Five Insights From LAUNCH Circular 2017

December 8, 2017
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December 8, 2017 casper

LAUNCH Forums have been described as “brain feasts” — opportunities for innovators and industry leaders to work together, finding ways to make high-impact innovations soar. The newest group of LAUNCH innovators gathered in Ebeltoft, Denmark last week for the 2017 LAUNCH Circular Forum. Between our #LAUNCHCircular Twitter chat and our Facebook Live interview series, here are five things we learned about the emerging circular economy at the Forum.  (Click  next to a quote to tweet it!)

1. Effective circular solutions start with the problem.

“[Waste feathers make up] a huge amount of not-utilized resources. And that’s always needed when you want to scale a product and you want to have a market. So [Aeropowder founder Elena Dieckmann] started at the right place, to see where the problem was, and not just invent a product and then find out that there might not be a supply.”

Council Member Wickie Meier of Kvadrat on Aeropowder

2. And these solutions can turn burdens into assets.

“Patricia [Astrain, founder and CEO of Recircular] is working on an area with huge potential. [We’re] seeing a paradigm shift. We used to live in a world where waste was a problem, and a cost, and that has been completely flipped around and it will be increasingly in the future.  [People are realizing] that waste is actually money. You’re turning waste into a resource, and that is exactly what Patricia and her business is capitalizing on, and trying to make a good business model around. So that’s very exciting.”

Council member Mikkel Stenbæk Hansen of the Danish EPA on Recircular

3. When innovators and industry leaders collaborate, the rising tide lifts all.

“The responses [to my presentation from LAUNCH Council Members] were good. … All of these people have already been through the process, and they know how tough it can be, so for us it’s an incredible resource. It’s not every day you have access to so much knowledge and wisdom to make your project work and your product work. We’re really grateful for that.

You’re basically in one room with 50 iconic experts of sustainable projects and thought leaders. So for us it was inspiring on the vision side but also very practical hands-on advice — how we can structure things, how we can raise investment, seal the deal. There’s so much support and it’s better than 20 coaching sessions from a single advisor.”

Innovator Elena Dieckmann, Aeropowder

“I found that all of [the innovators’] different takes on the circular economy were complementary to each other, fit well with each other, so we don’t feel like we’re in competition at all. We just feel like if one of us does well, it’s gonna be good for all of us.

Innovator Nick Hughes, UCL

A partnership with somebody that can open up [a] market is of key importance because it gives you stability. It gives you this pat on the shoulder that is so difficult to have when you are only a small R&D university-based organization. So I think that’s gonna be one of the issues that I’m gonna push very much forward. The other thing to realize is that in a process from development production market and sale, there are many different characteristic competences that need to go into play. So that challenges oneself [to consider]: what is my network? How do I communicate with people? How can I allow somebody that mentally is different than I am, has a different competence, to enter my product and give them that responsibility so that the system can move on by itself?”

Council Member Wickie Meier, Kvadrat

4. Constraints lead to creativity.

“What is being done in extreme environments (i.e. space travel) is extremely inspiring. When forced to be circular to stay alive, human beings can be pretty good at it… sadly we don't feel the same kind of pressure yet on Earth!”

Innovator Aeropowder via Twitter

5. A successful circular economy will require innovations in many areas— not just new technologies.

Areas like education:

“We need to break down consumer barriers around [cost], but also education around circular economy and providing quick and easy global access to resources.”

Stephanie Benedetto, CEO of Queen of Raw and an innovator in LAUNCH’s Closing the Loop challenge, via Twitter 

“Consumers need to understand the impact that their consuming decisions have on the way the products are designed and produced. Once they know, they can take action!”

Innovator Recircular via Twitter 

Changing consumer culture:

“Overcoming consumerism [is a critical barrier to overcome] – ‘No’ should be the new ‘Yes’ – and providing facilities for citizens to incorporate better recycling practices into their daily lives. And better incentivisation too.”

Innovator Colorifix via Twitter 

And creating standard practices for reintroducing waste into supply chains:

“One major sticking point is ensuring that 'waste' materials are standardised in quality. Buyers will struggle to justify input materials that vary wildly in quality between different sources. But this takes a lot of energy and cost to do so.”

Innovator Aeropowder via Twitter 

“Prevailing linear supply chains are neither designed or incentivised to encourage circularity. Standards should play a greater role to foster the introduction of secondary materials into the supply chain, for example.”

Innovator Colorifix via Twitter