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The ROCK project -acronym for Regeneration and Optimization of Cultural heritage in creative and Knowledge cities – led by the City of Bologna in collaboration with the University of Bologna, ranked first in the “Climate – Greening the Economy” axis, within the EU Horizon 2020 call “Cultural Heritage as a driver for sustainable growth”.


Bologna’s city center and famous university


Goals and target cities

ROCK focuses on historic city centers as extraordinary laboratories to demonstrate how Cultural Heritage [CH] can be a unique and powerful engine of regeneration, sustainable development and economic growth for the whole city. ROCK aims to develop an innovative, collaborative, and circular systemic approach for regeneration and adaptive reuse of historic city centers. Seeking to address their specific needs, it will transfer and replicate a repertoire of successful heritage-led regeneration initiatives from Role Model cities across Europe (Athens, Cluj-Napoca, Eindhoven, Liverpool, Lyon, Turin, and Vilnius) to three Replicator cities (Bologna, Lisbon and Skopje); via a cross-disciplinary mentoring process and common protocols and implementation guidelines.


Lisbon and Skopje, ROCK’s replicator cities, together with Bologna


Impact and partners

Through urban living labs, ROCK will deliver new ways to access and experience cultural heritage, stimulate business creation and employment opportunities; all while ensuring environmental sustainability, civic awareness, bottom-up participation, and engagement; in order to enhance livability, social cohesion, and safety in the areas involved. Moreover, it intends to achieve implementation of effective and shared policies that will accelerate heritage led regeneration across the EU and beyond, addressing CH as a competitive factor and driver for sustainable growth. Besides the 10 model and replicator cities listed, the project will involve 7 universities, 3 business associations, 2 networks of cities, and several companies, development agencies, foundations and NGOs.

Ecopreneurs, cultural heritage stewards and SDGs champions

Sustainable SMEs constitute and essential pillar of ROCK, given their capacity to preserve cultural heritage, and dynamize local economies; all in pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Broadly speaking:
  • They offer financially-sound business solutions to environmental challenges, which raise awareness and increase appreciation of the environment and natural ecosystems, a fundamental form of cultural heritage, diversity, and social identity. [SDGs 7, 11, 12, 15]
  • As climate champions, they provide low-carbon alternatives to our economy (mitigation of CO2 emissions), and help adapt to the challenging effects of climate change, making communities resilient, especially the most vulnerable ones. [SDGs 11, 13]
  • Being local businesses, the traditions and knowledge of their communities are deeply embedded in their value proposition, thus strongly contributing to preserve, promote, and provide access to cultural heritage. [SDG 4, 11, 15]
  • By creating green, quality, fair-trade jobs, they boost economic equality and opportunity; empowering communities and enabling social cohesion, and ultimately democracy and peace, by consequence. [SDG 8, 10, 11, 16]
  • Their small size and flexibility are ideal ingredients to spark creativity and innovation, maximizing their communities’ capacity to adapt to a changing world, retain local talent, and attract international one. [SDG 9]
  • Naturally, to compensate for their limited resources, SMEs tend to cooperate with like-minded organizations, in search of complementarity and added value. [SDG 17]


Some ecopreneurs for the climate in action, from bike delivery to organic markets


Grounded on these foundations, ECO4CLIM’s contribution to ROCK will revolve around fostering an SME-based, inclusive green economy in the target cities, along 3 major areas of work:
  1. Reinforce local ecosystems, engaging all major stakeholders.
  2. Boost green business creation.
  3. Facilitate the transfer and exchange of sustainable innovation among ecopreneurs and SMEs from all over Europe.

To this end, we will undertake a series of activities, including: multi-stakeholder co-ceation sessions (offline and online); eco-innovation workshops; training of trainers and managers on sustainable business incubation; consultation on effective green funding; marketplace and investment forum for high-impact ecopreneurs; compilation and dissemination of best green economy practices; design of replication methodology for new cities; drafting policy recommendations towards a facilitating regulatory framework for a green economy; public outreach; and political advocacy on EU level.


Eco-innovation workshops in Madrid (Spain) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia), facilitated by ECO4CLIM’s experts


Kick-off meeting: January 26, Bologna

The ROCK train departs on January 26, from Bologna, with a kick-off conference, where we have been invited to speak to convey the wonders of eco-entrepreneurship to young people (Bologna having one of the oldest and most renown universities in the world), seeking to inspire them and plant some green seeds on fertile land.

Ecopreneurs for the Climate, the time has come to ROCK & GREEN! 🙂





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