A Business model for greener cities

Trees, rain-gardens, green roofs and walls, and other vegetation help to cool cities on hot summer days, capture heavy rainfall and improve air quality. Research shows that green infrastructure provides a range of other benefits such as increased biodiversity and improved human health. However, cities often find green infrastructure expensive or difficult to implement.  

During the Nature Smart Cities project, the partners developed an easy-to-use Business Model. The model is designed to quantify the benefits of green infrastructure across a wide range of ecosystem services. Carbon sequestration for example, but also rain water infiltration, air quality, biodiversity, social cohesion or the effect on the temperature. This provides local authorities with the arguments to invest in urban greening.  

To the Business Model

The Nature Smart Cities project ran from 2019 to 2023. It aims to support cities to invest more in green infrastructure. 8 City Partners and 3 Academic Partners in the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, and France joined forces in this four your long project. Together the partners developed a business model to promote green infrastructure solutions, bridging the gap between research and practice. The Business Model is based on evidence collected through interviews with local authorities and analysis of geographical, biophysical and economic data. The academic partners have different roles:

  • The University of Antwerp coordinated the overall development of the business model. Their focus was on the economic analysis and review of existing valuation tools and finance options. 
  • Imperial College London conducted interviews with local authorities on the prevailing decision-making processes, barriers and opportunities. 
  • The University of Gent focused on quantifying the biophysical impact of Green Infrastructure projects on ecosystem services. 

The business model is tested, validated and refined through 7 green infrastructure pilots - Southend-On-Sea, Cambridge, The Hague, Kapelle, Antwerp, Bruges, and Lille. The step-by-step methodology guides cities through the use of this business model to implement green infrastructure and build climate resilience.  


City Partners

  • Province of Antwerp
  • Bruges
  • Cambridge 
  • Lille
  • Kapelle
  • Southend on Sea
  • Streekvereniging Zuidrand
  • The Hague

Research Partners