World Economic Forum and the Humboldt Institute call for Transformative approach to build “Biodiversecities” of the future


A new publication from the World Economic Forum and the Humboldt Institute entitled ‘BiodiverCities by 2030’, calls for urban spaces globally to embrace and harness biodiversity to transform city life. Using the Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) framework, they call for the end of the separation between ‘city’ and ‘nature’. The call is made for urban spaces to transform how biodiversity is viewed and highlights the crucial role of ecosystems to city life for, amongst others, rainwater infiltration; local climate regulation; reducing pollution; increasing recreation; and improving mental and physical health.

With more than 44 contributors from 88 city case studies from around the world, the focus is on creation of a “commons” whereby urban spaces are transformed and made more sustainable for the benefit of people and nature alike. There is particular focus on the experience of Latin American cities where uncontrolled urbanisation in the past has required the unlocking of transformative visions and the nurturing of biodiverse ecosystems. A call is made to join the ongoing WEF campaign and network of ‘BiodiverCities for 2030’.

The University of Sussex Business School academic, Dr Matias Ramirez, lead for TIPC at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the Business School, along with University of Sussex ex-alumni Andrea Padilla from the Masters in Sustainable Development, were commissioned to write the conceptual framework introduction and conclusion for this high-level publication. Using a Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) lens they argue that the Biodiversecity concept can be truly transformational but that this vision for the world’s urban landscapes needs to be one of ‘system transformation rather than system optimization’. They comment:

“The redefinition of cities as centers of world population growth highlights the urgency of understanding how ecological, economic and social functions in urban areas…(and) can benefit the environment and society. BiodiverCities offers a transformative vision of city futures…(that) can avoid environmental degradation of ecosystems and the negative impacts on natural environments and welfare. Cities are centres of creativity and lifestyle, culture, and learning (that) can be drivers of a new ecological infrastructure for thriving biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.”

Professor Steven McGuire, Dean of the University of Sussex Business School said:

“The Business School’s world leading research creates real and positive impact on people and their environments globally. The World Economic Forum’s drive for transformation of cities towards having rich biodiverse ecosystems demonstrates the essential need for successful strategic partnerships between academic researchers; sustainability practitioners; international, national and local policymakers to tackle sustainability challenges. I welcome the application of the research by the WEF and to its beneficial impact on ecosystems, cities and people around the globe.”

This transformative policy approach was developed by a research project (Transformative Innovation Policy  – TIP) at the University of Sussex Business School’s Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), in partnership with the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands; and INGENIO, the innovation institute at the University of Valencia in Spain. The TIP approach to transforming for sustainability has been enacted this region by the TIP Latin America Hub including actors from Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Panama. TIP is a growing approach to innovation and development being enacted by international policy makers and practitioners across the world with hubs in South Africa and Europe. A new Transformative Innovation Policy Resource Lab (TIP RL) will launch in early 2023 providing experimentation, evaluation and learning tools to implement a TIP approach across projects and networks such as the World Economic Forum’s BiodiverCities Network.