How the DigiPrime project and Pilot 5 enable circular economy and benefit European regions

Digitalisation and technology make up for more and more of our daily lives, and large amounts of data are accessible online. However, the accessibility to relevant data is not as obvious in sectors beyond the private sphere, since regional and company data may be vulnerable to sharing. In addition, a large amount of data may also pose difficulties, since a fruitful exchange of information depends on enabling incentives.[1] It is more common for sectors to be disconnected from each other, sharing little or no information, which prevents the reuse of material for a purpose other than its original one.[2] What has partly been requested to enable such an information exchange is both a secure system [3] and an affordable one [4].  

Simultaneously, there is a growing interest among regions to work towards the transition to a circular economy. But for the regions to be efficient in realizing untapped resources, such as reuse of material, there is an urgent need for digital assistance.[5] Asymmetries in information sharing, inaccessible or incomprehensible data are all impediments to the systemic shift to a circular economy.[6] For example, the lack of knowledge of what, when and how material flow within a sector [7] and what actors are involved [8], non-disclosed information about repair and remanufacturing management [9], and untapped knowledge of waste management [10], are all threats to that transition. As an example, reports on an under-usage of material flow monitoring in mechanical waste treatment plants, also indicates an imperfect waste management [11]. Much knowledge and information are confined to one sector, instead of being used in others, due to a lack of tools transferring the information and making it accessible to others.[12] This locked-in approach, where information exchange is a rare occurrence, slows down and discourages the implementation of successful circular business models. [13] Opinions are unanimous on the importance of digitalisation as a tool for information exchange to realise a circular economy.[14] In order to ‘close the loop’ materials can no longer be bound to one single sector and be deemed to be of no value. [15] Numerous examples prove that this is a poor way to optimise value, for example, waste parts from wind energy industries should find a new use in other industries, thanks to their residual mechanical value.[16]

Consequently, in order to demonstrate the importance of data accessibility across regions, built on the blueprint from its partly manual predecessor SCREEN H2020, DigiPrime is a project that was conceived to design a digital platform that, among other valuable functionalities, will assist regions in identifying potential value chains to be turned into circular opportunities.[17] Its predecessor, the SCREEN-project, ran from November 2016 to October 2018 and was launched to facilitate the regional transition towards a circular system, by regions jointly defining a replicable systematic strategy.[18] In brief, the methodology behind the project consisted of four steps: i) establishing a mapping tool to identify local value chains, ii) establishing a mapping tool to identify cross-regional value chains, iii) establish funding for (cross-)regional projects, and lastly, iv) establishing a joint framework for evaluation of the projects.[19] The blueprint for this part of DigiPrime, addressing regional capabilities, rests on the framework first developed within the SCREEN project, the changes include that the mechanisms are now largely automated.[20]

The DigiPrime project is planned to run from January 2020 until December 2023, and consists of several pilots and services, all of which aim to create a reliable and functional digital platform for stakeholders.[21] In total, six pilots have been launched, four of which are directly linked to products and/or material which showcase “innovative cross-sectorial circular value chains” [22], while the remaining two aim at expanding the network of circular ideas and data exchanges [23]. By the launch of DigiPrime, and specifically Pilot 5, named ‘cross-regional value chains and of which Veltha is the leader, the aim was and continues to be to efficiently identify possible cross-regional value chains, thereby promoting the transition to a circular economy.[24] Pilot 5, ‘cross-regional value chains’, is specifically aimed at assisting stakeholders in developing or finding value chains across regions and sectors, through digitalized and automated services that manages their data.[25] In other words, cross-regional value chains are the goal and automated services are the tools to achieve it. 

The automated services

  • Identification of cross-regional value chains
  • Material flow monitoring and aggregated system oriented KPIs
  • Circular innovation hubs integration
  • Barriers’ identification and legislation support

To clarify the role of these services, they are briefly presented below. There are three parts to each service: aim, method and impact. 

Identification of cross-regional value chains

The name of this service implies what it provides. The relevant actor, region or stakeholder, fills in appropriate data in formatted templates, which is followed by a matching process that examines what needs exist in which region, and which region that may have the possibility to meet them. This creates several favourable opportunities for the stakeholders using this service, who will receive updated and transparent data, indications of possible cross-regional value chains as well as value chains within the region, and an exchange of research that can further assist in a transition to circular approaches.[26]

Material flow monitoring and aggregated system oriented KPIs

This service is a policy assistant for stakeholders.[27] In giving stakeholders an overview of where, what, and how material change, it also gives them the tools to analyze what should be alternated in order to optimize a circular system.[28] By being able to monitor material flows, decision making is simplified as stakeholders are informed of their potential.[29]

Circular innovation hubs integration

Circular innovation hubs integration was launched to further expand the platform and the circular network. By supporting stakeholders and regions with circular ideas as solutions to problems, the shift to a circular model is facilitated. This service aims to digitally coordinate and assist these networks in their activities to support and develop regions.[30]

Barriers’ identification and legislation support

It is not only the solutions that need to be made digitally transferable, but also the knowledge and understanding of the difficulties that exist within the system of circular economy in order to tackle them from the outset. This service provides a platform that shares that information across regions. It is based on a similar approach as “identification of cross-regional value chains”, where data is filled in and shared. This gives stakeholders both the opportunity to learn about solutions to current or future obstacles in their transition to a circular system, and to share their knowledge themselves.[31] 

By using and contributing to the DigiPrime project and Pilot 5, regions and stakeholders benefit in two main ways. Firstly, the platform facilitates regions’ transition to a circular economy without stakeholders excluding each other in the pursuit of the same circular goal, instead the aim and outcome is to realise each other’s potential in shifting to a circular system while preserving their commodities’ value. Furthermore, it may also create new markets and customers who place great value on sustainable production.[32]

If you are a regional officer or a company that would like to know more about the project or participate in the pilot, please contact:

Gabriel Carlin, project manager
gabriel.carlin@veltha.eu

+46 70 733 55 68


or

Nora Asling, project assistant
nora.asling@veltha.eu

+46 70 416 31 40

References


[1]  John Soldatos et al. “A digital platform for cross-sectoral collaborative value networks in the circular economy”, Procedia Manufacturing. 54 (2021), 64–69, p. 65

[2] Soldatos et al, 2021, p. 65

[3] Soldatos et al, 2021, p. 65

[4] Gianfranco Pedone et al. “Enabling cross-sectorial, circular economy transition in SME via digital platform integrated operational services”, Procedia Manufacturing. 54 (2021) 70-75, p. 71

[5]  European Commission, Circular cities and regions initiative, n.d. https://research-and-innovation.ec.europa.eu/research-area/environment/circular-economy/circular-cities-and-regions-initiative_en [Accessed 2022-09-6]

[6]  Pedone et al, 2021, p. 71

[7] Sherwyn Millette, Eric Williams, Clyde Eirkur Hull, “Materials flow analysis in support of circular economy development: Plastics in Trinidad and Tobago”, Resources, Conservation & Recycling 150 (2019) 1-8, p.1

[8] Maria Antikainen, Teuvo Uusitalo, Päivi Kivikytö-Reponen, ”Digitalisation as an Enabler of Circular Economy”, Procedia CIRP.73 (2018) 45-49,p.47

[9] Laura Talens Peiro et al, ”Digitalization as an enabler of the Circular Economy of electronics”, Procedia Manufacturing, 54 (2021) 58-63,  p. 59

[10] Antikainen, Uusitalo, Kivikytö-Reponen, 2018, p. 47

[11] A. Curtis et al, “Real time material flow monitoring in mechanical waste processing and the relevance of fluctuations”, Waste Management. 120 (2021) p. 687-697, p. 688

[12] Talens Peiró et al, 2021, p. 58 

[13] Antikainen, Uusitalo, Kivikytö-Reponen, 2018, p. 47

[14] Talens Peiro et al, 2021; Antikainen, Uusitalo, Kivikytö-Reponen, 2018; Soldatos et al, 2021

[15] Soldatos et al, 2021, p. 64

[16] Soldatos et al, 2021, p. 65

[17]  Elena Mossali, Marco Diani, & Marcello Colledani, “DigiPrime: Digital Platform for Circular Economy in Cross-Sectorial Sustainable Value Networks”, Proceedings. 65:1 (2020), 1-7, p. 1-2

[18] Cordis, Synergic Circular Economy across European Regions, 2022, https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/730313 [Accessed 2022-09-07]

[19] SCREEN, Presentation of the project, its results and follow-up, n.d. http://www.screen-lab.eu/documents/SCREEN Presentation-En.pdf  [Accessed 2022-09-07]

[20] DigiPrime, Cross-regional value-chains, n.d. https://www.digiprime.eu/pilots/cross-regional-value-chain/ [Accessed 2022-09-05]

[21] Soldatos et al. 2021, p. 69

[22] Mossali, Diani & Colledani, 2020, p. 4

[23] Mossali, Diani & Colledani, 2020, p. 4

[24] Veltha, DigiPrime, n.d. https://www.veltha.eu/digiprime/ [Accessed 2022-09-08]

[25] DigiPrime, Cross-regional value-chains, n.d. https://www.digiprime.eu/pilots/cross-regional-value-chain/ [Accessed 2022-09-05]

[26] DigiPrime, Identification of cross-regional value chains, n.d. https://www.digiprime.eu/services/cross-regional-value-chains/ [Accessed 2022-09-06]

[27] DigiPrime, Material flow monitoring and aggregated system oriented KPIs, n.d. https://www.digiprime.eu/services/material-flow-monitoring/ [Accessed 2022-09-06]

[28] Millette, Williams, Eirikur Hull, 2019, p. 1-2 

[29] DigiPrime, Material flow monitoring and aggregated system oriented KPIs; Millette, Williams, Eirkur Hull, 2019, p. 7 

[30] DigiPrime, Circular innovation hubs intergration, n.d. https://www.digiprime.eu/services/circular-innovation-hubs-integration/[Accessed 2022-09-06]

[31]  DigiPrime, Barriers’ Identification and Legislation Support, n.d.https://www.digiprime.eu/services/barriers-identification/ [Accessed 2022-09-06]

[32]  Antikainen, Uusitalo, Kivikytö-Reponen, 2018, p. 46

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