;
– Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León from Spain;
– Institute for Rural Development Research at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main from Germany.

The participants will study the local urban farming initiatives, share good practices and propose measures and plans for sustainable development of this activity. The goal is to achieve a balance between the good farming traditions and research and development innovations, and thus turn urban farming into a valuable resource for cities, both as a business opportunity and from the social and ecological perspective. The CityZen policy mix covers instruments on enhancing resource efficiency in urban sites (fresh and safe food production, food waste management, urban site upcycling and productivity) and supporting entrepreneurial uptake of green/digital innovations and business strategies inspired by urban farming.

Through CityZen, ARC Fund will support the Ministry of Economy (the Managing Authority of Operational Programme “Innovation and Competitiveness”) in implementing and monitoring of the OP’s procedures regarding the performance of Regional Innovation Centres as new hubs for local economy specialisation. CityZen will help in identifying progress towards urban environmental, sustainability and socio-economic improvements, make connections between eco-design and innovation actions and outcomes in resource efficiency, green entrepreneurship and circular economy, and suggest improvements and added value in Regional Innovation Centres activity. By screening and exchanging good practices in urban farming, CityZen will provide policy and innovation pull and opportunities for local collaborations, new business models and business endeavours towards better quality of life and resource management in cities.

More information on CityZen can be found on the website.