The overarching objectives of the InnoForESt project are to spark a transformation of the European forest sector by steering policies towards cross-sectoral coordination and a multi governance level network; to establish new actor alliances in the forestry sector by involving key stakeholders from forest and forestry-related policy, management and business; and to demonstrate the feasibility of alternative income streams from forest ecosystem services not yet harnessed by traditional markets. The project has been created to facilitate coordination in policy making, and to develop novel policies and business processes that support policy makers, forest managers, and business actors in forest ecosystem service provision. This shall foster the sustainable provision of the range of forest ecosystem services across Europe, in particular for those forest ecosystem services that lack market values but are of tremendous importance for societal wellbeing, i.e. cultural and regulating forest ecosystem services.
InnoForESt’s points of departure for this endeavour are, first, the forest sector is historically shaped by a diverse constellation of locally and nationally specific institutions, including property rights regimes, administrations, sectoral decision-making authorities, etc.; second, many business and policy entrepreneurs in the forest sector are currently developing new business models and supportive institutional settings for the provision of non-market forest ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration. Therefore, we are faced with a situation in which a portfolio of promising approaches exists, but we lack knowledge about their fostering and hindering factors. There is, at this point, no information exchange about these niche innovations across Europe, and few capacities to upscale these promising approaches exist.
To tackle these challenges, InnoForESt will establish real world pilots that represent a wide range of contextual biophysical and institutional factors in Europe, as well as successful examples of innovative policy instrument mixes, coordination approaches, and /or business models. Our aim is to systematically assist both the improvement and upscaling of existing niche models and the introduction of new approaches. The pilots will be set up in selected case study regions to represent the variety of biophysical conditions and institutional settings across Europe. This way, we will facilitate the interconnection, coordination, and co-learning of relevant actors. Furthermore, the pilots will form a space for experimentation, testing, and evaluation. Core elements of the pilots are: (i) multi-actor networks, (ii) physical and digital platforms, (iii) facilitated innovation processes for business and policy making, (iv) information generation and support for future national and EU forest policy making. Within the networks, stakeholders from policy, management, and civil society will be able to exchange knowledge about policies and business initiatives with entrepreneurs.
At the core of the formation and maintenance of the innovation networks lies the establishment of supportive innovation platforms. These platforms function as physical spaces and digital information hubs for exchange and learning among core stakeholders, representing local, national and EU level decision makers, forest administrations, public and private landowner associations, and business partners, many of which InnoForESt has already engaged. Network initiatives in case study regions will be extended to the national level and across case studies, enabling the co-generation and distribution of further innovations with network partners. InnoForESt will then scale up the results to apply to the European level. This process is supported by InnoForESt’s scientific partners that provide synthesised forestry system information, experimental testing of innovations, sustainability assessments, and tailor-made navigation tools for policy, business, and land-use decision making.