Circular Valley awakens "the sleeping giant": the circular economy

Grand finale for the current batch of the Circular Economy initiative: 14 startups presented ideas to prevent billions of tons of emissions. Support came from both industry and politics.
Photo: Circular Valley®/Sandy Haustein.

There's one emission that even Circular Valley®, the circular economy initiative, appreciates. It is the noise level after the pitches of the international startups at the DemoDay. This applause was particularly loud at the grand finale of the current accelerator round, where young companies from around the world presented their ideas to avoid billions of tons of waste, CO2 and water pollution. The interest from the established industry, politics and science was high. The decision-makers held intensive discussions with the startups, which, among other things, presented water desalination facilities using solar energy, a platform for trading industrial waste and reusable boxes for e-commerce.

Mona Neubaur, Deputy Prime Minister of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and patron of Circular Valley®, emphasized at the DemoDay what the startups achieve: "Turning our economic life upside down, moving from the line to the circle - this is the task Circular Valley® is taking on. The potential that is coming together here is something we see in many impressive examples today." Neubaur explained the path to climate neutrality, raw material lightness and sustainability. "We need functioning business models that make recycling possible: Using instead of owning, intelligent matching platforms on which products lead a second, third or fourth life, and many more," the State Mininster of Economics added.

Matching is one of the central goals of Circular Valley®. The initiative aims to transform Germany's wider Rhine-Ruhr region into a global hotspot for the circular economy: a Silicon Valley for the circular economy. The initiative brings startups from all over the world to North Rhine-Westphalia and supports them in further developing their business model - with top-class coaches and mentors and by connecting them with potential partners from business and research institutions. The 14 startups that were in Circular Valley® over the past months, brought ideas for green building, renewable energy, industrial waste platforms, water treatment and waste management for the potential matches.
Viktor Haase, State Secretary at the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of the Environment, placed Circular Valley®'s efforts into a political context at the DemoDay. According to him, the circular economy is a "sleeping giant" in North Rhine-Westphalia that is now being awakened. The state government will present a strategy for the circular economy in the coming months, as will the federal government. "If we have to import raw materials, then we should only do this once and run them in circles from then on," Haase said. Addressing the Circular Valley® startups he added, "Your economic success is securing our future foundations."
Viktor Haase, State Secretary of the Ministry for the Environment and Transportation of the State of North Rhine-WestphaliaViktor Haase
Photo: Circular Valley®/Jan Turek.

Dr. Andreas Eurich, CEO of the Barmenia Insurance Group, which has been part of the Circular Valley® initiative from the very beginning, outlined which players can significantly help in waking the sleeping giant. Eurich said that it the state alone cannot raise the funds needed for climate protection; the private sector is also needed. Insurance companies are reliable providers of capital in this context. Globally, insurance companies manage a total of around 1.8 trillion euros and will increasingly invest these in sustainable projects. To this end, Barmenia has even founded a company for innovative business models: BNS, short for Barmenia next strategies..

At the end of the DemoDay, Circular Valley® initiator Dr. Carsten Gerhardt discussed with Dr. Johannes Velling how startups and established businesses can grow together more closely. Dr. Velling has supported around 5000 young companies in various federal and state projects (including "Exist" and through HighTech-Gründerfonds). His advice: Rattle off more to sell your own ideas even better. Think bigger, i.e., beyond one's own region. And find a common culture with the big companies.Circular Valley® has supported over 60 startups since its launch in summer 2021. The topics of transportation and packaging have always been a focus. Alumni of the initiatives therefore include Yo-Waste from Uganda and Transfairbag from Darmstadt.
Dr. Carsten Gerhardt (left) and Dr. Johannis Velling, Director General "Digitization and Startups" at the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
Photo: Circular Valley®/Jan Turek.
The startups at a glance:

Industrial waste and recycling platforms: Clickwaste (Germany), Cyrkl (Czech Republic), MikaCycle (France), Green Building: RecycleX (India)
Water treatment and desalination: Colea AgriTech (Palestine), CyFract (Germany), Desolenator (Netherlands), Bio-Recycler (Kenya), Hydroleap (Singapore)
Renewable energy from a circular perspective: 1s1 Energy (USA), CO2NVERT (Italy)
Waste management and packaging: Lixo (France), Rhinopaq (Germany), Circular Valley Delivery (Germany)

The images can be used free of charge in connection with reporting on the DemoDay.
Source: Jan Turek/Circular Valley®.