Stimulating and scaling circular breakthroughs

AJ Gonzalez | June 18, 2021

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Advance London


The need – Often small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face great barriers when they seek to implement or scale circular economy solutions. These barriers particularly relate to obtaining appropriate financing, developing transformative mindsets, promoting products, and getting support from supply chains and support services.

The solution – To help overcome some of these aspects London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) created the Advance London programme to support local SMEs. The programme offers tailored support to the SME’s individual activities and includes exploring new circular economy markets, revenue streams, and business models.

The outcomes – By the end of 2018, Advance London had provided 700 hours of bespoke support to 112 SMEs and held a range of brokerage events and training workshops. One in three SMEs engaged in the programme have secured grant, equity or loan funding within 18 months of first receiving advice. The programme also helped to facilitate 20 product-market collaborations which by the end of 2018 had generated five new circular products or services.

How does the initiative support the transition to a circular economy? – The programme helps local SMEs to be at the forefront of circular economy innovations, which in turn helps unlock the associated economic, environmental, and social benefits. The programme also opens up partnership opportunities and knowledge exchange with larger organisations, helping to drive an overall culture of business innovation.

Explore more about Circular Economy in Cities

This case study belongs to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy in Cities suite of online resources, which acts as a reference point for urban policymakers on the circular economy. It draws out opportunities in three key urban systems – buildings, mobility, and products – and looks at how city governments can enable a circular economy transition.

Five modules aim to answer the critical questions on this topic:

  • Vision: What will the implementation of circular economy principles in cities look like?
  • Factsheets: What are the circular economy opportunities in key urban systems and what benefits can a circular economy transition bring?
  • Policy levers: What can urban policymakers do to accelerate this transition?
  • Case studies: What examples are there of urban policymakers already putting this into action?
  • Other networks & resources: What are other organisations doing on the topic of circular economy and cities?

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