The Circular Economy (CE) is based inter alia on sharing, leasing, reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling, in an (almost) closed loop, which aims to retain the highest utility and value of products, components and materials at all times. The European Commission’s 2015 Action Plan for the Circular Economy maps out a series of actions to improve waste management, and to promote eco-innovation and resource efficiency with targets for waste and landfill reduction, reuse and recycling to be met by 2030. To this end the EC launched their Circular Economy implementation plan and have recently outlined their proposed key deliverables, which, if we are to help drive the transformation, have much relevance at regional economic development level in Northern Ireland.
Based on this topic focus, this research proposal straddles both of the PfG topics:
1) Productivity and policy Interventions (Dept of Economy); and
2) Approaches to enterprise and entrepreneurship and the need for new models (Dept of Economy).
Moving towards a more extensive CE could deliver many environmental and regional economic benefits including reduced pressures on the environment, improved security of supply of raw materials, increased competitiveness, improved regional innovation capacity, productivity, growth and employment. However the shift to a CE also poses challenges for businesses, such as financing, key economic enablers/incentives, skills, and multi level governance. There is a clear need to conduct an investigation at micro, grass roots level, amongst NI SMEs, to ascertain their awareness and attitudes towards the uptake and impact of CE business models.
The research will also address the extent of and barriers to technological, organisational, and entrepreneurial behaviour innovation. The key industrial sectors of food, agriculture, construction and manufacturing will be the focus of the study, due to the potential opportunities that the transition, adoption and integration of CE principles into the fabric of their business models could provide. Research methods: Baseline quantitative survey and CE sectoral mapping, followed by qualitative interviews.
Indicative contributions from the research - 1) will offer practical recommendations for SMEs on effective CE business model implementation. 2) Will provide policy recommendations such as interventions/support mechanisms to overcome CE challenges for SMEs; identification of relevant internal market mechanisms to better facilitate the CE transition; incentives for producers and recyclers to work together to improve performance within and across relevant value chains; provided technical skills and systemic behaviour change mechanisms. 3) Will serve to foster NI regional innovation capacity based on CE business model principles.