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The Date is 21st October 2013; The Place – The Midland Hotel, Manchester (UK not NH)

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board is launching it’s £5m project fund to drive collaboration for The Circular Economy through the Knowledge Transfer Networks, the KTNs.  Combining the Materials, Environmental and Chemistry Innovation Networks as the supporting bodies to help craft the ideal project and partnerships from academia, industry and service providers.

Great_Recovery_Networking_BoardCould it be that the UK is moving, finally, towards a more sustainable footing?  Not, it seems when compared to Japan whose economy by several measures seems to be near circular – 98% of metals are recovered and recycled there is just one stat.

Has the message got through that resources are scare finite, precious and insecure? It matters. One third of all profit warnings in 2011 of the FTSE350 related to raw material price shocks – not all will be because of rarity, but also poor management.  The EU now thinks enough of resource insecurity to list the top 14 materials, including cobalt, graphite, beryllium and so on.  Other material is available on the Circular Economy make good reading in _Connect.

A number of organizations are behind the scenes influencing the funding call including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey.  I can only speculate that of the impact that floating plastic waste made on Dame Ellen as she circumnavigated the globe…

I liked the visual tool for a whole business assessment of sustainable thinking has emerged in Horizons.  Perhaps this could help clients grapple with making good decisions for Profit+Planet+People?  I’ll give it a try.


There is a lot of serious effort going onto recovery waste – many recovery chains have yet to be invented, such as domestic paint recovery and post-consumer plastics.  Technology plays a pivotal part – processes, both physical and chemical need to be developed, and installed.  This is a source of competitive advantage = technology + scale.

The slight downside is that of the nation-state-in-isolation.  Supply chains, or networks actually, are global.  For a good treatment of this, consider the delivery of an aluminium can of Coke – 350 days from mine to consumer (see The Machine that Changed the World for a full description).

The slightly uneasy pretense at collaboration; barely displayed discomfort between functions like engineers and chemists, designers and engineers, academics and industrialists.  This is a global problem and it will need all the talents, all of the time.

Rob Munro

So, what do you think ?

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