Update on ECOSTAR initiative for nature-based businesses

8th August 2017

The ECOSTAR initiative, to encourage and support entrepreneurs who are developing nature-based businesses, was launched in Manchester in June. ECOSTAR have just provided the following update on their activities:

"An economy that truly reflects the value of nature is the goal of people concerned with the quality of our environment.  Despite the progress in terms of communicating this value, we are all aware of the many challenges faced in achieving tangible change.  If we are to take an optimistic stance, with each challenge comes opportunity, and the path towards a green economy is littered with both. In a sector not commonly associated with innovative business, entrepreneurs are needed to develop nature based services to support Government, business and consumers in achieving environmental goals. With this need in mind, a group of businesses and universities from across Europe have recently launched ECOSTAR which aims to encourage and support entrepreneurs developing nature-based business.

With funding from the European Commission, ECOSTAR is promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in nature based business. Manchester University and Ricardo Energy & Environment are leading the initiative in the UK. They are part of a network of university-business partnerships across Europe.

ECOSTAR operates across three pillars:

JOIN – ECOSTAR has established a network of investors, entrepreneurs, academics and professionals with an interest in nature based business from around the world. The network provides, amongst other things, opportunities for collaboration and access to international expertise and investment.

LEARN - ECOSTAR is launching an EU-wide e-learning course accredited by 4 universities to be launched in October 2017.  It will be the first international course to support nature based start-ups providing entrepreneurship and innovation skills to students and professionals.

GROW - ECOSTAR has developed a Nature-Accelerator programme which will provide hosting and acceleration services for 3 months at the University of Padova (May – July 2018). Successful applicants will receive investment, training and mentorship. The course is powered by Fledge, the Seattle based ‘conscious company accelerator’.  The application process is now open.

ECOSTAR was launched on 15th June with events in Manchester, Brasov, Rome and Madrid. The UK launch attracted attendees from start-ups, local government, national government, consultancies, and academia. Dr Kieran Conlan from Ricardo Energy & Environment hosted the event and opened proceedings with an in depth look at the ECOSTAR initiative. With his own nature-based consulting company recently acquired by Ricardo Energy & Environment, Kieran was able to provide a personal perspective on the opportunity that ECOSTAR represents.  

A range of speakers provided applied insights into the opportunity for nature based business. Firstly, Krista Patrick from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority presented the natural capital initiatives being undertaken in Manchester including the Urban Pioneer and Natural Course projects, demonstrating why it was the perfect city for the ECOSTAR launch. David Winnard then introduced his nature based start-up Discover the Wild and introduced the hidden wildlife of Manchester.  Gillian Sinnott provided an overview of the Smithills Estate Enterprise Hub initiative,  which will host and support nature based business on the iconic Smithills Estate.   Finally, Dr Martin Henery from the Manchester Enterprise Centre at the University of Manchester provided valuable insights into the thinking and planning required to ensure a start-up is a success.  All presentations are available on the ECOSTAR website.

The event provided a great launch pad for ECOSTAR.  We hope it will prove a valuable hub for nature based business in the UK and across Europe.  If you have an interest in nature based business please visit the ECOSTAR website, join the network and get involved.

If you have any questions please contact Guy Whiteley, Senior Economist, Ricardo Energy & Environment: guy.whiteley@ricardo.com "