The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the imperative for European economies to become more resilient. Moreover, the need for a sustainable transformation as articulated in the EU Green Deal remains crucial. One approach to combine both aspects is the circular economy which strives towards closed resource cycles and the elimination of waste. In this context, HWWI is involved in two EU-funded projects to foster the transition towards a circular economy, namely "REPLACE" and "Circ-NSR".
REPLACE ("Egional PoLicy Actions for Circular Economy") is funded by Interreg Europe and has the goal to improve management, implementation and monitoring of regional policy instruments targeted at facilitating the transition towards a CE while boosting sustainable development. The main operative target refers to the development and application of policies and actions focusing on identification, valorisation, assessment, and financing of circular value chains. Together with partners from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Romania, HWWI is working on a synergic use of funding for circular economy to enhance innovation and competitiveness as well as economic and employment performances while increasing effectiveness of policy instruments.
Within the scope of REPLACE, a replicable framework for regional benchmark on circularity excellence level has been developed and is currently in a testing phase. As the availability of comparable benchmarks on circularity is yet limited, the regional benchmark from REPLACE fills a gap and will be transferable to other regions outside the project area. Another outcome of REPLACE is the preparation of a local analysis in each partner region to map the existing circular economy infrastructure. In case of Hamburg, the, not yet published, analysis shows a vital ecosystem of different players getting involved in circular economy related activities. Particularly sectors such as logistics or the building sector reveal a strong sensibility for circularity. Comparing the local analyses from the REPLACE partner regions will help to identify cooperation potential and sectors for bilateral exchange of experience.
Although the circularity tours which were an instrument in REPLACE to get to know the circular economy ecosystem in the other partner regions to learn from each other, have been prevented due to travel restrictions, the REPLACE partners are strongly committed to keep up their work and contribute to a circular transformation.
The second circular economy project Circ-NSR ("Circular North Sea Regions – Improving Governance for the Circular Economy"), funded by Interreg North Sea Region, was launched just in 2020 and has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning. The planned in-person meetings had to be shifted to virtual meetings and the work plan had to be adapted accordingly. Nevertheless, the project partners from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden have taken up the work. Circ-NSR aims to bring the North Sea Region on a path to a stronger circular economy. Key instrument for reaching this goal is to bring in focus and promote better governance structures for a circular economy. The project goes beyond implementing singular pilot activities, focusing instead on success factors and mechanisms for upscaling, transferring and mainstreaming circular solutions in regional economies and installing a circular mindset among public and private stakeholders.
In this context, HWWI works on the analytical parts of the project such as the identification of good practice examples that will be screened for transferable learnings for other regions. Moreover, a survey among other circular economy related projects in the partner countries is currently under development to identify success factors in terms of successful project governance. These findings will be used as a guideline for the practical pilot projects in Circ-NSR. Finally, the experience from said projects as well as the survey results and other evaluations will be combined in a governance toolbox on circular economy that will be freely accessible to all projects and regions to go for success factors and avoid common mistakes.