Why is it important to promote the industrial circular economy?
In the circular economy, the use of materials is carefully planned throughout their life cycle and material loss and waste generation are minimised. In the industrial circular economy, the volume of materials is enormous. More than 95% of the waste generated in Finland is produced in industry, so it is important to promote the utilisation of these streams in particular.
The industrial circular economy is accompanied not only by the promotion of environmental issues but also by huge business opportunities. The promotion of the industrial circular economy improves industrial competitiveness and offers business opportunities for new operators.
What is the history of the Circular Economy Centre?
Finland is a forerunner in the circular economy. The world urgently needs pioneering solutions to how the growth of the economy and well-being are no longer based on the wasteful use of natural resources. By developing the best solutions for the carbon-neutral circular economy, Finland can be among the first to create sustainable well-being and success in a new way in the next 5–10 years.
In 2017, under Sitra's leadership, Finland was the first country in the world to draw up a national roadmap for the circular economy action programme, whose goal was to create a common vision for society to promote circular economy and to define the most effective means for achieving the vision. Sitra named the industrial circular economy innovation platform led by Kemi Digipolis as one of the roadmap’s key projects. The next step was to establish the Circular Economy Centre in Kemi-Tornio in 2018.
See the development steps of Digipolis in developing the circular economy at this link
What does the Circular Economy Centre do?
The Centre aims to develop a more competitive business environment for companies involved in the circular economy. We help companies to develop circular economy business and products by providing expert assistance, applying for funding, linking operators, creating networks and consortia, promoting pilots and scaling, etc.
One essential part of the Centre's activities is the collection of technical information (e.g. policies, benchmarking, potential side streams and related challenges and opportunities) and its distribution wider in Finland and in Europe, including the popularisation of activities, for example, through success stories to different target groups, such as: policymakers, officials, designers, teachers, students, etc.
Why is the Circular Economy Centre located in the Kemi-Tornio region?
Kemi-Tornio is the world’s northernmost concentration of bio, metal, mining and energy industries. The innovation area of Kemi-Tornio is unique in its size, since all the companies operating in the area are located within a circle of 25 km in diameter. Within this area, there are three major industrial aggregates and around 100 SMEs. Small and medium-sized enterprises are often operators serving big businesses.
The Kemi-Tornio economic region represents approximately 80% of Lapland's industrial production and 8% of Finland's exports. Exports of companies in the region exceed EUR 5 billion annually. The region has a long tradition of utilising the circular economy.
The key is the principle of someone’s waste or side stream being someone else’s unprocessed raw material for production. In this way, the region has developed into an innovative circular-economy platform, which has been noticed at national, Nordic and EU levels.
How are industrial circular-economy products utilised?
Industrial circular-economy products are utilised, among other things, in earth construction, as nutrients, in concrete products, in chemicals production and as energy. New methods of utilisation are constantly being developed among industry and industrial service companies.
Development work is done by SMEs, MidCap and large enterprises. Pilots, which companies, municipalities, educational establishments and research institutes conduct as part of their operations, are an integral part of industrial side stream utilisation.
What is the network of the Circular Economy Centre like?
The Circular Economy Centre leads a network of eco-industrial parks in Finland, which consists of eco-industrial parks as well as development companies and other key actors operating in their areas. The national network of the Circular Economy Centre organises workshops in various parts of Finland in 2018-2019, where participants seek new, tangible partners and projects in the industrial circular economy. Through the workshops, the Circular Economy Centre collects best practices into an operating model for the Finnish eco-industrial parks.
Kemi Digipolis is a founding member of the Nordic Industrial Symbiosis Network. The Nordic Network has members from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The Nordic Industrial Symbiosis Network includes actors from industrial clusters, universities specialising in the industrial circular economy, and eco-industrial parks, to name a few. The Nordic Network opens up new business opportunities for the industrial circular economy and complements national cooperation networks.
The international cooperation of the Circular Economy Centre covers not only Europe, but also Asia in particular. Participation in the Sitra World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama, Japan in 2018 is an example of the international network events of the Circular Economy Centre. Furthermore, the strengthening of international cooperation with China and in general is a key objective of the Circular Economy Centre.
How does the education of Lapland University of Applied Sciences support the activities of the Circular Economy Centre?
To be implemented, activities in line with the circular economy need professionals with understanding and knowledge of the circular economy, its principles and methods of implementation. In the near future, professionals entering the labour market will be required to act in accordance with the principles of the circular economy, to apply their own skills to new approaches and to engage in developing new innovations. Education must respond to these challenges.
The role of the Circular Economy Centre is to act as a pioneer in the circular economy of Lapland and Finland. Taking the knowledge of the circular economy to the field of action with new professionals is one of the efficient routes to driving change and good practices forward. For this reason, education and development are an integral part of the operation of the Circular Economy Centre.