On the 1st of October 2021, Veltha hosted the first digital workshop for regional officers, thus inaugurating a new 3-month session of the Policy Lab for circular Regions. During this workshop, we had the honour to welcome 19 regional officers from 11 European countries. Two broad events have been brought to the front during the session:

1)The importance of the European Week of Regions and Cities in relation to the circular economy

Due to the importance and success of this event, it is crucial to understand to which extent the issue of circularity is adequately addressed. 

The positive effects of the European Week of Regions and Cities on implementing the CE model at the regional level was widely shared and praised during the round table. These events allow regions to map, design, and develop brilliant ideas related to the circular economy transition. CCDR and the Region of Crete confirm this, as for them, they have represented the icebreaking and starting point to implement the SCREEN and REPLACE methodologies in order to identify the potential for developing the CE tools and the possible challenges in need of urgent resolution and stakeholders’ support. 

On the other hand, lack of coordination among the Regions concerning the Week of Regions and Cities was another vital issue discussed during the round table. The need for cooperation in such parallel events may be helpful for all regions showing an interest in circular economy implementation, as it would enable them to collect opinions and ideas from other regions that are already applying circular economy tools, learn and witness their models, strategies, plans, and tools that promote and foster the transition. The participants also emphasized the importance of exploiting such events to discuss barriers and challenges hampering the process towards a circular economy. 

Such events are essential platforms for regional officers and stakeholders to exchange thoughts and experiences concerning the implementation of CE in regions. Even though each region has its specific characteristics and criteria for applying CE tools, there might be similar challenges and barriers occurring in multiple regional contexts. These issues need to be shared, addressed, and discussed through such events, with the ultimate goal of joining forces and building steel arms to protect our planet. 

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2)The importance of stakeholders’ engagement in the circular economy transition: 

The regional officers also stressed the importance of involving stakeholders in the regional decision-making process to speed up the transition towards a more resilient economic system. As the circular economy is a multilevel practice implemented at different levels, stakeholders’ active role is vital to implement it. Even though the level of involvement varies from place to place and at different layers, the positive impact they are able to trigger is worth the time and the effort. Moreover, this goal cannot be achieved without designing efficient strategies to encourage the involvement level of private stakeholders in the circular economy process. Considering not only “who” but also “how” is essential to provide businesses and private actors with the right incentives, knowledge, and instruments to embrace a circular economy in their plans. For this purpose, projects including C.E. plans in at least one of their scopes will be prioritized in the funding process in some regions. Those regions planning to implement the smart specialization strategy for a circular economy believe that the latter is a crucial tool to achieve carbon neutrality and environmental targets set by the regions. Even though the strategies and policies are well written and drafted, the most challenging task is to bring together different stakeholders and ecosystems to implement C.E. tools. As the small and medium-size companies always struggle when competing with large and already established companies in terms of market practices, the adoption of a circular economy is determinant to pave their way to success, especially when considering companies’ reluctance to change their way of doing things due to lack of competition among other factors. Therefore, support should be given to small and medium-sized companies and entrepreneurs, particularly those willing to adopt a circular economy model.