Bio (50 words about you) Richard is a designer and the Founder of innovation lab Biomimicry UK, and CEO of equine technology startup Smart Stable Limited. He has worked on a number of projects across Europe, on topics including industrial, materials, and packaging, architecture, and master planning.

Languages: English and Scots

Mentorship Strengths
Biomimicry | Materials | Packaging | Architecture | Design | Cities

Richard James MacCowan tells CEC about his background
“My work on the circular economy began whilst working as an intern for a property company during my Real Estate Management degree at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. I became very interested in the proactive management of both building stock and investment portfolios to focus on materials and financial flows. This led to a career as a real estate consultant across Europe.

I felt unfulfilled in this career and the economic crash in the mid-2000’s gave me a chance to leave this behind. After a stint working in Scandinavia, I retrained as a designer. This is where my passion for the circular economy and biomimicry really took off.

Setting up Biomimicry UK in 2012 allowed me to develop this sector in the UK and make some great connections around the world. I’m now focusing on looking into manufacturing processes, packaging innovation, and industrial ecology and symbiosis for cities. It’s been a hard slog, but I’m now doing my hobby as a job. The innovation in the equine sector allows me to develop my ideas in practice with an amazing team here in York. The downside is that I still don’t know how to ride a horse.”

Greatest challenges when implementing circularity
“There is a lot of talk in our region of the circular economy, but getting it moving forward to projects is challenging. Is it better to focus on bottom-up drivers or top-down policy initiatives? I’m active with the One Planet York initiative and focusing on the systems in place across our city. This coupled with BioVale (the bioeconomy lead in the region) will hopefully generate greater momentum.

We are fortunate that the city has a brilliant team at Science City York are focusing on new innovations. This coupled with the enablers, this will allow for the challenges mentioned to be pushed forward. Whether this is via disruptive innovation or adding value to systems is irrelevant, as long as we minimise waste and connect the value streams. In nature, waste is a resource. We need to keep this in mind in everything we do.”

Best tip for a circular startup
Don’t get too hung up on the business plan. Do have a strong vision and be prepared to pivot (lots!)
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