Circular Economy and Open Innovation

An intuitive definition of waste is ‘any substance or object generated by a productive activity no longer useful for its owner, who needs to or must dispose of it.’ As of today, waste-generation rates in different industries are being challenged both socially and legally. Companies are well aware of this and know they must implement a good waste management strategy if they want to stay in the market.  This is the foundation of the circular economy, to consider waste as a potential opportunity to repurpose materials and take them back to the market. Logically, this waste must be transformed into a valuable product to be applied in other industries.  When talking about the circular economy, what first comes to mind sometimes is to recover the energy contained in the waste generated anywhere. The recovery of such energy, also known as Waste to Energy, consists of controlled combustion that generates thermal energy, later transformed into electric power. Although this process is already successfully developed and well implemented in countries like the Netherlands, Sweden or China, not all the waste has heating value or can go through sustainable combustion.  Actually, waste can be reused for creating new products and create new sources of revenue. In the following examples, you can find two open innovation challenges to repurpose waste that have been solved through the ennomotive platform.

Circular Economy Success Cases in Mining

Mining generates a lot of waste that ends up in tailing dams, which generates a serious environmental problem. In August 2018, ennomotive launched a circular economy competition to help a leading company to find solutions to the mine tailing challenge.  The goal of the competition was to find marketable applications for their waste, mainly composed of silica and smaller amounts of titanium oxide, calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, aluminum oxide, among others. The actual challenge was to repurpose as much waste as possible, with the lowest reprocessing (according to the existing granulometry). One of the reasons is that reprocessing low metal concentration waste is generally not cost-efficient.  This challenge grabbed the interest of many engineers and attracted over 70 participants. As a result, both brand new applications and existing ones were submitted and, now, the two winning proposals are under development.  The winners were Oliver Loidi, from France, and Cliff Edwards, from Canada, who brought new revenue opportunities for the company in the clean energy and oil & gas sectors.

Circular Economy Success Cases in Manufacturing

Masisa is a manufacturer of different types of WPC boards which are cut by distributors and other clients to make furniture and other products. The cutting process generates waste (board parts and sawdust) which is sent to sanitary landfills where its recovery potential value is lost.  Since these board parts had chemical components that did not allow their direct combustion, the company turned to ennomotive to launch an open innovation challenge to look for new solutions. Consequently, the goal of the challenge was to repurpose these wood waste to manufacture new products, create revenue and reduce the environmental impact. One of the solutions that resulted from this challenge was the use of the board scraps to make recyclable wooden cutlery as an alternative to plastic. However, the Business Case was not so attractive. Finally, the winning solution was to manufacture innovative tiles for affordable housing. This product was a low-cost, durable and aesthetically-pleasing alternative to the traditional metal roof.  The winner of this challenge was the mechanical engineer Michael Ankobia, from the UK, with over 15 years of experience in a wide range of engineering fields like aerospace, construction, defense, energy, and transport.

Other Open Innovation and Circular Economy Examples

Many companies are using open innovation to obtain better results in their circular economy initiatives. In fact, ennomotive has just launched a new circular economy challenge for CIECH, a leading European manufacturer of soda ash, and we are working on the specification of new ones.  Is your company thinking of hopping on the circular economy train? Why not considering open innovation/crowdsourcing for it?  If you want to know more about the circular economy and open innovation, read the information here or contact us.