First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today (15 February) announced that the £70m Circular Economy Investment Fund will help Scottish Government work with relevant industries and educational institutions to stimulate innovation and improve productivity to Scotland’s manufacturing sector, with the aim of making it a global competitor.

Speaking during a visit to Glenhead Engineering in Clydebank, Sturgeon said: “While manufacturing has undergone a significant transformation in recent decades, with increased globalisation and greater use of digital technology, it remains a high skills and high wage sector, with earnings that are above the Scottish average.

“Our Programme for Government committed us to further action and backed by £70m of new circular economy funding, the Action Plan outlines how the Scottish Government, our Enterprise Agencies and Zero Waste Scotland will work with industry and higher and further education institutions to stimulate innovation, productivity and investment.

“Amongst the key actions in the strategy will be the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Manufacturing which will act as a hub for continuous innovation to ensure Scotland remains a sustainable and competitive place to do business.”

Manufacturing currently represents more than half of Scotland’s international exports and investment into research and development. Nearly 190,000 people are employed through the industry. The Circular Economy Investment Fund will help manufacturers develop new technologies, business models and infrastructure that incorporate both the concept and implementation stages. Existing products and services will also be able to apply for redesign.

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland – which will partially oversee the investment fund – said: “This new funding and support package will push boundaries in business innovation to develop circular models that will keep products in use for longer and ultimately save precious raw materials and resources.

“This makes great economic as well as environmental sense. By investing now, the Scottish Government is putting down foundations to build an ever more sustainable future – one that is resource efficient and most definitely circular.”

Square pegs, round holes

This new investment comes off the back of £1.3m Scottish Government funding to develop the Scottish Institute of Remanufacture, which aims to realise the value of materials like gold and electrical components harvested from recycled televisions, mobile phones and computers.

On a broader level, the European Commission – which is providing £30m of the investment through the European Regional Development Fund – unveiled the new circular economy package lates last year, which included weakened recycling targets, tools to halve food waste by 2030, and measures to promote reparability in the design phase of products.

A recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation concluded that combining circular economy principles with the explosion of smart and connected devices (the Internet of Things) could dramatically boost resource efficiency and lead to ‘broad social benefits. Meanwhile, WRAP last week unveiled new research and an interactive map which shows the job-creation potential of the circular economy all the way down to a constituency level. 

Matt Mace

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