Alexis, end of last year you initiated R2Pi, an EU-funded project within Horizon 2020. Thus, you were on the lookout of consortium members to join. How come you approached Green Alley?
I got to know about Green Alley in 2015 when one of the companies coached within the INNEON project (to make eco-innovations “investment-ready”) had competed for the Green Alley Award. Indeed Votechnik, a start-up from Ireland, had a very useful automated solution to the issue of the more than 15 million LCD going to waste every year in Europe. Hence I observed that Green Alley was very much focused on Circular Economy and business innovations around it. I was convinced that Green Alley would be a good forum for larger, traditional enterprises offering insight into the potential of the Circular Economy and even getting them to initiate projects in conjunction with some of the businesses identified or rewarded by Green Alley. Lastly, I guessed that Green Alley, as a part of the Landbell Group, which operates on an EU-wide basis as Recovery Platform for waste streams such as electronics and batteries, might be a useful sparring partner for the consortium regarding the R2Pi’s policy recommendations: R2Pi analyses successful business models which can make the economy more circular. Therefore, R2Pi will produce guidelines for both the commercial sector as well as for policy-makers.
The R2PI project focuses on research and the implementation of Circular Economy Business models. Can you explain a little bit further why you are interested in supporting start-ups?
Start-ups are a huge source of innovation, both technologically and socially. Furthermore, they move fleetly and nimbly, and can quickly test with value-chain partners if their proposed solution or business case is valid. We expect that some of the successful Circular Economy business models will be demonstrated by start-ups, especially with regard to circular sourcing, repairing or access-based systems. Start-ups founders are more connected to what their peers, i.e. young adults, are looking for: access to, or performance of, a good or service rather than cumbersome ownership.
Within the last years, you have been an investor and advisor for various start-ups in the field of eco-innovation/cleantech. What is your main insight that you want to provide start-ups?
Interact as quickly as possible with potential partners and customers, i.e. get market or user feedback … don’t stay in your ivory tower of technological perfection! You are entrepreneurs and you will run out of money before you run out of ideas! There may be suggestions or demands from the market you had not even thought about – and a lot more lucrative too. That said, it does not mean you ought to abandon your vision… there may just be a different route to achieving it.