First outcome of the Policy Lab for a Europe made by Circular Regions

In June 2020, a new initiative has been launched for promoting supportive collaboration between European Regions in the implementation of Circular Economy (CE) programs.
Policy Lab 2.0 sets itself as a follow-up project of the first version of Policy Lab (SCREEN Lab), introduced in 2017 to enable EU-level and regional policymakers to mutually discuss the proposals developed between CE projects, address any arising issues, and explore possible scenarios to co-design solutions for better policies.
Last June, the Policy Lab went one-step forward. After the European Union’s adoption of the new Circular Economy Action Plan ‘For a cleaner and more competitive Europe’, the need for cross-regional efficient communicative and collaborative practices became even stronger, in light of the intended objective of bringing innovative solutions and proposals to life and to Brussels.

The Policy Lab 2.0 “Policy Lab for a Europe made by Circular Regions (SCREEN-Lab)” has been launched with the ambitious goal of providing solutions to the challenges the European Regions face while implementing circular economy programs. It consists of Regions participating in a 3-month period of a dedicated workshop focusing on one main question (per policy lab) and one sub-question every month. Alongside with parallel meetings with experts and external stakeholders.

Today at Veltha we are proud to announce the publication of the first outcome of the Policy Lab 2.0, in reference to the ‘Industrial transition towards a green European economy’ delivered by the European Economic and Social Committee INT/913- EESC-2020-03642, which sets itself as the successful result of the fruitful collaboration and knowledge exchange between experts and stakeholders in the attempt of identifying the main challenges the European Regions need to face, and devising effective solutions to tackle them.
More in detail, the publication highlights three main challenges encountered by the regions involved for the introduction of Circular Economy Projects:

  • Creation of a common set of criteria

First of all, it stresses the contextual diversity of European regions with regard to the assessment process, which hinders the creation of a common set of criteria aimed at providing guidelines on how to adapt circularity in the European regions. An exhaustive set of criteria is needed in order to assess the performance of the projects and help decide the eligibility of the proposals and the allocation of the funds available for circular projects. Furthermore, each sector may focus on a particular aspect of the circular economy, thus the set of criteria must show some flexibility to better capture their exact impact.

  • Development of experts on circular economy in each region

What also emerges is the lack of expertise of the human capital in the field of circular economy in each Region and the consequences that this has on the feasibility of organizing an effective assessment process for CE projects.

  • Provision of incentives to induce companies to embrace circularity

Finally, what is brought to the fore is the need of delivering clear financial incentives to companies, as it would represent a viable solution to make them aware of the tangible short and long-term benefits of this transition. Advice and support regarding regulatory and financial aspects, as well as on accounting for natural capital and resources should be provided to companies, to encourage them to embrace circularity in their concepts and business models.

On the path towards solutions

The presented issues should be considered as surmountable obstacles, rather than impossible tasks. Circular economy must be the backbone of the present and future development strategy and the achievement of such goal is going to be possible by addressing it jointly.

The proposal for a common set of criteria

With regards to the common set of criteria, Veltha has proposed a table that merges different sets of criteria that have been identified.
The table used during the SCREEN project has been successfully tested during the REPLACE project, which indicates a positive adaptation for upcoming or present projects. The adoption of an exhaustive set of criteria simplifies the assessment process of each project and may function as an assisting tool for decision-making regarding the eligibility of proposals and distribution of funds for circular projects.
The table can be adapted to each Region’s particular circumstances, including its maturity in Circular Economy.

Institutional support and incentives

Economic instruments are an efficient tool for incentivising business to prioritise circularity. However, most market-based instruments such as the tax regimes are decided at national level thus the Regions have little power to change them. A common European agreement would be beneficial to establishing clear goals and strategies.
To actually engage companies in shifting their business model towards a circularity-based business strategy, it is necessary to collaborate between research and industries to a better understanding of what is necessary for the industries in order to make the shift. The research should focus on solutions, which will foster the industrial transition. To enable it, Circular Economy goals must be supported not only by economic instruments, but also by embedding a broader set of policies. Linking policies with social, environmental, and economic aspects will enhance the possibility of accessing additional budgets. Together with the development of a joint European agreement regarding economic incentives that focuses on the prioritisation of circularity is crucial in order to guarantee a beneficial establishment of clear strategies and goals.

The EU’s role in sparking the transition

Finally, it is important to bear in mind the importance of raising awareness in regions where Circular Economy is a recent development, in order to increase the involvement of private stakeholders. This leads to the final aspect regarding the increase of the expertise on circularity and the role of the European Union. In order to develop a joint transition for all European Regions, the Regions urge assistance for the development of their knowledge about circularity. There is therefore a need of raising the understanding of circularity where it is less known and continue its development where it is already established. The European Union’s role in the transition process is therefore vital in sparking the process by coordinating the regional and national actors. By coordination, the EU can promote and enable the SMEs full potential for future collaborations and mobilise the involved partners for a just and accelerated transition.

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