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£5m Technology Strategy Board fund for circular economy R&D

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is to invest £5m in collaborative research and development projects that contribute towards a circular economy.

The TSB, the UK’s innovation agency, said in a statement it aims to “preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and keep them in productive use for longer”.

It said it is looking for proposals that reduce the dependence on materials with supply risk, reduce the environmental impact of material lifecycles, and cut general waste streams by more than a half.

The opportunity is on offer for projects to be mentored by a designer at the start of the process, called the ‘Design Option’. The objective of this is to bring the design and technology comunities closer together, to help make projects more innovative.

Mike Pitts, lead sustainability specialist at the TSB told MRW: “The people that block that [the circular economy] are the designers – we hear stories time after time about items that are designed in a certain way and can’t be recycled. But if the designers talked to the end-of-life people they could learn the reality of how these things are dealt with.”

He added: “The solution is different in every case and we want to explore that and look at how every part of the supply chain can make money from changing the way they do business by keeping stuff in the supply chain. We see it [the circular economy] as a big business opportunity”.

An analysis by McKinsey for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation valued the opportunity as $680bn a year for the medium complex goods sector alone.

“Proposals must be collaborative and led by a business in a position to make a supply chain more circular,” said the TSB, which stipulates that business partners in projects will need to obtain public funding for up to half their project costs (60% for SMEs). Total costs can be up to £1m and projects can last up to two years.

The competition will open for applications on 4 November. The registration deadline is noon on 11 December and deadline for expressions of interest is on 18 December.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is offering guidance for application entrants at two events: in London on 3 October and in Manchester on 21 October.

The foundation, which is geared towards driving a transition to the circular economy, is also working with the Knowledge Transfer Network to support applicants by offering initial discussions of how a project fits within the scope of the competition, help to find relevant resources and review proposals.

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