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Circular Economy in Europe: Paving the way for green ideas

Only a few weeks until the G20 Summit will be held in Germany and heads of states will gather in the city of Hamburg. They will discuss the major challenges, such as geopolitical conflicts, refugee flow, hunger, ongoing climate change and pandemics. However, it is already well known that the key to combat most of these challenges is the creation of a strong, balanced, sustainable and inclusive economy – a goal that was set with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement as the groundwork. On top of recent challenges facing this agreement, establishing a circular economy might seem hard to realize, but with innovative green ideas we can pave the way. To put the Paris Agreement into practice, it is now time to discuss actions that support new concepts and assist them entering the market.

From research to business model

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Turning a great idea into a working business model needs a supportive environment. When it comes to green ideas, there is no doubt that promoting science and research is a key essential to success. A great example for developing a green business with the support of research is the company Votechnik. This Irish startup was founded in 2011 by Dr. Lisa O’Donoghue, who previously ran a research project which developed a unique technology that recycles LCDs. Flat screens contain hazardous components and their recycling is regulated by various EU directives. With her background in science, Lisa developed a fully automated process that can disassemble LCDs into its components eliminating the requirement for manual assembly. Votechnik was granted EUR 1.6 million by the EU from 2015-2017 to develop a marketable pilot version of this technology and as a result, hazardous materials are being redirected from landfills.

From business model to market

Once a green business model has been established, it needs to be brought to market. This can be a challenge for young entrepreneurs, who don’t have access to experts and partners. A big network is important and helpful for market entry, but is rarely provided by EU funding or EU programs.

Therefore, programs like Green Alley have been established to fill this gap and to provide a networking platform that brings together green start-ups, industry and research partners. Young founders who take part in the annual Green Alley Award competition can benefit from a great network of experts and exchange ideas with their peers. Votechnik, for instance, was among the finalists of the Green Alley Award 2015.

Economically sustainable and global at the same time

Another example of a successful Green Alley Award finalist is ResQ Club from Finland. It has developed an app for restaurants to sell meals that otherwise would go to waste. Considering that the average European consumer throws out about 123 kilograms of food annually – food that is still edible – ResQ Club has taken on this serious problem. Starting out with the idea to expand to other markets, they quickly realized that regulation around food waste differs from country to country and they couldn’t go global by themselves. They participated in the Green Alley Award, extended their network which enabled them to tackle this challenge. The result of this is a merger with their German counterpart Mealsaver. Together, they are now the leading software application in the area of reducing restaurant food waste and have left their competitors behind. ResQ Club proves that with the right support, being green, marketable and profitable, the business model can be successful.

Going green

Apart from the positive impact on the environment, another advantage of creating a sustainable start-up is the growing demand for green products and services. Although strict and somewhat complicated policies might seem like an unsurmountable obstacle, going green from the very beginning and getting support from experienced experts – such as the Green Alley network – will be more profitable in the long run.

If you would like to apply for the Green Alley Award or if you know a start-up that might be interested in applying, please note that applications are open until 25th of July 2017.

The Green Alley Award is a business competition in which circular economy start-ups and eco-entrepreneurs meet. The award gives green ideas visibility and helps start-ups to grow. The Green Alley network includes partners, such as the British accelerator programme Bethnal Green Ventures, Germany’s crowdfunding pioneer Seedmatch and ERP Finland, another specialist in the recycling sector. This year, the Green Alley Award is joined by H2 Compliance, a compliance service providing advice on chemical legislation as well as R2Pi, a Horizon 2020 project.

Detailed information about Green Alley, the award and the application process can be found here: www.green-alley-award.com


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