Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
A call for projects encourages local entrepreneurs to develop creative business initiatives that use circular economy concepts with support from local government agencies.
Be Circular - Be Brussels is a call for initiatives with the objective of moving business activities towards a more sustainable model through the application of circular economy principles. The project was launched jointly by government agencies, Brussels Economy and Employment, Brussels Environment and Impulse.brussels, who provide a one-stop-service for entrepreneurs seeking information, support or funding.
Be Circular – Be Brussels is one of the key measures of the Brussels Regional Programme for a Circular Economy (BRPCE) that seeks to guide and accelerate Brussels’ transition to a circular economy model. All BRPCE measures combine both top-down and bottom-up approaches, business community’s insights into needs and opportunities as well as government assistance, political support and funding.
To date, two editions of the call for projects have been conducted (2016 and 2017) and a total of 70 projects have been funded. The 29 projects selected in 2017 benefited from €1.7 million of subsidies; for every 1€ of public investment, companies invest twice as much, this has also contributed to job creation in the region.
Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/innovation_Brussels.pdf
This project was awarded the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2017 in the following category: Innovation. Learn more about the award.
Background and objectives
When the government of the Brussels Capital Region launched a programme to trigger its transition to a circular economy, it quickly recognised the need to get start up and small businesses involved. The government acknowledged that while most larger companies have the resources to instigate their own move towards more sustainable ways of working, smaller companies need financial and administrative support. To harness the creativity and passion associated with start-ups, self-employed citizens and non-profit organisations one of the principle measures of the BRPCE was aimed exclusively at ensuring their participation.
Be Circular - Be Brussels has three main objectives.
- support innovative business ideas
- identify projects that would have a trigger effect on the development towards a circular economy
- advance public support for different models of this new economic exchange and production system, such as the reuse of waste and the collaborative economy.
The first call for projects in 2016 resulted in 85 proposals - far more than expected. 41 projects were selected for funding related to four areas:
- closing the circle through reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling (the “4R”), projects in this area contribute to the reuse of resources and the reintegration of resources considered as “waste” into a new life circle;
- developing new business models: this area covers projects that use new models such as functionality economics, collaborative economics, short circuits and similar models to generate value that is less dependent on resource use;
- optimising resource use in production processes;
- creating tools and guides to aid the transition to a circular economy.
The second call for projects in 2017 saw the definition of areas simplified and optimising resource use and creating tools and guides was replaced with alimentation and construction. 108 proposals were submitted and 29 projects were selected for funding.
Among the winning initiatives are:
- Dropstore, where unwanted computers and technological devices are collected, dismantled, repaired and resold as spare parts or reconditioned equipment
- Au Marché Noir, organic food take-away, work with local producers to ensure a short supply chain
- Belgomarket is a new kind of supermarket that sells Belgian-only, organic products in bulk.
- Terre Group has set up a factory shopping outlet selling low-cost clothing recovered from its network of 2,600 textile collection points and has ambitions to open a further four outlets in the region.
- City Depot optimises and closes goods flow loops, consolidating deliveries and the collection of waste on cleaner, smaller and more city-friendly vehicles.
- Usitoo is testing a membership community concept enabling the sharing of DIY, camping, gardening and sports equipment via an online library platform.
- MCB Atelier’s Comodu project creates wooden modular structures that can be rented and reused by theatres and businesses as scenery, stands and exhibition walls.
Financing and resources
On 10 March 2016, the government of the Brussels-Capital Region adopted the Brussels Regional Program for a Circular Economy 2016-2020, with a budget of €12.8 million for the year 2016.
“Be Circular - Be Brussels” has received €1.7 million annually from this budget. For both editions, each winning initiative received funding of up to €80,000, corresponding to a maximum of 50% of the project’s expenditures.
Results and impacts
Support for initiatives undertaken in the first year has resulted in the creation of 30 new jobs, investment in machines and feasibility studies and a total spend, including companies’ own investments and co-financing arrangements, of close to €8 million.
Many of the second year’s proposals were collaborations involving businesses, suggesting the initiative is creating a vibrant network of co-operative entrepreneurs active in the circular economy.
Lessons learned and transferability
Through the evaluation processes undertaken, the project team has learned that while collaboration between the three supporting agencies is one of the most complicated aspects of this initiative, it also makes the greatest contribution to its effectiveness. The team believes that encouraging the private sector to promote the project has given it increased credibility among the target audience. Critically, all three agencies are gaining a better understanding of the difficulties faced by enterprises attempting to integrate circular economy principles - and what can be done to help this transition moving forward.
- Cities in action, Be Circular - Be Brussels, Support for innovative enterprises creates jobs and accelerates progress, EUROCITIES, November 2017: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/innovation_Brussels.pdf