The INTERREG 2 Seas project Nature Smart Cities (NSCiti2S) aims at the co-creation and validation of a business case for urban green infrastructure to build climate resilient urban landscapes in small to medium size cities (population < 550,000). A total of 11 academic and city partners in the 2 seas area work jointly, with the Southend Borough Council as the Lead Partner.

Project duration: 12/07/2018 - 25/02/2022

About the project

A clear knowledge gap exists for local authorities (LAs) that prevents them from deploying green infrastructure (GI) on a scale that enables urban landscapes to adapt to the future impacts of climate change and build more sustainable communities. Cities and towns are not investing in GI and the valuation tools for justifying GI on economic, social, cultural and environmental grounds are simply not being used by LAs, who instead rely on EU and national subsidies or deliver GI projects on a ‘one off’ basis. The exceptions are capital/larger cities (populations > 550,000 approx.) that have access to more finance and resources than smaller urban areas. Urban areas < 550,000 people are not investing in GI. Valuation tools for GI are simply not being used and LAs lack the ability to properly account for the direct cash benefits of GI. LAs need to be enabled to overcome market barriers to using their own city-finance to fund GI climate investments and step away from subsidy dependence.

Objectives of the project

To enable LAs in the 2 Seas to use their own ‘city’ finance to fund GI climate investment programs*, reducing and removing the reliance on subsidies to fund GI projects in cities and towns.

The objective is to mainstream a self-financing method for LAs to fund GI projects, by demonstrating that they can contribute a positive net gain to a local authority’s bottom line. We will enable more investment for adaptation to climate change measures by showing how LAs can acquire direct and ‘cash’ benefits as a result of their GI climate investment, whilst also benefitting from indirect and non-cash benefits – the added value of GI (social, community, environmental).

The main output will be a new Business Model that enables local authorities in the 2 Seas to understand how they can self-finance GI climate investments and reduce dependency on subsidies to build climate resilience in their towns and cities by (WP1).

Objective 1: Step-by-step methodology and approval process (toolkit) for LAs to apply the Business Model to their own GI climate investments (WP1)

Objective 2: Delivery of 7 GI pilot projects (2x BE, 1x FR, 2x NL, 2x UK) that help develop, test and validate the Business Model (WP3)

Objective 3: Nature Smart Capacity Building Programs that build capacity of decision-makers at 75 LAs to help them apply the direct benefits and ‘cash’ benefits of GI climate investments to their own GI projects (WP2 and WP5)

Objective 4: 7 new strategies (1x each City Partner) detailing how they will increase the amount of green space in their urban area between 2020 and 2050 providing a long-term purpose for the Business Model and work together as ‘Green Twinned Cities’ (WP2)

*defined as types of GI and eco-system based solutions that can be deployed to build climate resilience to flooding, drought and heat stress across an urban landscape and delivered on more than a ‘one-off’ project/development (ie a pipeline of GI projects).

Role of University of Antwerp

The University of Antwerp acts as the Lead Partner for WP1, while also collaborating with the other partners on the other work package. The embedding of the project in the interdisciplinary IMDO (Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development) within the University of Antwerp, facilitates the integration of the research, expertise and network of several research groups, such as: EnvEconEngineering ManagementENdEMIC and Ecobe. Through approaching the Business Model multidisciplinary and participative, testing and validating these in pilot projects and engaging in capacity building programs, the University of Antwerp aims at maximizing the project’s results and engages in creating real-world impact in a scientifically sound way.

To fulfill this role, the University of Antwerp received a European subsidy.


Nature Smart Cities


Dr. Jan Cools

Research manager at IMDO (Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development)Tel.


Prof. Dr. Ir. Steven Van Passel

Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) / Dep. Engineering ManagementTel.


Prof. Dr. Ir. Roeland SamsonFaculty of Science / Dep. Bioengineering



Wito Van Oijstaeijen (PhD student)

Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) / Dep. Engineering ManagementTel.