Cities and regions are ideally placed to drive the circular transition. The European Union’s Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) aims to promote knowledge exchange between circular cities and regions. EGEN is helping to establish a central CCRI coordinating office and will be supporting various pilot cities and regions in their circular projects in the coming years.
Towards a circular economy
The idea that we need to reduce our waste and environmental impact has led to an increased focus on the ‘circularity’ concept in the economy and in society. A circular economy aims to retain value by reusing products and materials and preventing waste and pollution; in other words, closing the circle.
With the Green Deal, the European Union wants to make the switch to a clean, circular economy and presented a package of measures in its 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan to ensure that circularity works for people, regions and cities. The focus is on sectors with a high circularity potential, including electronics and IT, batteries and vehicles, packaging, plastics, textiles, construction and buildings, food, water and nutrients.
Cities and regions as drivers
The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) is part of the 2020 action plan. The idea behind this initiative is that cities and regions are best placed to act as drivers of the circular economy transition, as they provide an excellent breeding ground to implement and scale up innovative circular solutions. In the CCRI, the ‘cities and regions’ concept is broader and includes ‘circular territorial clusters’, which refers to partnerships between government agencies, companies, and research and social institutions.
According to the CCRI, cities and regions in particular have the necessary competences for the circular economy transition as well as being familiar with most policy areas that underpin a circular approach, including waste and water management, mobility, the built environment and spatial planning. They can also further stimulate demand for circular products and services through a targeted procurement and grant policy, and facilitate and promote a culture of collaboration, knowledge exchange and innovation.
CCRI: removing barriers
The European Commission recognises that there are still various barriers in the way of the circular transition. An important CCRI goal is to remove such barriers, which include technological and financial aspects as well as aspects relating to regulations, awareness and acceptance, skills and capacity, information and knowledge.
The CCRI’s key focus is on the latter. Information and knowledge sharing must be maximised to achieve ‘circular cross-pollination’ between cities and regions.
CCRI-CSO: central coordinating office
The European Commission issued a tender in 2020 to establish a central coordinating office to enable the CCRI to achieve its aims: the Circular Cities and Regions Initiative’s Coordination and Support Office (CCRI-CSO). This office should become the ‘beating heart’ of the CCRI, with a core task being to coordinate all information and knowledge-sharing tasks.
Dozens of consortia participated in the tender. Following a careful selection process, the winner was announced in late 2021: an international consortium of knowledge, network and IT partners led by research and advice agency, Ecorys. The consortium includes:
- Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT)
- Association of Cities and Regions for Sustainable Resource Management (ACR+)
- Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
- European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN)
- European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
- Tremend Software Consulting
In close collaboration with the European Commission, this consortium has made huge progress in establishing the CCRI Coordination and Support Office in 2022.
EGEN as knowledge manager and coach
Knowledge partner EGEN is playing an important coordinating role within the CCRI-CSO’s information and knowledge-sharing activities. Various EGEN experts will be working for CCRI-CSO in the coming years, identifying knowledge of circular solutions, keeping this up-to-date and guiding pilot cities and regions in their circular projects. EGEN’s knowledge of funding opportunities for circular innovations is invaluable here. This role means that EGEN can contribute to the circular economy transition in this consortium too.