As part of the research phase of the REGEN-U project, many experts have been meeting with the eight different consortium partners over the last several months to discuss the implementation of regenerative economic models in their respective countries. These interviews aimed to establish a clear understanding of the definition of the regenerative economy, the existing challenges, and how these are/can be addressed by regional stakeholders. This article looks at insights from interviews conducted by partners from BETA Technological Centre with experts in Spain. Firstly, the expert from the government stated his opinion regarding the concept of a Regenerative economy.
Albert Palou: A governmental perspective
According to Albert Palou, transitioning to a regenerative economy offers significant advantages in terms of economic resilience, job creation, and environmental protection. The primary challenge lies in overcoming resistance to change from individuals and institutions, especially within public administration. He emphasised that implementing innovative policies within the government itself is particularly difficult.
To ensure a successful transition in Spain, he highlighted the importance of inclusive processes that involve all stakeholders in decision-making. This can be achieved through participatory approaches that encourage input and feedback from everyone involved. Palou also stressed the crucial role of HEIs in leading the transition, as they have access to key elements, such as research capabilities, educational programs, and the ability to foster collaborations across various actors.
His main conclusion was that collaboration with stakeholders of all types is key to achieving the desired transition. The importance of the private sector cannot be overstated – they too can drive innovation, invest in new approaches, and create business models that advocate for change.
“Higher education institutes have access to key elements, such as research capabilities, educational programs, and the ability to foster collaborations across various actors.” – Albert Palou
Maria Calderó Pascual: An academic perspective
For Maria Calderó, the concept of a regenerative economy represents a new business model with an ambitious vision. Its goal is to capture more carbon emissions, restore damaged ecosystems, and preserve high-quality ones, all to generate greater inclusion and a higher quality of life for everyone on our planet.
Calderó outlined several key policy measures necessary to ensure a successful transition towards a regenerative economy. This involves transforming policies into strategic and intelligent laws, accompanied by well-designed action plans that outline specific objectives to be achieved. She believes that policy changes in Catalonia, Spain, should focus on adjusting value chain prices to ensure fairness for all actors involved, encouraging companies to present internal business case studies to demonstrate their commitment. Other examples she gave include: supporting and facilitating companies’ participation in industrial symbiosis schemes, revaluing “waste,” providing economic or technical support, offering direct economic incentives, and extending human resources support.
“The goal of a regenerative economy is to capture more carbon emissions, restore damaged ecosystems, and preserve high-quality ones, all to generate greater inclusion and a higher quality of life for everyone on our planet.”- Maria Calderó Pascual
She emphasized that the initial step in establishing a regenerative economy in Spain is to establish a shared understanding and a dynamic binding strategy. This strategy should incorporate specific territorial priorities and monitoring indicators. It should also be linked with funding schemes and mechanisms aimed at achieving both short and long-term impacts on the regenerative economy at multiple levels.
Carlo Sessa: A business perspective
According to business expert Carlo Sessa, a regenerative economy can be defined by four keywords: “self-organization, interdependence, diversity, and moving beyond sustainability”. Sessa highlighted the challenges in creating a regenerative culture as the foundation for the new economic model and emphasised the need for systems thinking to support dialogue and collective intelligence processes.
To ensure a “just” transition towards a regenerative economy, Sessa highlighted the importance of coordinating green, digital, cultural, and governance transitions as interconnected elements. He also emphasizes the role of the private sector in driving the shift towards regenerative capitalism and impact investment in Spain.
He also believes that community-based organizations have a crucial role to play in leading this transition in Spain. Additionally, he emphasized the relevance of biomimicry as a nature-based solution across various sectors, as well as the significance of nature-based solutions within urban contexts.
Sessa suggested that establishing transparent governance of commons at both global and local levels, implementing cross-disciplinary education programs, and creating living labs are promising initial steps toward creating a regenerative economy in Spain. These, moreover, can be supported at the EU, national, and local levels by introducing impact investment schemes.
“Establishing transparent governance of commons, implementing cross-disciplinary education programs, and creating living labs are promising initial steps toward creating a regenerative economy in Spain” – Carlo Sessa
These interviews show that though these experts come from very different societal spheres, they share many commonalities in how they view this transition. They each include a focus on collaboration and inclusivity, emphasise the need for strategic yet thoughtful policy measures, and a shared emphasis on environmental preservation and consciousness. We are looking forward to the next phase of the project which will see these expert insights incorporated into a comprehensive training programme and help lead HEIs in Europe on the path towards this just transition.
Author: Albert Palou Vilar, Beta Technological Centre