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Circularize ValUe CHains across European Regional Innovation Strategies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - C-VoUCHER (Circularize ValUe CHains across European Regional Innovation Strategies)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-06-30

C-Voucher was an EU-funded project (H2020, Grant Agreement no 777773) that combines design and technology to create competitive, innovative business models with a circular economy approach for European SMEs. The project has an ambition to redesign value chains and tamperproof the companies for the future, where take – make – waste (linear business concept) is no longer efficient and replaced by take – make – reuse model.

The problem
European SMEs need to innovate in order to stay competitive in the global market. Therefore, their resource management needs to be constantly optimized. In the light of limited resources and a burden to the environment, a radical shift in business modeling is necessary. The circular economy approach tackles the problem of mismanagement of resources and unsustainable business. The problem that C-Voucher tried solving lays within the misunderstanding of the circular economy opportunities, capitalization of new concepts (based on resuse/reshape/don’t waste methodology) as well as keeping outdated, linear value chains that will become hard to justify in the very near future. The solution - the direct help of industrial designers, the creative conceptualization of business models with design thinking, and the implementation of enabling technologies - are delivered through a tailor-made program for SMEs around Europe.

Impact on society as a whole
C-Voucher has the potential of becoming a very impactful power in regions around Europe. Each SME, leaving the program, is equipped with knowledge allowing for introducing sustainable, innovative changes that involve local communities, policy-makers, and other stakeholders. A circular economy needs multiple actors working together (each delivering a small part) in order to thrive and is an ideal tool for regional/national improvements.


Overall objectives: support for the European SMEs and circular transformations
The core of C-Voucher is the development of new, technology-enabled solutions (circularity solutions) to accelerate the circular economy in large industry domains - food, manufacturing, textile, maritime and health - across Europe. C-Voucher provided support through 2 acceleration programs:
1. Circularity Programme (up to 9 months of services and a voucher of up to 58k Euros per SME)
2. Circularity Value Replication Programme (up to 3 months of services and a lump sum of 15k Euros per SME)


Project partners
C-VoUCHER is run by a consortium of 13 partners coming from 6 European regions. Behind them, the project is also supported by 35 clusters linked to the partner organizations.

C-VoUCHER Community: https://spaces.fundingbox.com/c/c-voucher
The incorporation of the CE principles and a tremendous shift in entrepreneurs’ mindsets were enabled through design thinking methodologies and enabling technologies. After 39 months of the project's lifetime, it is certain that the goal was achieved successfully, and C-Voucher provoked not only several highly disruptive initiatives but more importantly embedded the circular economy business models across the European SMEs.

To implement this approach, 4 open calls for 2 different acceleration programmes were launched during the lifespan of the project, resulting in 475 proposals submitted (177 in the Circularity calls and 298 in the Adopters’ calls) from 32 different countries. The calls were carefully designed with the help of entire ecosystems, i.e. project partners, external experts, industry clusters and regional networks of business facilitators.

C-Voucher has contributed to the transition of industrial value chains to the Circular Economy approach by supporting the development and implementation of 12 Circular Solutions and, inspired by those, 42 Circular Business Cases, which have set illustrative use cases for their own sectoral domains and others and their regional ecosystems.

The 12 SMEs selected to take part in the 2 editions of the Circularity Programme received support from the Regional Innovation Hubs (RIHs) and their corresponding Designers in Residence (DiRs) during 9 months. The aim of the SMEs’ projects was to define the Circular Solutions and - based on the selected technologies coming from the Technology Disruptor(s) - to develop new, circular business models. The implementation was facilitated with vouchers (worth up to €58K) and mentoring programmes, where SMEs were given customized coaching and mentoring services leading to exploration of further funding opportunities (public and private). This last element - the funding mobilized outside of C-Voucher - proved the real value of the project’s acceleration programmes and showed the unlimited opportunities for the alumni.

Another 42 proposals, inspired by those Circular Solutions or by the CE Building Blocks suggested by C-Voucher, were selected to obtain a lump sum of €15 K each and join the 3-months Circular Value Replication Programme. Here, the RIHs and the DiRs (together with Business mentors) supported the SMEs to create business cases and to plan for the implementation of their circular ideas.

Throughout the work with the accelerated companies, C-Voucher has confirmed a good multinational collaboration and has developed a hands-on unique acceleration concept, where Regional Innovation Hubs, Designers-in-Residence, Business mentors and investors came together to help SMEs by:
* defining the most suitable Circular Solutions and identifying the better stakeholders within the own ecosystem or new ones (6 Regional Innovation Hubs and 12 Designers-in-Residence advising the 54 supported solutions)
* selecting the most appropriate technical enablers for the transformation and minimizing the cost associated with the development or implementation of specific technologies (22 disruptors being hired through vouchers, worth €649,896.44 in FSTP)
* improving their funding possibilities to further deploy their transition journey to the Circular Economy approach (further 2.66 M€ raised in public funding and 5.66 M€ raised in private funds). In the case of Circular Solutions, the additional funding raised, including both public and private, was 1,49 million EUR. In the case of Circular Business Cases, the additional funding obtained amounts to 6,65 million EUR.
* getting exposure of their business cases, in order to help not only to increase visibility among potential investors and partners but also to help other SMEs in their domains to become aware of the opportunities related to Circular Economy and to show them how to capitalize on them by leveraging in enabler technologies.
Overall, now that Circular Economy is increasingly coming into the focus, C-Voucher is becoming a pioneering reference and, as its legacy after the project end, it is offering to other regional stakeholders interested in promoting Circular Economy a set of elements and tools and the lessons learned for them to build on the C-Voucher approach.
As a result, 10 Memorandums of Understanding have been signed by organizations that have shown interest in using or adapting one or more of the elements in the Circular Design Toolkit for Regions of C-Voucher to promote the Circular Economy in their own territories (7 of them being regional bodies).
Partners on a workshop during kick-off (May 2018)
Screenshot from video by ImseVimse - one of the SMEs supported by C-Voucher
Official logo of C-Voucher