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How do you create a circular economy? Lessons learned from a session with Rijkswaterstaat

Yesterday morning, the Rijkswaterstaat breakfast session about circular economy took place. We, MK Subsidy, were invited to share our subsidy expertise and our knowledge around circular economy with other valued guests. It was a very fruitful session! The whole point was to first, listen to inspirational speeches about innovation and partnerships within innovation and then to discuss our thoughts on how to build sustainable bridges and viaducts in the most effective way. During the session, we drank coffee with members of construction companies and with network builders who were interested in getting a subsidy for their hard work. Hence, not only was it inspirational; it was a fun networking event as well!

About SBIR – an RVO instrument inviting SMEs to help the government innovate

SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research), was the focus of this breakfast session. It is an instrument which start-ups and scale-ups should apply for if they can help the government deal with some common social challenges, such as making circular economy grow. The budget for this instrument is €30-50k for a feasibility study and for R&D it’s €200-450k. What’s also interesting is that the end-product doesn’t have to be ‘finished’ – what matters is if the implementation process is done right, through baby steps. Examples of successful SBIR projects would include dike monitoring, energy supply through canals and soundproofing. 

Ideas about the ideal SBIR/innovative projects in general

During the session, we’ve sat down at the table of Carla Dekker, Senior Advisor at RVO. Since she has seen many successful (and unsuccessful) SBIRs and projects applying for subsidies, it was inspirational to hear what characteristics the ideal SBIRs/innovative projects should have. Together with dozens of people around her, she discussed these characteristics in detail. For example, a successful innovative project (a pilot) should be made within a specific framework and it should respect a number of rules set by the RVO. Also, generally, you should not only have one plan, but in case of failure, you should have a plan B and C. Not to forget, your project should definitely be feasible and one should invest in high quality materials that could be used (and reused) for 200 years or so. Concerning circular economy projects, not only should you think outside the box and create new materials which should be used for portable bridges and viaducts. A sustainable project should take a number of solutions into consideration: hard-technical, logistical- and component-solutions. Don’t forget that you’re trying to create the maximum positive impact on your industry! Want even more inspiration? Read the successes of other pioneers which could easily score a subsidy here

How to succeed in winning any innovation competition

Not only have we thought about how the ideal SBIR/sustainable project should look like. We’ve also talked about the concrete steps to get there. First and foremost – you must start small. Begin by building bicycle bridges and then move on to building massive bridges creating a path across water. Second, before investing all your energy into a project, brainstorm your ideas with your team first. Take their reactions into consideration before innovating! Think about how the whole project path will look like before developing it into anything tangible. And finally and most importantly, use your current knowledge and keep on learning to create the components of tomorrow! If you want to read more on scaling your company into success, see this.

Questions every innovator should ask themselves

The greatest challenge of course is to know where and how to start your innovative project. Every entrepreneur has to ask this question before starting their large project: “what should the result/finished product be?” It’s not only the product that’s difficult to imagine, though. The process to get to the last stage is also a thing – what data do you need, who (which partners) do you need to succeed and do you have enough resources to start this project? This is why every entrepreneur should create a checklist to keep track of whether they always perform to the fullest. And specifically to this Rijkswaterstaat session: since in 2030, the goal is to build only sustainable viaducts and bridges, how should this be achieved? What should the leading example be like to inspire any other future projects?

Concluding notes

The Rijkswaterstaat breakfast session about circular economy was truly eye-opening. Not only did we meet inspirational speakers who have described what innovation and innovation partnerships mean to them – we also sat down next to Ms. Dekker to discuss our ideas about how the future of infrastructure could be like. Because every round has gathered around people of different ideas and levels of knowledge and experience with circular economy, this made it interesting to listen to. Next, this has also enriched our knowledge about other RVO instruments than subsidies. But, let’s not forget that subsidies are also very important when it comes to achieving your innovative ambitions, so here are some circular economy subsidies/subsidies in the area of sustainability which you can apply for right now!

  1. Geothermal energy subsidy
  2. DEI+ Circular economy subsidy
  3. MIT
  4. DEI
  5. SDE+
  6. Partners for Water
  7. LIFE Program
  8. Urban Energy

Curious where MK Subsidy will go next? Follow us on social media and follow our blog to never miss a thing! We hope to hear about your CleanTech/GreenTech projects and hopefully see you soon at the next event!

Do you want to ask Marketa, the author of this article, any questions or do you have any remarks? Contact me here and/or reach out to me on LinkedIn!

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