Ireland’s Circular Innovation Gap
Circularity has the potential to deliver a reduction of up to 60% of carbon emissions associated with EU heavy industry by 2050 – particularly steel, plastics, aluminium and cement production (Material Economics, 2018) – illustrating that the circular economy and climate agendas are intertwined. Moreover, it is estimated that implementation of circular economy will increase the EU’s GDP by an additional 0.5% by 2030 while creating 700,000 new jobs (CEAP 2.0, 2020).
In an Irish context, an estimated 100 million tonnes of materials are used annually in the economy (EPA, 2019) and a 5% material improvement across the economy could yield €2.32bn p.a. (Coakley et al., 2013). Yet this opportunity is largely uncapitalized (McCarthy et al., 2019). Ireland currently ranks as only 1.7% circular (2016 data) in the EU circularity rate ranking relative to the average of 11.7% (Eurostat, 2019).
This low circularity ranking however, is contrasted with the fact that Ireland was ranked 3rd for Eco-Innovation amongst all EU Member states in 2019 (Ecopreneur, 2019). This highlights the circularity knowledge, capacity building and implementation gap or “circular innovation gap” that exists in Ireland.
Manufacturing Supply Chains as a Testbed for Circularity
Manufacturing is a significant proportion of Ireland’s GDP (circa 25% in 2018) and its impact to Ireland is well above the EU average of 14.4% (University of Cambridge, 2017). Six sectors of the economy have been identified as having significant resource productivity opportunities (McCarthy et al., 2019) namely – food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, chemicals & non-metallic mineral products, construction, retail, accommodation, and food services.
The manufacturing sector represents a valuable model for scaling the circular economy across the entire economy and underpins the strategic investment in CIRCULÉIRE – the National Platform for Circular Manufacturing.
CIRCULÉIRE: Closing Ireland’s Circularity Gap
CIRCULÉIRE, is a €4.5m cross-sectoral industry-led public-private partnership whose mission is to demystify, derisk and deliver circular innovation and accompanying economic growth. Between 2020 and 2022, CIRCULÉIRE will take manufacturing companies and their supplychains on a journey from linear to cir-cular business models.
CIRCULÉIRE’s novelty lies in being an industry-led innovation network with a dedicated systems innovation fund to derisk investments in circularity. Moreover, circularity capacity building and circular policy innovation are key objectives as a role model accelerating Ireland’s transition to the circular economy.
CIRCULÉIRE Kick-Off Meeting on 28/01/2020 at Irish Manufacturing Research
Capitalizing on Ireland’s Circularity Opportunities
Keeping goods and materials in-use within all sectors of the Irish economy – preserving their embedded value – will necessitate the development of new products, services driving economic growth and both job creation and retention.
Scaling circular business models will require new and expansion of existing services to facilitate the repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and preparation for reuse activities over multiple use-cycles and will entail upskilling and capacity building for key trades. Moreover, valorisation of waste creates reshoring opportunities as well as opportunities for new industries that will develop local and regional supply-chains.
As an island with a small but globalised economy, Ireland has the potential to become a living laboratory for showcasing the circular economy – increasing our competitive advantage, resilience to external supply-chain shocks, creating and retaining jobs and positioning Ireland to maximise our potential to unlock future European structural funding.
Accelerating the transition to a circular economy in Ireland will require addressing the circular knowledge, capacity building and implementation gaps or circular innovation gap which currently exist. Closing the circularity gap requires cross-sectoral collaboration between business, government, research and the third sector. Join CIRCULÉIRE and contribute to unlocking the value that resides in an Irish circular economy.