Beyond the startup-mentor relationship

Written by Mina Nacheva

“It’s quite hard to find any solid circular economy innovations, but what Circularise has come up with can really go far.” Beant Dijkstra is Business Developer at EIT RawMaterials and knows just how difficult it is to bring real circular economy innovations to the market.

Raw materials, in particular, are at the core of their organisation. EIT RawMaterials focuses on the entire value chain – from the exploration to the recycling of raw materials – and promotes the need for new and innovative technologies to boost Europe’s transition into a more circular economy, a resource-efficient and sustainable society. In doing so, the organisation integrates knowledge by engaging stakeholders from industry, higher education and research alike.

Communication and knowledge-sharing are key to the mission of EIT RawMaterials. “It is important for all stakeholders in the value chain to communicate with each other and exchange relevant information,” Beant says. “This is why Circularise is so interesting for us.”

As partners, EIT RawMaterials has supported Circularise both financially and with its expertise in the industry, and Circularise, in turn, has been sharing its knowledge on technology and innovation in the circular economy.

 Beant Dijkstra, Business Developer at EIT RawMaterials

Beant Dijkstra, Business Developer at EIT RawMaterials

Enabling communication along the value chain

At the heart of Circularise is the mission to enable easier, yet secure, communication between stakeholders in the value chain. And so far, there has been a clear lack thereof.

While manufacturers may not be likely to communicate directly with recyclers, they are interested in getting information about their products – where and to whom they get sold, and how they’re being used. With the Circularise label (CIRLABEL) that they can put on their products, brands are sure to get the data they are most interested in.

“By developing this technology, Circularise is making it possible for manufacturers and customers to start a dialog,” Beant says. “The manufacturer might want to know more about consumer behavior, while the customer might be interested in getting more information about the product – from user manuals and warranty tracking to additional service offerings.”

Perhaps even more importantly, though, manufacturers can have access to a platform where they can log in details about the materials they use in their products, and lock that data in time, without sharing it with third parties. That is all made possible with the help of blockchain. The use of this technology can become especially important towards the end of a product’s lifecycle, Beant adds, since “a materials passport can tell a recycler exactly what materials are used in a specific product, making it easier to know what technology to use to extract them.” Further analyses of the collected data will be relevant for manufacturers to get insight in the whereabouts, distribution and lifespan of their products, and for recyclers to learn more about- and predict the buildup of certain end-of-life products and materials down the value chain, as well as the volume in particular geographical areas. All relevant information to explore for future investments and applying best practises.  

A partnership, not just a one-sided relationship

Finding the right partners is not always as easy as it sounds. It is a combination of having the right people, a common mission and a mutual understanding of what is at stake. The click between Circularise and Beant was an almost immediate one.

Of course, the idea is important, Beant says, as it has to be a real innovation with market potential. But it was the founding team of Circularise, Mesbah and Jordi, that really convinced Beant and his colleagues that this is a partnership worth taking on.

“When I first met Mesbah and Jordi, they were so devoted and enthusiastic about what they were doing,” Beant remembers. “They believed in their mission and made me believe in it, too.”

In his opinion, successful entrepreneurs are the ones that have the dedication to drive their idea forward. They are people who are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and who can hook others up on their idea. While EIT RawMaterials has already funded several of Circularise’s key development milestones, they are now mainly involved in the role of advisors, providing guidance, coaching and connections when the startup most need them.  

Yet, this really is a partnership, not just a one-sided relationship.

“Circularise have the idea of applying blockchain, which is incredibly interesting for storing and processing data securely,” Beant says. “There’s a lot of potential there. Eventually, I hope that they will be able to teach us how this technology can be applied to certain data collection projects.”

The benefits on both sides are clear – and they are benefits with plenty of long-term potential. After all, Circularise is a team of self-starters, getting things done with only little guidance, as Beant points out.

“I imagine that over time, we will learn a lot more from them than they from us.”