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News Industrial-Urban Symbiosis: a strategic approach for sustainable cities

Industrial-Urban Symbiosis: a strategic approach for sustainable cities

World Environment Day is a key moment for local authorities to consider including environmentally friendly decisions in urban policies. Among them, Industrial-Urban Symbiosis (I-US) emerges as a strategic approach to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals while fostering economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social well-being. 

Industrial-Urban Symbiosis and Sustainable Development

In 2015, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on the occasion of the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency Workshop on Industrial Symbiosis, highlighted how Industrial Symbiosis contributes to the realisation of six different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; 
  • SDG 9: Industrial Innovation and Infrastructure;
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities; 
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production; 
  • SDG 13: Climate Action; 
  • SDG 17: Partnerships.

Industrial Symbiosis avoids industrial waste by transforming it into resources for other companies. Industrial-Urban Symbiosis, by adding the urban dimension to the model, amplifies and enhances its effects. 

Moreover, the InvestEU Regulation introduces climate, environmental and social sustainability of investments as crucial elements in the decision-making process when approving the use of the EU guarantee. The Recovery and Resilience Facility follows the same rule, providing a favourable framework to support and develop I-US solutions across European territories and regions. 

Benefits for municipalities

Industrial-Urban Symbiosis represents a real opportunity for policymakers to address the SDG challenges and to fulfil their mandate to serve the public interest by developing and implementing policies that contribute to the well-being and development of society as a whole. 

I-US solutions offer numerous benefits for municipalities and citizens, including:

  1. Environmental sustainability and resource efficiency: by encouraging relationships between industries and urban areas, public authorities can promote the efficient use of resources such as energy, water, and materials. This leads to decreased resource consumption and waste generation, reducing environmental impact. 
  2. Positive impact on economic development: a thoughtful use of resources can save costs for both industries and municipalities. Moreover, I-US can stimulate new forms of economic development by fostering collaboration and innovation among businesses and local communities. 
  3. Social well-being: I-US can benefit local residents and the whole community by promoting circular economy, providing a comprehensive approach to waste management and creating new job opportunities. 

IU-S into practice with Symsites 

The SYMSITES Project is an example of public authorities’ engagement in industrial-urban symbiosis initiatives. Municipalities will co-implement I-US systems, reinforce their decision-making processes and thus promote sustainable development and innovation in their region.

Through its platform and the dedicated industrial-urban symbiosis initiatives (K-SDSS) module, SYMSITES will provide social scenarios (employment, living conditions and community) and guide policymakers during I-US decision-making steps. 

  1. Development: when examining the convenience of developing an I-US system, the K-SDSS allows users to explore and interpret the social scenarios for each set of assumptions, with the possibility of changing some behavioural decision patterns of the actors.
  2. Feasibility studies and planning phase: the K-SDSS allows users to draw and interpret social scenarios linked to feasibility options and planning decisions.
  3. I-US system establishment: the ĸ-SDSS allows users to explore and interpret plausible social scenarios for different ramp-up or upgrade choices.

By observing evolutionary scenarios from different points of view, policymakers can evaluate, compare and discover the potential impact of their decisions. 

Industrial-Urban Symbiosis represents a real opportunity for policymakers to preserve the environment, encourage sustainability and act in the interest of local communities. 

With an encouraging legal framework and the support of projects like Symisites, this is the perfect moment for public authorities to implement effective I-US systems.