Digital technologies boosting the circular economy
Circular economy means reusing products, recycling materials and designing products in such a way that they are easier to repair and recycle. Circular business strategies thus require much more information about a product. For example, if a manufacturer wants to recycle its products in the best possible way, it also needs to know exactly which materials are used in them.
Currently, this information is not always easily available to companies. However, the rapid evolution of digital technologies today can help overcome this information problem.
Through the Circular Bytes project, Agoria wants to help companies use digital technologies to achieve a more circular business strategy.
First, we organised 3 different workshops about circular economy and digital technologies. During these workshops, participating companies were informed about available digital technologies and potential circular applications. They were also challenged to find out for themselves which information and technologies they would need to achieve a circular business model. Companies were even guided to a specific 'solution provider'.
On the basis of the knowledge acquired during these workshops, we also created a casebook. This deals with questions such as: What are successful strategies for circular enterprise? What product information can support those strategies? How can a company build such a strategy step by step? It also includes 12 detailed success stories in which digital and circular already reinforce each other. It is not a scientific study with ready-made solutions, but invites companies to experiment with circular, digitally supported strategies.
The workshops were evaluated positively. The companies present were satisfied with their participation and the knowledge they gained. The workshops gave them room for networking.
Companies that worked out a concrete circular solution during the workshop received follow-up after the workshop in order to further refine their idea. Some companies were even referred to a specific digital solution provider.
We created a casebook: 'This is how the digital circular economy works'. This contains the knowledge about digital technologies and circular business strategies, built up during the workshops. It also includes 12 successful examples of how digital technologies support circular solutions.
A lot of dissemination took place. We made a digital and paper version of the casebook, a website about the project, our partners disseminated the lessons on their website and the project was presented during presentations organised by third parties.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Initially, the workshops were to serve as a matchmaker between manufacturingcompanies with a circular plan and solution providers, such as digital service companies. However, not many solution providers signed up. Circular economy, without further sensitisation, remains far from their minds. Experts from Sirris, Agoria or imec captured that expertise.
The actual matchmaking usually took place after the workshop. Companies with a concrete, worked-out solution were further assisted by our project partners or referred to specific digital solution providers. It is still too early to judge whether lasting relationships have been established everywhere. Some cases were not yet sufficiently mature and that makes it difficult to invest in research.
After the first workshop session, we adaptedtheprogrammeto give participants some extra 'handles'. We gave them more possibilities of new technologies and some examples of success. An informationposter and fill-in-the-blanks template also helped to get the participants up to speed.
During the workshops, the maturity of companies regarding circular economy and digital technologies was very diverse. Some were mainly looking for inspiration, others already had a strategic challenge but no concrete case, while a few had already taken stepsthemselves. For the companies without a concrete case, it was often too tight to come up with both a circular opportunity and a suitable technological solution. For them, we did look for furtherfollow-up.
22referrals to solution providers
10casebooks with 12 example cases
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
The knowledge acquired in the project will be further disseminated, both digitally and on paper, via the casebook.
The use of digital technology for circular business strategies will from now on also become a fixed part of the one-to-one counselling that Agoria and Sirris offer to companies.
In addition, the partners are investigating the feasibility of organising one or more workshops where manufacturing or recycling companies are brought into contact with digital solution providers.