SUCCESS STORIES

Place’In

Planning circular economy for industrial areas (Place’In) is an explorative project testing the commercial feasibility of building circular economy principles into the design and layouts of industrial parks. The insights are contributing to the ongoing development of a web-based tool, which business and production managers can use to plan, find input synergies or evaluate locations and cost. Such a tool aids the proximity and connectivity required to share resources and accelerate the circular economy. The team expects this to be up and running within the next two years.

Key points

  • In 2015, the European Commission launched a Circular Economy Package aimed at helping businesses move away from the make-take-dispose economic model
  • Industrial symbiosis, where the waste products of one industry become the inputs for another, is a key plank of the circular economic model
  • Place’In is a Climate-KIC Pathfinder project, led by French energy firm Engie, that has been exploring the commercial viability of building industrial symbiosis criteria into the planning and population of industrial parks
  • This research has crystallised in an online tool – Be Circle – that will enable industrial park managers and their clients to connect to one another and plan circularity into their production systems

Project Background and Drivers

The traditional linear economic model – known more colloquially as the take-make-dispose model – is inherently unsustainable. Driven by a swelling global population and the pressure to keep economies moving, industry and consumers are ploughing their way through a finite supply of natural resources and raw materials. In 2010, 65 billion metric tonnes of raw materials entered the global economic system, a figure predicted to rise to 82 billion tonnes by 2020.

An estimated 90 percent of the raw materials used in manufacturing becomes waste even before the product leaves the factory. And, 80 percent of new products are disposed of within the first six months of their life. This wastage ends up in landfill or incineration, compounding greenhouse gases emissions and other pollutants.

In 2015, the European Commission launched a Circular Economy Package to help businesses and consumers move away from the take-make-dispose paradigm towards a circular economic model, in which the maximum value of raw materials is extracted and the lifespan of products is extended as much as possible through recycling, re-use and repair.

The proposals contained in the package include measures to stimulate the sharing of by-products among industries. This is called industrial symbiosis, and it has a crucial role to play in the movement towards a circular economy. It describes an association between two or more businesses, or industrial processes, in which the waste products from one become the raw materials for the other.

This brings down costs, raw material consumption and energy use, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme posted a reduction of 39 million tonnes of industrial CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2013 as result of its efforts.

Industrial symbiosis is good for businesses’ bottom lines, too. Greater implementation of industrial symbiosis across the EU could save businesses €1.4 billion a year and could generate a further €1.6 billion in additional sales, according to the European Commission report, Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.

Project Detail

Place’In – Planning Circular Economy for Industrial Areas – is a Climate-KIC Pathfinder project that began in May 2016, to examine the business case for building industrial symbiosis criteria into the design and planning of industrial parks.

“For a year we had been thinking about different things that could be useful for land planners and managers to help them better design and plan industrial parks, taking into account the different industrial symbioses they could implement – either with industries already on site or that might be interested in coming,” explains Delphine Antoniucci, a project manager at French energy company Engie and Place’In project lead. “We wanted to show them they could save money by implementing industrial symbiosis, as well as reducing their environmental impact.”

This thinking led to the idea of developing an online tool that could be used by both park managers to plan their sites and to attract new businesses, or by industries to identify opportunities for industrial symbiosis on offer within industrial parks as they look to relocate. Such tools do exist, Antoniucci says, but they tend to focus on particular industries, or even types of outputs, and require training and specialist knowledge to use.

“What we observed is that the existing tools are for experts,’” she explains. “They are very specialised. To use them you have to be an expert in symbiosis or mathematics.” Instead, Place’In has been exploring the commercial viability of developing a tool simple enough and with enough breadth of application to be widely used by the manufacturing sector.

“We wrote a basic technical specification and realised a proof of concept,” says Antoniucci. “Then we asked Climate-KIC about doing a Pathfinder to study the markets and to develop a business model for two countries, France and Germany.”

Engie has been working with two industrial parks – Inspira, near Grenoble in France, and Höchst Industrial Park, near Frankfurt in Germany, as well as with CRG, the École Polytechnique’s management research centre, and Provadis, a German business school, which has helped conduct market research and collect data for the Pathfinder.

“All the interviews, the market identification and sizing from Place’In, along with our business model and plan, have been used to launch [a demonstrator] ‘Be Circle!’,” says Antoniucci.

Be Circle! will develop and industrialise a web-based tool designed to help industrial parks shift towards a circular economic model. This tool is intended to be as straightforward as possible to use. So, before a business decides which park would best suit its requirements, it could enter its own outputs and input requirements into the tool, which would then suggest possible sites based on those factors as well as an idea of cost, potential revenues and the environmental impact of each choice.

A park manager could use the tool to pitch his or her site to potential tenants by matching the needs of their prospective client to the existing opportunities offered by businesses already located there, as well as an estimate of the effect on their bottom line. Such a tool will aid the connectivity – and proximity – required to share resources and accelerate the circular economy.

Climate-KIC Support

The Place’In project was able to leverage Climate-KIC’s network of partners, including CRG and Provadis, to ensure the market research was as broad as necessary.

“And they were every helpful in structuring the project,” says Antoniucci. “Climate-KIC has been advising us all along the project’s progress – in terms of the project management and strategy, and in making sure the climate impact will be addressed and monitored in an interesting way. And, to help us be sure about the scalability of what we are developing.”

“We have the ambition to develop a tool that could be used worldwide, so we are doing a lot of work around scalability,” says Antoniucci. “With very little adaptation, we could use the tool in China, for example.”

Such a tool will aid the connectivity – and proximity – required for industrial symbiosis, to share resources and accelerate the circular economy.

Delphine Antoniucci, Place’In project lead

 

 
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