SIM4NEXUS: water-energy-land-food and climate nexus for resource efficiency

Land, food, energy, water and climate are interconnected, comprising a coherent system (the ‘Nexus’), dominated by complexity and feedback. The integrated management of the Nexus is critical to secure the efficient and sustainable use of resources. Barriers to a resource efficient Europe are policy inconsistencies and incoherence, knowledge gaps, especially regarding integration methodologies and tools for the Nexus, and knowledge and technology lock-ins.

SIM4NEXUS is a European Union Horizon 2020 project (2016-2020) that investigated bio-physical and policy interlinkages across the five Nexus domains. SIM4NEXUS developed innovative methodologies to address these barriers, by building on well-known and scientifically established existing “thematic” models, simulating different components/“themes” of the Nexus and by developing:

  1. a scientific holistic approach for the Nexus including bio-physical and policy interlinkages, as well as the study of policies and policy coherence;
  2. novel complexity science methodologies and approaches (System Dynamics Models)  for integrating the outputs of the thematic models;
  3. ontologies for data sharing form for seamless integration of public domain data and metadata for decision and policy making;
  4. a Knowledge Elicitation Engine for integrating strategies at different spatial and temporal scales with top down and bottom up learning process, discovering new and emergent knowledge, in the form of unknown relations between the Nexus components and policies/strategies;
  5. a web-based Serious Game for multiple users, as an enhanced interactive visualisation tool, providing an immersive experience to decision- and policy-makers, facilitating learning and design of policies within the Nexus.

The Serious Game shows the impacts of resource use and relevant policies on agriculture, water, energy, land use and climate through a model-based analysis using real data from selected case studies at regional, national and transboundary scale.

KWR is a partner in the SIM4NEXUS project and it is responsible for generating project spin-off, among other things by establishing training programmes for the serious game under development and organising training courses.

From compromises to synergy

European policies relating to water, land, food, energy and climate are often based on compromises. Instead of getting stronger by working together, this means that opportunities for synergy are inadequately exploited and that a procedure is lacking for the evaluation of new policies from a nexus perspective. As a result, emerging themes that take into consideration the limits of growth and efficient approaches to resources are not used as they could be.

SIM4NEXUS enhances understanding of how water management, food production and consumption, energy supplies and land use are linked to one another and how they relate to the changing climate. The research activities have put down firm foundations for the application of the benefits of the nexus approach, primarily in order to establish synergies between policies and to avoid conflicts.

Serious game with scientific basis

SIM4NEXUS has developed a serious game: a computer game that helps users to understand and explore the interactions between water, energy, land and food sources in the context of climate change. Problems are broken down into manageable interventions and participants learn by doing. The aim of the serious game is to be an enjoyable and interactive capacity-building tool for use in research, educational settings and management.

The game has a solid scientific basis and it uses system dynamics models. Summary information is given about policy actions, assigned costs and potential benefits; this facilitates scorekeeping according to both financial and social capital metrics. Costs are tallied against benefits, which are revealed as the game progresses. This allows a player to measure progress and make comparisons with others.

The serious game includes:

  • a strategic map that allows comparisons of policy effects in different regions;
  • a virtual card table for applying policy maps with a drag-and-drop interface;
  • a visualisation system showing the impact of user decisions on the model.

The findings of the project are based on twelve case studies at the regional, national and international scales in Europe. In order to test the application of the serious game in practice, KWR researchers developed training programmes and gave training courses .They drew on case studies from Greece and Azerbaijan to illustrate the methods and possible scenarios. On the basis of the positive feedback generated, KWR is working on a definition of the facilitation methods for different target groups and cases.

Synergy within reach

The SIM4NEXUS serious game allows players to implement policies in the environment of a computer game and investigate the impact on various nexus components. This brings synergy between water, land, food, energy and climate, which is often lacking in current European policies, within reach.

Are you interested in how SIM4NEXUS can contribute to establishing policies for urgent social issues? How these policies can be revealed in order to clarify their interdependence, including their possible short- and long-term effects? Then play the game here (use Chrome or Firefox as web browser).


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 689150 SIM4NEXUS

SIM4NEXUS: research into biophysical and policy links between five nexus domains with the aim of using resources efficiently and allowing Europe to make a significant contribution to CO2 reduction


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SIM4NEXUS: Investigate bio-physical and policy interlinkages across five nexus domains