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Circular innovators: start-ups in the circular economy

A resource-conserving circular economy is a prerequisite for more sustainable production. Digitization and bio-based plastics are crucial to the success of the circular economy. Central to the circular turnaround: Tech innovations from young founding teams.

Conventional manufacturing and consumption processes follow a simple pattern: raw materials are extracted, products are manufactured, used by consumers and finally disposed of. This has a negative impact on people and the environment and generates high costs. Dependence on imported raw materials is becoming increasingly problematic. To create a more environmentally friendly industry, it is important to switch to a resource-conserving circular economy. To this end, the use of digitalization and the development of bio-based plastics are of great importance.

Startups as pioneers of circular technology solutions.

The growing demand for sustainable products and manufacturing processes offers enormous growth opportunities, not least for innovative start-ups. After all, to leverage the economic potential, innovation, technology and cooperation are needed – and this is where the young start-up companies come into play. They provide the necessary innovative business models and technology solutions to take the previous circular approaches, which are often only internal to the company and too small-scale, to a new level.

The spectrum of technologies that startups are now using to do this is broad, ranging from new process technologies (e.g., biobased plastics development, chemical recycling) and hardware offerings without digital components (e.g., modular and upcycling products) to “smart” hardware (e.g. e.g. sensor-controlled sorting devices), cloud and software solutions (e.g. data hubs, AI-supported decision-making software), apps and user interfaces (e.g. browser plug-ins, second-life platforms), and services (e.g. consulting in the development of circular products or packaging cycles).

How exactly are the start-ups in the Circular Economy distributed among the different business areas and technology applications? The authors of the article “Circular Innovators: Start-ups in the Circular Economy How new technologies, business models and ecosystems are revolutionizing sustainable business” analyzed 385 young growth companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The study was conducted as part of the eighth edition of “The Spark – the German Digital Prize,” the Tech Start-up Award from Handelsblatt and McKinsey. The award honors young innovative companies that are among the most innovative in the German-speaking market and have succeeded despite the often difficult conditions in the healthcare sector.

Authors: Stefan Helmcke , Prof. Dr. Niko Mohr, Melanie Krawina, Markus Pley, Julia Pantel

Zirkuläre Innovatoren

Wie neue Technologien, Geschäftsmodelle und Ökosysteme das nachhaltige Wirtschaften revolutionieren

Source: McKinsey; machine translated
Image : Costello77 via stock.adobe.com

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