Circular Valley
Newsletter 2/2024
Uniting Industries for a Circular Tomorrow
The first Circular Valley Convention starts in 2025
Together with Messe Düsseldorf, the initiative for the circular economy is presenting companies and ideas at a major event in the NRW state capital. The date: March 12 and 13.
Circular Valley's most recent DemoDay ended with a surprise. "Today we can officially announce the partnership with Messe Düsseldorf and that the first Circular Valley Convention will take place next year," said Dr. Carsten Gerhardt, Chairman of the Circular Valley Foundation.
On the one hand, this is a trade fair; the second very important component is that it will showcase the circular solutions that are already available on the market today and what will come onto the market in the next three to five years.

Carsten Gerhardt,
Chairman of the Circular Valley Foundation
This novelty in the trade fair landscape is planned for March 12 and 13, 2025 at the Areal Böhler in Düsseldorf. Titled "Uniting Industries for a Circular Tomorrow", the event will bring together leading experts, speakers and top decision-makers from various industries to promote the transformation to a circular economy. The convention will present circular solution strategies for redesign, re-use and recycling and teach the skills necessary to transform companies’ approach to a circular economy. The convention has a holistic, cross-industry and cross-material approach.

The Circular Valley Convention is organized by Messe Düsseldorf and the Circular Valley Foundation with scientific support from the Fraunhofer UMSICHT Institute. "The most important location for industrial trade fairs in Germany and the experts for the circular economy are joining forces," says Gerhardt.

The performance artist HA Schult also plays an important role. The image of his 1300 Trash People on the Matterhorn is the convention's key visual. This also closes a circle: HA Schult's garbage sculptures decorated and shaped the first Circular Valley Forum in November 2022.

The convention website is now online. Readers of the Circular Valley newsletter will receive an exclusive discount: use the booking code CVSTIFTUNGCVC and save 100 euros on your ticket. In addition, you will receive an early bird discount of 100 euros if you book your ticket not later than November 15, 2024.
Tickets, the registration option and further information can be found at www.cvc-duesseldorf.com

Cooperation with Flanders: Contract turned into practice
In November 2023, the Flemish and North Rhine-Westphalian governments agreed on cross-border cooperation in the circular economy. They have now defined three areas in which they will implement this.
Flanders and NRW are wasting no time. Representatives of the environment and economy ministries of both regions have now met with Circular Valley, Circular Flanders and members of the NRW Circular Value Creation Round Table. Together, the experts have defined three topics on which they want to work together across borders:
The future of the chemical industry: The area between Antwerp, Leverkusen and Marl is home to numerous large chemical companies. They want and need to be a key supporter of the circular economy. Up to now, the chemical industry has mainly been at the beginning of the value chain. In the future, it will connect the end with the beginning. It converts consumer products that are no longer needed into components and substances that can be reused as new materials. This range of expertise only exists in the chemical industry.

Battery recycling: As countries electrify with a view to the energy transition and the Paris Agreement, they will need storage options. As the required raw materials are only available to a limited extent in Europe, it is essential to develop good recycling processes for batteries. This will make NRW, Flanders and the continent independent of imports in the future.

Building materials: There are excellent initiatives on both sides of the border that specialize in certain materials and their tracking. In the construction sector, it is primarily a matter of making these players visible and joining forces.

The basis for the cooperation is the agreement signed by NRW Minister President Hendrik Wüst and his Flemish counterpart Jan Jambon at the Circular Valley Forum. During the next five years, the two regions will exchange knowledge, launch pilot projects, train specialists and jointly apply for funding. "We want to show that it can be done," said Wüst.
North Rhine-Westphalia and Flanders would become the recycling center of Europe and work together to close the material cycles "as far as possible"

Jan Jambon,
Prime Minister of Flanders
The agreement between the neighbors is expressly open to other countries and regions.

Demo Day
How 12 start-ups promote sustainability with joy instead of a bad conscience
At Circular Valley's DemoDay, young companies from all over the world presented their ideas for the circular economy. They develop green trucks, produce wood without cutting down trees and prevent plastics from ending up in a landfill.
Mitulkumar Suthar begins his presentation with a photo of himself and a huge turbine. The engineer spent many years helping to develop such engines for major aircraft manufacturers - until he decided to use his inventive spirit in a different way. Instead of causing CO2 emissions, he now prevents them. He developed a technology that captures the exhaust fumes of trucks from inside the vehicle, converts and makes them re-usable. Suthar founded the start-up Quaptis in Switzerland, beating off several hundred applicants to win over the jury of the Circular Valley initiative's funding program in the extended Rhine-Ruhr region.

Twelve other founders from all over the world had the same experience as the engineer from India. In NRW, they received funding and have now presented their business models to more than 200 representatives from business, politics, and civil society at the Circular Valley DemoDay. For weeks, they met with numerous managing directors, visited industrial companies, and worked with top-class coaches. Thanks to Circular Valley, more than 100 start-ups have already made decisive progress with their ideas for the circular economy.

One of the driving forces of the event was Dr. Thomas Stoffmehl, CEO of Vorwerk. In his opening speech on DemoDay, he gave the start-ups an important message: No matter how good and sustainable a product may be, the key to its success is to get people excited about it - in your own company and among consumers. Sustainable products need to get out of their “negative corner”. You need to concentrate on their positive effects and how they bring joy, said Stoffmehl.

The start-ups' presentations showed that his words have already become reality. And in all three areas of focus for this round of Circular Valley funding: alternative raw materials, orchestration of the value chain and chemical recycling.
Irene Purasachit, for example, has recaptured her joy of nature and flowers. As a florist, she learned that 40 percent of flowers end up in the bin without ever being in the hands of a customer. That is why she and her company Flower Matter are developing a bio-foam from this waste that replaces plastics. Other ideas for alternative raw materials were bio-based wooden panels and plastic-free packaging made from agricultural waste.

As a child, Elisa Alonso learned that food should not be thrown away. As an adult, she realized that tons of food were spoiled while being transported around the world in containers because correct information on location and storage temperature were missing. That is why her start-up CL Circular created sensors and programs that provide all the important data. Companies now always know exactly where their goods are and how the prevailing conditions are on location. Other founders in Circular Valley showed how AI can be used for the circular economy, so that one company's waste may be turned into another company's recyclable material.

In addition to mechanical reprocessing, chemical recycling is getting increasingly important for a successful circular economy. High prices have so far been a crucial point. At DemoDay, three founders showed that this need no longer be an obstacle. Gonzalo Izquierdo from Blueplasma Power explained how green hydrogen and recyclable carbon products can be produced from household waste. Bernadita Jose Diaz Soto demonstrated how her start-up takes graphite out of old tires and reuses it in batteries.

One of the speakers was Mitulkumar Suthar, who reported on how CO2 never leaves a truck. This technology should be transferable to generators and ships in the future. The engineer will soon have a new photo in his presentation showing him next to an impressive invention.

The Perfect Timetable for Start-ups
When the young entrepreneurs come to Circular Valley, they develop their idea from numerous perspectives and with many supporters: through training and personal exchange, visits to the industry - and a hot seat.
It's all about more self-confidence and doubt, streamlined presentations and business models - the 12 start-ups in the sixth funding round of the Circular Economy Accelerator worked very hard on these goals in April and May. The Circular Valley team put together an extensive and well-mixed program.

The founders have made decisive progress with their concepts in three different ways:
Coaching sessions: The daily program included working with top-class coaches and mentors, both representatives from the field and specialists for individual aspects of founding and growth. With the NRW Efficiency Agency and CIRCO, the start-ups analyzed the design of their business model and learned new ways of thinking. Prof. Henning Wilts and Lucille Wulffwill from the Wuppertal Institute introduced them to life cycle assessments - also regarding their innovation potential. In the session with Prof. Nadine Pratt and team from the FOM University of Applied Sciences, the participants deepened their knowledge of sustainable business models and the latest research findings.

The topics of the coaching sessions were manifold: Markus von Blomberg (Mello) explained how to approach investors correctly, Samir Salameh, Professor of Mechanical Process Engineering and Circular Economy at Münster University of Applied Sciences, practiced how to communicate science in an easy-to-understand way. Dr. Samuel Königshofen and Ivo Stute, patent attorneys at Lenzing, Gerber and Stute, familiarized the start-ups with IP law, and Peter Schmetz from Vorwerk Ventures explained the topic of venture capital. Teams from EY and Kearney prepared the start-ups perfectly for future pitches and presentations, Susanne Oliver presented EU funding opportunities. Sebastian Daus from Fix First spoke about lean methods, Arne von Hofe (CSCP) about digital circularity tools.

These sessions were complemented with workshops on body language, media communication, social media and how to deal with emotions, disruptions and failure.
Coaching sessions
These sessions were complemented with workshops on body language, media communication, social media and how to deal with emotions, disruptions and failure.
Excursions: The extended Rhine-Ruhr region offers a unique density of medium-sized and publicly listed industrial companies. The Circular Valley start-ups particularly benefit from this. They get to know the manufacturing companies from the inside and gain a precise idea of what implementing their business models involves. In recent months, Knipex, Vorwerk, Lhoist, Bayer and the Schwebebahn-Werkstatt have offered such exclusive visits.
Company visits to Knipex, Vorwerk, Lhoist, Bayer and WSW
Personal exchange: In addition to the workshops and on-site meetings, the start-ups' "timetable" also includes meetings with experts and decision-makers, which are deliberately designed to be open. These important discussion partners come from the established economy and universities as well as from young companies that are connected to Circular Valley as alumni, such as the founders of Rhinopaq and Bioweg. Other dialogue partners were Till Rösnick (Wepa) and Hendrik Wehr (Vorwerk).

The hot chair sessions are a special form of this direct exchange in Circular Valley. The guests, who sit on this special piece of furniture, answer all the young entrepreneurs' questions and help them through their openness. In the latest round of the support program, they had discussions with Channing Robertson from Stanford University, Carsten Vollmar (Vorwerk), Timo Flessner (Bayer), Jens Busse (Evonik), Dr. Dorothee Becker (Gebrüder Becker) as well as Dr. Christian Untrieser (member of the nrw state parliament), Till von den Driesch and Cornelius Laaser from the NRW Ministries of Economic Affairs and Environment and Transport respectively.
Hot Chairs
In addition to the workshops and on-site meetings, the start-ups' "timetable" also includes meetings with experts and decision-makers, which are deliberately designed to be open.

Comprehensive program for and with 150 battery experts
The consortium for the battery value chain TraWeBa had a very successful kick-off congress: so many guests and program items came together that one conference room was not enough.
Networking is even more important than expected - that is one of the key findings of the TraWeBa congress in Wuppertal. Circular Valley organized this kick-off meeting on behalf of the battery value chain consortium, assembling around 150 experts at the beginning of June. In presentations and discussions, they dealt with all facets of the topic, from research to recycling. The program had so many points and attracted so many interested parties that the conference had to be split into two rooms.

Andreas Mucke, Managing Director of Circular Economy Accelerator GmbH, drew a positive conclusion: "We have been building up the network for a year and the congress has now shown how far we have already come. There are many important research projects on the topic in Germany and a lot of companies - but the battery landscape is fragmented." That is why it is so important that TraWeBa makes all the players visible. Together, they can then find and occupy fields around the topic of batteries in which Germany can become a leader.

The abbreviation TraWeBa stands for Transformation HUB Battery Value Chain and is a consortium of various partners from all over Germany who want to solve one of the key energy issues. Circular Valley's partners in this consortium are the Automotive-Cluster Ostdeutschland (Eastern Germany), the Automotive-Agentur Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), the Initiative für Innovation und Standort im Saarland (Sarre) and four Fraunhofer Institutes. A cross-state concept is being developed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology along the battery value chain. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate is funding this approach.

In the research phase of the project, companies in the automotive and supplier sectors as well as companies indirectly involved in the supply chain were surveyed on the state of technology and research, thus determining where the focal points are in Germany and what deficits the industry perceives.
The second TraWeBa congress is planned for February 2025.

The Cradle
Partner Talk in a reusable building
The members of the Circular Valley network met at a special location in June: "The Cradle" in Düsseldorf's Medienhafen is a prime example of circular construction. The topic of the evening: potential for the German economy.
Can you think of a more suitable place to discuss the path to a circular economy than a building designed and built according to cradle-to-cradle principles? For this reason, the Circular Valley Partner Talk took place at "The Cradle" in Düsseldorf at the beginning of June. A lot of wood was used in the construction of the building and the components can easily be reused elsewhere after dismantling. The materials are listed on the Madaster platform so that all elements are assigned a value in the sense of the circular economy. Madaster is a startup that took part in the second round of the Circular Economy Accelerator program.

This Partner Talk focused on what kind of incentives can be created for companies to operate in a more circular and sustainable way. The legal framework conditions were also thoroughly examined. In his presentation, Dr. Claas Oehlmann, Managing Director of the BDI Circular Economy Initiative, explained the opportunities and potential of the circular economy for the German economy.

In the ensuing discussion, the participants agreed that uniform framework conditions are necessary in the European market. These should be set in such a way that they guarantee reliability and fair competition through the same rules for everyone. At the same time, detailed regulations must not be too restrictive; there must be room for creative solutions.

It is therefore important to find a balance: Regulation should be designed in such a way that it promotes creativity and competition without unnecessarily burdening companies, for example with too much bureaucracy. The company representatives wanted politicians to set the goals and not the way to achieve them.

Ultimately, it takes courage to move from talking to doing, to get started and become a pioneer of circularity. The building in which the meeting took place proved that precisely this is possible.

Strong new partners for Circular Valley
The Port of Duisburg and Lufthansa Industry Solutions are now part of the network for the circular economy. Both are experts in logistics and software solutions.
The exchange between companies is one of the great opportunities and strengths that Circular Valley offers its partners. In confidential discussions, the representatives discuss the challenges of the circular economy and their experiences with their solutions. There are two more strong partners in this circle: the Port of Duisburg (duisport Group) and Lufthansa Industry Solutions.
A few figures suffice to illustrate the importance of duisport: It achieves a handling volume of 4.0 million TEU (20-foot standard containers). This makes the Port of Duisburg the largest hinterland hub in Europe. Approximately 300 logistics-oriented companies based in the Port of Duisburg generate added value of around three billion euros per year.

The Group brings a wealth of logistics expertise to its partnership with Circular Valley. The water, rail and road transport modes are perfectly networked in Duisburg to make transport chains as efficient, resource-saving and cost-effective as possible.
The success of the circular economy will essentially depend on creating reverse logistics. Duisport is an excellent partner for this

Carsten Gerhardt,
Chairman of the Circular Valley Foundation

Lufthansa Industry Solutions
Source: Lufthansa Industry Solutions
Lufthansa Industry Solutions is an IT service provider with more than 2,500 employees. The circle of around 300 customers extends far beyond aviation. They come from the industry and the automotive sectors or are active in publishing, tourism, energy or healthcare - from medium-sized companies to DAX-listed corporations. They have in common that they need to design their IT along the entire value chain in such a way that they can reduce costs and sustainably increase revenues and efficiency at the same time.

With Lufthansa Industry Solutions, the network has a partner who is an expert in digitalization and automation.
This is particularly important for the circular economy in terms of recording and tracking materials along the entire value chain. This means that the knowledge is available to actually close the loop.

Start-ups can apply for new funding round
This fall, Circular Valley is once again supporting young companies that are advancing the circular economy with their ideas. One advantage of the program is that the founders can present their business models to several hundred potential partners at the end.
More than 100 start-ups from five continents have already been to Circular Valley and have made significant advancements to their concepts. This has resulted in numerous partnerships with the established economy and renowned research institutions. Ideas have become success stories that prevent emissions on a large scale. Now the next entrepreneurs are given the chance to benefit from this boost.
Applications for the new Circular Valley funding round are now open and can be submitted until July 28. Interested parties should have one of the following key areas of focus:
  • Regenerative energy and energy storage
  • Mechanical and physical recycling of plastics (all sectors: from agricultural films, automobiles via construction materials (e.g. plastic windows) to packaging materials, including secondary and tertiary plastic packaging plastic)
  • Circular use of technical or industrial equipment, machines, tools or furnishing
The Circular Valley Foundation jury will select the most exciting business models in the summer. The start-ups will then come to the extended Rhine-Ruhr region in the fall to work with top-class coaches and mentors, meet top representatives from companies, politics and science, and get to know the practice first-hand.

Highlight of the funding round will be the DemoDay. This time, it will take place as part of the Circular Valley Forum on November 15. It gives the young companies the opportunity to present themselves to several hundred decision-makers and potential partners.
Financed by
Further details and the application forms can be found at https://circular-valley.org/tender_batch7.

A factory for start-up ideas
When concepts are to be turned into products, young companies face a major challenge. Circular Valley, several universities and 60 partners want to tackle this issue with particular emphasis on one point.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is aiming at alliances between the private sector and universities to create hubs for start-ups. This per se has already been Circular Valley’s objective since 2021. A recent call for funding from the Federal Ministry of Economics has inspired Circular Valley, several universities and other supporters. They now want to create a Circular Impact Factory where young companies can practically develop their ideas for the circular economy that also have a positive social benefit ("impact"). Participants are the University of Hamburg, the Technical University of Munich, the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development and around 60 signatories of a corresponding Letter of Intent.

The partners are spread evenly across Germany, and they want to work nationwide. One thing is very important to them: the start-ups accepted into the Circular Impact Factory must make a point of the social benefits of their ideas. Among other things, this may mean that they are committed to creating high-quality jobs.

One example is the Circular Valley startup Plastic Fischer. They have developed a system of nets to filter plastic waste from rivers. The waste is then sorted and recycled wherever possible. This has created more than 80 skilled and secure jobs in India and Indonesia.

2024 - 2025
Save the date
July 28, 2024
Circular Valley® Batch#7 Funding Round
Applications for the new Circular Valley funding round are now open and can be submitted until July 28. Further details and the application forms can be found at https://circular-valley.org/tender_batch7.
November 15, 2024
Stadthalle Wuppertal
Circular Valley® Forum
The Forum is the major conference for circular economy in Germany and brings together more than 1,000 guests from business, politics, science and civil society. Together, the guests exchange views on the progress of the transition to a circular economy, they discuss solutions to current challenges and learn about new business ideas.
March 12-13, 2025
Düsseldorf, Areal Böhler
Circular Valley Convention
The Circular Valley Convention is the platform for the industrial circular economy. It showcases the entire spectrum of the Circular Economy in all its dimensions, bringing together top decision-makers from companies, startups, research, politics, and society in one place.