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Circularize ValUe CHains across European Regional Innovation Strategies

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - C-VoUCHER (Circularize ValUe CHains across European Regional Innovation Strategies)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

C-Voucher (https://C-VoUCHER.eu/) is 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 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 on 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 is 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opportunities, capitalization of new concepts (based on resuse/reshape/don’t waste methodology) as well as keeping outdated, linear value chains that will become hard to justify in the very near future.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 - direct help of industrial designers, the creative conceptualization of business models with design thinking and 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. During the project, a total of 66 European SMEs will be supported through 2 separate acceleration programs (2 open calls per each). The solutions can vary depending on the individual stories, i.e. can be based on digital platforms (as used for example in sharing economy) or engineering innovations. In C-VoUCHER every SME is looked into on an individual basis and given tailored support based on actual needs.
Since the acceleration programs differ in intensity and one of them uses a funnel approach, at the end of the project, 12 circular solutions (new, circular business models) will be developed with SMEs and a wide network of stakeholders.
Out of the remaining 54 companies, further 42 will develop detailed business plans and 12 will be leaving the program before fully enrolled (pitching competition prior to acceleration).


The circular acceleration program
C-Voucher provides support through 2 acceleration programs:

1. Circularity Acceleration Programme (up to 9 months of services and a voucher of up to 60k Euros per SME)
2. Value Chain Generation Programme (up to 3 months of services and a lump sum of 15k Euros per SME)
In each program, SMEs are awarded dedicated support by designers-in-residence (experts in design thinking, circular business modeling) helping them with circular transformations. These experts are working through 1-on-1 assignments, which makes the support more structured and customized based on every necessity. On top of the designers’ support, the SMEs are given financial support (vouchers or lump sums) and business mentoring (advice on further public and private opportunities by experienced coaches).

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 38 clusters linked to the partner organizations. In order to maximize the project success, the consortium includes
the diverse pool of profiles: Industry leaders and acceleration experts.
More information:
https://C-VoUCHER.eu/
C-VoUCHER Community: https://spaces.fundingbox.com/c/c-voucher
Within its first 18 months, C-Voucher has delivered multiple results, including:
- creation of Marketplace (an online community bringing together SMEs interested in business transformations, circular economy experts, technology providers, end-users, designers, etc.). Currently, there are 347 members and it is still growing,
- definition of acceleration program for SMEs - a detailed methodology has been created with the core elements of design thinking (delivered to SMEs by industrial designers),
- identification of key technologies enabling circular transformations (technologies that truly impact the circular economy approach and should be taken as key references when looking for a potential change),
- validation of designers’ role in circular transformation (and in general structuring the circular transformation around ‘designer’ - that is often overlooked when thinking about the alternative business models),
- development of training materials for designers (as well as technology actors) that are involved in circular economy transformation programs,
- launching and closing the 1st Circularity Open Call (2018), resulting in the final selection of 6 SMEs currently under acceleration,
- definition of brand new, circular business concepts (circularity solutions) that were created in cooperation between the SMEs and dedicated designers,
- launching of Adopters Open Call (Aug 2019) - the ‘second wave’ support program for SMEs inspired by circularity solutions and circular transformation stories from Circularity Open Call. The call has closed on October 31, 2019 (beyond the reporting period) with 120 proposals to score,
- organization of several events, i.e. Industry Challenges Identification Camps, Designers’ Camps, Prototype-athon (Bootcamp to select the finalists entering the acceleration program) as well as regional promotional events, dynamizing local ecosystems were created.
C-Voucher has been getting its biggest momentum within its 1st acceleration program (ongoing now) therefore, the project is still prior to its core phases, where the SMEs will be leaving the program with whole new (circular) business models.
So far, the biggest achievement lays within the successful initiation of circular business models and the systematic implementation of enabling technologies at SMEs. The core service support - provided by dedicated designers-in-residence - has gone beyond expectations. All supported SMEs underline the level and quality of help they were given by designers. 2 companies have - trustfully - decided to completely reshape the initial ideas for circular transformations and go with the designers’ suggestions. In both cases, the new directions are already proving to be the valid ones.
The project’s sustainability will be achieved through the creation of Toolkit for Regions - a set of roadmaps and instructions for the introduction of the circular economy changes around Europe. It is planned that the Toolkit will be an intuitive, easy to understand and useful booklet (standing in contrary to high-level, official publication after the project is over). Also, it is expected that C-Voucher Marketplace will continue to thrive beyond the project’s timeframe.