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Funding available for SMEs with circular economy business models in the UK

In the UK a €3.1 million (£2.45 million) EU-funded circular economy programme has put a call out for small companies looking to develop profitable new business models.

The REBus project, led by Government-sponsored initiative the Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP) and funded through the EU environment support programme LIFE, is on the lookout for approximately 20 small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the electrical or textiles sectors that want to rethink the way they deal with their resources.

REBus is currently working with large companies such as Argos, B&Q and Panasonic, and smaller companies such as reclaimed carpet-tile seller, Greenstream Flooring, and peer-to-peer clothing rental marketplace, Rentez-Vous.

 

By offering free in-depth technical support, the programme has been set-up to guide businesses in developing new practices that "investigate the practical application of alternative thinking" and engage with a circular economy – where product waste is given productive use.

"Reducing risk"

"A crucial benefit for businesses is that this project reduces the risk of trying something different," said Mike Robey, programme manager at WRAP. "Through the technical support we’re able to offer you’ll be able to make a robust analysis of the facts and figures before fully embarking on a new business model."

Five stage process
The REBus project offers support in five stages. The first is an innovation phase, described by Robey as an "open, brainstorming approach". This is followed by a feasibility phase, where ideas are "whittled down to the one or two strongest." After this comes the use of financial tools to develop a fuller business case. The project will then move into a pilot stage, where "assumptions are tested", before moving onto the final stage where a refined financial model is made.

"Flexibility"
According to Robey, businesses can "decide at the end of each phase if they’re happy with the commercial focus. It’s an approach that offers companies flexibility in how they interact with the programme."

One company which worked with WRAP in an exemplar to the REBus programme is UK truck tyre business, Bandvulc. With the help of WRAP the company moved towards a 'closed-loop’ resource structure, whereby the firm sell tyres to the customers, incentivises them to return the tyres through a cashback system and then retreads the tyres to be sent out into the marketplace again.

"The financial model really helped us to understand the proposition and make decisions," said Ryan O'Connell, director at Bandvulc.
 
Robey emphasises that dealing with resource management in this way amounts to much more than recycling. "What’s exciting is that this isn’t only working out cost saving measures, but identifying new business markets," said Robey. "In many products there’s significant value in what is returned and it’s about sweating each product harder for value."
 
Future sectors

While the current call-out is for SMEs in the electrical or textiles sectors, Robey said that there will also be future opportunities for businesses working in construction and furniture.

Assessment to be accepted onto the programme closes on September 30 2014.

REBus is holding an online Q&A session for interested businesses on the August 27 2014 at 2pm.

 

This article was reprinted from GreenWise.