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Belmont Forum Collaborative Research: The Moveable Nexus: Design-led urban food, water and energy management innovation in new boundary conditions of change


Many cities across the globe are facing difficult challenges managing their food, water and energy systems. The challenges stem from the fact that the issues of food, water and energy are often tightly connected with each other, not only locally but also globally. This is known as the Food-Water-Energy (FWE) nexus.  An effective solution to a local water problem may cause new local problems with food or energy, or cause new water problems at the global level. On a local scale, it is difficult to anticipate whether solutions to one issue in the nexus are sustainable across food, water and energy systems, both at the local and the global scale.  Innovative solutions that encompass the nexus are particularly important to enable cities to better manage their food, water and energy systems and understand the benefits and tradeoffs for different solutions. 

This award supports U.S. researchers participating in a project competitively selected by a 29-country initiative through the joint Belmont Forum- Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe.  The Sustainable Urbanization Global Initiative (SUGI)/Food-Water-Energy Nexus is a multilateral initiative designed to support research projects that bring together the fragmented research and expertise across the globe to find innovative solutions to the Food-Water-Energy Nexus challenge.  The call seeks to develop more resilient, applied urban solutions to benefit a much wider range of stakeholders. The rapid urbanization of the world's population underscores the importance of this focus. International partners were invited to develop solutions for this challenge.  The funds requested will be used to support U.S. participants to cooperate in consortia that consist of partners from at least three of the participating countries and that bring together natural scientists, social scientists and research users (e.g., civil society, NGOs, and industry).  Participants from other countries are funded through their national funding organizations.

This projects seeks to develop a FEW system incorporating the localized production of healthy food.  The production and consumption of healthy food is constrained by both future climate change and current diets: the project aims to mitigate these by designing strategies for the localization of healthy food production and test these within the context of far-future climate impacts. The scale at which this production is localized differs in each location, spanning scales from a single rooftop to an entire metropolitan region. The design outputs will be used as cornerstones of the entire field of possible solutions and are used to inspire other places to engage with these issues. Integrated within the program of stakeholder workshops is the development of an analytical decision-support tool, the M-NEX. Each successive workshop adds complexity and detail to the tool which aims to support decision-making in the planning and integration of local food production.  The project uses a research-based design approach to develop inspiring urban solutions in six differing regions across the world. The new knowledge generated in each of these projects will be used incrementally to develop an analytical decision support tool that will help integrate FEW solutions in future urban designs and developments.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment