Report for Innovate UK – Innovation for a Circular Economy

This ‘thought piece’ considers ways in which the concept of Circular Economy (CE) might be redefined within the SME innovation ecosystem

The benefit for Innovate UK can be summarised as improved insight regarding what a research agenda looks like for innovation system level interventions designed to enable and enhance CE innovation practice for SMEs, with the aim of helping Innovate UK identify where and how it might intervene in new future CE pathways, and the role of different policies in relation to the UK innovation system (building on IUK initiatives for net zero, UKRI 2021-25).

Via literature review and stakeholder consultations, the report shows that a distinction should be made between the innovation activities of circular economy SMEs, versus SMEs undertaking CE innovation more generally.

It proposes three levels of analysis (firm, network or value chain, innovation ecosystem) required for understanding and implementing CE SME innovation interventions.

These interventions should thus go beyond a narrow remit of facilitating innovation in CE SMEs to one of driving CE innovation across SMEs – i.e. cross-sectoral (horizontally) and through whole value chains (vertically)

A facilitated CE programme for SMEs based on a ‘communities of practice’ approach should be a focus for innovation policy in this regard.

Click here to read the full report.

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