Dr. Kirsten Grübel
"We are looking for startups with giga-impact"

Circular Valley® in Germany's wider Rhine-Ruhr region begins a new round of its international funding program.

Startups developing ideas for the circular economy and tackling problems on a very large scale can apply until October 7th. Circular Valley® project coordinator Dr. Kirsten Grübel explains in an interview who is eligible for the funding program and what young companies can expect in Circular Valley®.

Which startups should apply for the Circular Economy Accelerator?

Dr. Kirsten Grübel
We are looking for international startups that have ideas for the circular economy that work globally, but also in individual regions of the world. The connection to the circular economy is crucial. We are particularly interested in ideas around new raw materials, circular production processes and waste recycling. And these ideas and technologies should have a giga-impact.

What does that mean?

Dr. Kirsten Grübel This refers to material flows that occur on a gigaton scale, such as CO2 or building materials - and materials such as microplastics, which pollute gigatons of water. Because of these large volumes, these material flows have a big global impact on the environment, and that's what we want to work on with the startups in the next batch. So, whoever has a new technology, a new approach or a new business model to these issues and wants to advance their company, should definitely apply to join us.

What awaits the startups that are selected for the Circular Economy Accelerator?

Dr. Kirsten Grübel An intensive program over three months. Between December and February, there will be on-site blocks in which the startups will receive a variety of support every day: from coaches and speakers who will work with them on their business model and communication, excursions to production facilities in the wider Rhine-Ruhr region, hot-chair sessions with executives from our partner companies, and many other opportunities to exchange ideas with key players from business, science, and politics.

What distinguishes the Circular Economy Accelerator from other programs?

Dr. Kirsten Grübel I would say a very international mix of participants and a special family atmosphere. We bring together startups from Germany, Europe and all over the world here. From my point of view, this has the great advantage that the startups get to know many different points of view and, in the exchange among themselves, are shown different perspectives that they would not have received without the different perspectives of the participants. Through the intensive exchange, we were able to learn, for example, that in Uganda, problems related to the collection of household waste do not lie in their technical implementation, but rather in the organizational aspects, because there are no clear street names and house numbers. This poses completely different problems and requires different approaches to solving them than plainly technical dimensions. Here we see a female founder from India and a male founder from England discussing concrete, national and international challenges in their IP strategies and helping each other to further develop their approaches through their own experiences. The opportunity for important shifts in perspective is often missing for young entrepreneurs when they are at home in their familiar environment. I find it very enriching to exchange ideas across cultures and disciplines in order to sharpen one's own perspective on issues. With us, the participants get the opportunity to do this. There is a great exchange here at the Circular Economy Accelerator, and a real Circular Valley® community is emerging.

What should applicants keep in mind when applying?

Dr. Kirsten Grübel You should formulate the problem, solution and goal as simply and clearly as possible. I am always impressed by how our startups explain their visions and solutions to a broad audience and in a way that everyone can understand, for example at our Demo Day. In addition, applicants should have truly innovative ideas with a major positive impact on our environment and advance the circular economy locally or globally. I recommend to take advantage of our offers during the application phase, such as our Q&A sessions, if you have specific questions about applying with your startup for our upcoming program.

For more information on the new Circular Economy Accelerator application phase and on the Q&A appointments, click here.

Image: can be used free of charge.
Source: Circular Valley