The project did surprisingly well in achieving all these milestones despite substantial impacts by the COVID-19 pandemic, says Birgit Georgi. The pandemic has aggravated certain challenges but has also boosted creativity due to the need to develop new, digital forms of collaboration and communication keeping a lively process and high engagement. In triggering these new opportunities, the crisis has obviously changed the way of communication and collaboration sustainably, which one day, will be combined again with face to face approaches.
Extreme weather events are becoming an increasing part of urban life, whether it is rivers bursting their banks, rain creating standing water after only a relatively modest downpour or heat waves.
Like many cities and regions, Greater Manchester is seeing these hazards evolve and intensify as both climate and urban areas change. In addressing these impacts, Greater Manchester feels that significant opportunities lie in substantial retrofit programmes of urban green infrastructure or nature-based solutions (NBS). It is estimated that Greater Manchester requires a 10% uplift in urban green infrastructure in order to adapt to the projected climate change impacts of flooding and overheating and increase its climate resilience by 2038. Implementing and funding delivery at the scale and pace required necessitates the formation of investible packages of projects at an estimated €10m (at a minimum) value in order to persuade businesses and organisations to invest in these NBS climate change adaptation features.
The 12 partners of the IGNITION project will, therefore, deliver:
- an NBS project identification process setting out a full pipeline of projects for investment and a methodology for replicating this on an ongoing basis;
- the development of a range of innovative business models and financing mechanisms which represent the funding required to deliver the project pipeline;
- increased investor confidence to invest in NBS projects by providing a visible focus in the form of a ‘Living Lab’ at the University of Salford’s campus. The Lab demonstrates the impact of green infrastructure on buildings and the real world returns to the public, urban managers, decision makers and investors; and
- innovative governance, delivery and procurement mechanisms and processes.
While the project overall is progressing well despite some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it faces several implementation challenges due to its innovative character. These issues are related to:
- leadership, communication, and participatory approaches enabling innovation and uptake of solutions,
- public procurement and internal organisational arrangements that differ from business-as-usual settings,
- monitoring and proper upscaling to ensure a long-term impact and project legacy.
The IGNITION project had already addressed some challenges in the project proposal. For example, the development of business models, innovative financing schemes and establishing a Climate Adaptation Service Company are already geared towards upscaling the solutions developed after the project ends.
However, challenges are not static throughout the project; they have changed over time and some have in fact decreased. For example, communication and raising the interest of many stakeholders has been eased due to the implementation of the Living Lab, which now delivers a tangible experience as the basis of communication. Other challenges became more visible, like the urgent need for innovative and concrete business models rather than general information to engage potential investors. A substantial and unexpected impact has been posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added new challenges as well as having aggravated existing ones; e.g., stakeholders that have put time constraints as arguments for low engagement now have an additional argument; or the co-located team, which was an innovative collaboration approach, no longer exists in its original form. COVID-19 has also, however, revealed positive opportunities – virtual communication and collaboration has been boosted and developed much faster than anticipated.
The partnership has dedicated time to discuss the wider challenges around IGNITION and not just its technical tasks. Reflecting on current challenges, as well as on developments over the last months, has raised awareness of certain critical points that often get lost in everyday work. Ideas for potential solutions have been identified where there had previously been gaps.
- Greater Manchester Combined Authority
- Manchester City Council - municipality
- Salford City Council - municipality
- Environment Agency - environmental agency
- Business in the Community - business community representative
- United Utilities – regional water company
- UK Green Building Council - business community representative
- City of Trees - NGO
- Groundwork - NGO
- Royal Horticultural Society - NGO
- The University of Manchester - higher education and research institute
- The University of Salford - higher education and research institute
1. State of implementation
2. Implementation challenges table
While performing its innovative tasks and presenting first results, IGNITION faces seven implementation challenges, which show in different intensities. Table 1 provides an overview; the following chapters describe more detail on the challenges.