Circular economy funding programme calls for SMEs to get involved
Under a new WRAP-led programme, small businesses may be eligible for free support to explore commercial opportunities within the emerging circular economy.
The REBus (Resource Efficient Business Models) programme, which is being led by WRAP, is seeking a select group of around 20 SMEs, initially those working within the textiles and electronics sectors, who are investigating alternative business models based around leasing, buy-back and product lifetime extension.
The scheme will offer in-depth support to these firms through innovation expert mentoring across a variety of areas. These include developing circular resilience and profitability, supply chain risk mitigation, exploration of new market and product opportunities, and how to extract better value from each tonne of input material used.
According to Ben Peace from the Knowledge Transfer Network, who is leading communications for the REBus project, to be eligible SMEs must have already identified an opportunity but would benefit from help to turn it into a commercial reality.
Suitable businesses might include new entrants to the market looking to deliver in a novel way, as well as more established ones looking to change the way they deliver value. Speaking to edie, Peace said that the engagement of SMEs within the circular economy, which is currently dominated by larger corporations, was crucial.
"We are keen to demonstrate that these business models work across the spectrum of businesses, and to identify the particular challenges and opportunities that exist across this spectrum. SMEs in the EU represent 99% of businesses so they are an absolutely critical part of this spectrum," he said.
The programme already has the involvement of multi-nationals such as Argos, B&Q, Samsung and Panasonic. Peace said that in total, the programme - which has funding to run for 3.5 years - will be supporting 20 pilots for SMEs, and 10 pilots for larger organisations.
Asked how the scheme will help fast-track circular economy innovation, Peace told edie: "We are currently collating and will be promoting the evidence that already exists that these models are good for business. We will be strengthening that evidence by developing pilots across a range of businesses, of different sizes and in different sectors. And we are working to inform policy."
According to WRAP, a 'how to' guide will eventually be published from the learnings to enable other companies to follow and apply the proven methodology for themselves. Peace added that there were striking figures out in the public domain to demonstrate how profitable more resource-resilient business models could be.
"Our work has shown that businesses across Europe could improve their bottom lines by almost £90 billion, create an additional 160,000 jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 520 millions of tonnes in CO2 equivalents per year," he said.
The REBus programme and importance of business models was mentioned in the Government's Environmental Audit Committee report published last week, which called for new fiscal and regulatory measures to be drawn up to help stimulate the UK's circular economy.