Roundtable II: Circular economy and energy sourcing: collaboration and new partnerships across the value chain
From left to right: Dr António Almeida, INESC TEC, Dr Blanca Chocarro, EIT Manufacturing, Dr Igor Kovač, SRIP FoF / Jožef Stefan Institute, Ionut Tata, Iceberg Plus
Speakers emphasised the importance of looking at the entire value chain, since circularity could only work if all actors are part of the development.
António Almeida, Business Development Manager and co-coordinator of TEC4Industry at INESC TEC in Porto, pointed out how complex planning across the value chain is, since data along different stages need to be collected, analysed and used to make decisions which can even lead to changing business models.
Ionut Tata, Founder & CEO of Iceberg Plus, a Romanian start-up, added to this that most companies are not even aware of the entire value chain since they only know the step before and after them. Moreover, to achieve more visibility, they need to actively seek information about other steps, and maybe disrupt the value chain to be able to move on. In addition to that, circularity will only be adopted if companies see that it’s worthwhile doing it.
Igor Kovač, Acting Director of SRIP Factories of the Future and Professional Research Councillor at Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia, specifically mentioned company owners who need to be educated and convinced of the benefits of circularity and also highlighted that business cultures across Europe vary widely from North to South and East to West, so the approaches must be different.
Blanca Chocarro, Cross-KIC Project Manager at EIT Manufacturing, emphasised the importance of collaboration across the manufacturing industry and beyond, with the entire community of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology so that all aspects of going circular can be tackled: educating the workforce, supporting innovation of early-stage developments as well as the promotion of business creation. She specifically mentioned the need for certification in sustainability as crucial and presented the Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) initiative, in which technologies undergo third-party validation, which assesses their performance based on using international standards.
The holistic view was essential, panellists agreed, giving Kinder-Uni (children’s university) as an example to start with children of kindergarten age to awaken their interest in science and technology and mentioning opportunities to create industrial symbiosis, for example by identifying waste from one industry as a raw material for another. Also bringing industry and cities together for synergies and decentralising production was a promising option. And last, but not least, customers also had to change their perspective. They needed to understand that buying cheap and discarding after use is no longer an option in today’s world.