Circular Business Innovations from the Northern Arctic Areas

Greennovation Camp flyer

Summary of Greennovation Camp Keynote Speakers

The third virtual Greennovation Camp in the Interreg Nord-project GRUDE was held on Tuesday 9 Feb 2021. The focus of the event was on the utilization of sidestreams in rural Arctic areas and the day was kicked off by three keynote speakers from all of the three countries collaborating in the GRUDE project: Norway, Sweden and Finland.

This blog text will sum up the most interesting points in the keynote presentations. In case you would like to dig deeper into circular business models check out the following link to our previous blog post about the Greennovation Camp small group discussion where the participants presented several inspiring cases about it!

Group discussion: Circular Business Models

Wiebke Reim: Circular Business Models and the Business Ecosystem – The Valorization of Food Waste

Wiebke Reim from Luleå University of Technology introduced us the Symbioma project. The objective of the project is to establish a circular economy related Technology Innovation Platform (TIP) which would boost eco-innovation in the Northern Arctic area by identifying new products from sidestreams, adopting new business models and forming resource efficient value chains.

In creating a more sustainable, circular economy Wiebke emphasized the importance of rethinking the values that businesses are based on. She also presented some great examples of circular business models, one of them being a piloting carried out in cooperation with Botten Vikens brewery.

In this experiment spent grain was used for cultivation of mealworms for chicken farms. In addition to reducing waste, the mealworms use up the water, naturally in the spent grain, so it can be further utilized as an odourless fertilizer. Furthermore, using mealworms as chicken food, offers a locally produced, sustainable option for soya.

According to Wiebke the implementation of circular business models requires:

  1. Understanding the need for transformation and rethinking the company’s core values
  2. Identifying current resource streams and potential for change
  3. Finding suitable partners and technology in the business ecosystem
  4. Understanding that circularity can look very different and everyone can contribute.

Reetta Nivala: Growth by Recycling

Reeta Nivala works as a Business Development Manager in the company Honkajoki Oy which is Finland’s leading processor of animal by-products. The goal of Honkajoki is to reduce, reuse and recycle waste produced by slaughterhouses and meat-cutting plants. At Honkajoki the waste is processed into organic raw materials that can be used for animal and fish feed, pet food, fertilizer, cosmetics industries, chemicals, as well as, fuel and biodiesel.

Reeta explained that only approx. 34 % of a cow is consumed as a part of the human diet in the Western countries whereas the rest of the animal (consisting of fat, bones, inner organs, intestinal content, etc.) is typically considered only as waste.

In addition to reducing waste and enhancing circular economy, the utilization of animal by-products has many other benefits. Firstly, the materials processed at Honkajoki are easily traceable across the industry which makes them safe to use. Secondly, the thorough utilization of by-products effectively prevents diseases from spreading, and finally, adds value to the meat production value chain.

Jan Gabor: World Class Green Industrial Park

Jan Gabor works with property development in Mo Industrial Park, which is the largest energy recycling project that the Norwegian Research Council has ever issued. There are 114 companies located in the Industrial Park and their industry sectors vary from metal and material as the largest sector to oil, gas and energy sector, food and chemical sector, as well as, industry clusters.

The main objectives of the project are:

  1. to reduce specific energy use by 20-30% and
  2. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10%

Jan also presented several specific initiatives which are a part of the Industrial Park project. These initiatives aim to model and optimize integrated energy systems in industrial parks. For example, in a project called CO2 HUB Nordland, Mo industrial park has worked with several large Norwegian companies from different sectors and helped them capture their CO2 off-gas. After capturing the CO2,it is either permanently stored in old oil deposits in the seabed in the Northern Sea or used in production of new products.

There is also a plan to establish an electrolysis production plant in Mo industrial park where hydrogen and CO2 could be combined as methanol which works as a carbon-neutral, synthetic option for gasoline. According to Jan, transitioning to use methanol or other types of e-fuels would mean up to 94 % reduction in CO2 emissions.

If you’re interested in circular economy and would like to learn more, please join us in the next Greennovation Camp on 11 May 2021. Our theme for next time will be Sustainable Tourism.

We’ll be posting more info in our Facebook page and local Facebook groups:
FB Group Sweden
FB Group Finland
FB Group Norway

Hoping to see you in May! 😊

Blogpost by:
Henna Kukkonen,
Lapland University of Applied Sciences

From Linear to Circular – Shifting your Business Model

The third Virtual Greennovation Camp in the Interreg Nord-project GRUDE was held Tuesday Feb 9th, focusing on the utilization of side streams in rural Arctic areas. In one of the group sessions after lunch, where the overall theme was Circular Business Models, several interesting, current issues and cases were addressed by the participants. Read more about it here.

One of the topics raised was the challenge of getting small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) – with budgets and cost control, shielding their core business – involved. Thus, by-products and side streams become “out of sight, out of mind” as said by one of the participants.

In recent years, and particularly after the implementation of the UN sustainability goals in 2015, firms have increased the awareness of their own contributions towards achieving the sustainability goals. However, there are few firms that actually work with carbon accounting, sustainability strategies and life cycle analysis. If we are to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below two degrees, all parts of the business community must contribute.

Many leaders have good intentions, but they lack knowledge and capacity for implementation. How can we get SMB to prioritize side streams in their business strategy? What is needed to make the shift from linear to circular business models? As discussed at the event, this is not the issue of one sector, all sectors that have the knowledge and experience must help to promote the shift and close the knowledge gap in order to bring us closer to the circular economy!

Blogpost by:

Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF (No)

Circular Business Models – summary from Group Session

The third Virtual Greennovation Camp in the Interreg Nord-project GRUDE was held Tuesday Feb 9th, focusing on the utilization of side streams in rural Arctic areas. In one of the group sessions after lunch, where the overall theme was Circular Business Models, several interesting, current issues and cases were addressed by the participants. 

Louise Mattson, Älvsbyn Municipality (Sweden)used to work for the research institute RISE in Luleå but now works at Älvsbyn Municipality in an EU-funded project called Arctic DC. The project focuses on industrial symbiosis, using the waste heat (up to 40 %!) from data centers. Northern Sweden’s cold conditions are a perfect fit for data centers. In the project at RISE Louise was part of installing a bunker that draw the waste heat to driving up mealworms in the bunker. The mealworms themselves could be used in example for nutrition to chicken whilst their waste has proved to be a good fertilizer for tomatoes. It is possible to visit the container and have a look! It was hard to find entrepreneurs to take over now that the project funding is ending but Louise says she still have some ideas and she has also seen examples here in Norrbotten on startups working with similar ideas. She also gave us a tip that a data center in Boden is installing a greenhouse that will use the waste heat from the center. 

Wisdom Kanda, Linköping University (Sweden), presented his newly started 4-year FORMAS-project about Business Ecosystems and Start-ups developing Circular Business Models. The project is based on the idea that there is a knowledge gap between the new circular businesses and the business support systems that needs to be bridged. Wisdom got the question from a participant – “What does a company need to able to call itself circular?”, to which he responded that that is an important question and something he will keep in mind for the project. If you are a company with a circular business model or part of the business support system and eager to learn more – get in touch! 

Inger Pedersen, North Sweden Energy Agency/Sustainable Business Bridge (Sweden), carries out a variety of projects focused on sustainability. One new project in the portfolio is Sustainable Business Bridge where they will match companies with underutilized side streams with entrepreneurs who wants to make business out of it. Does your company struggle with becoming more resource efficient? Inger and her team help companies present their “problem” and find potential suppliers who can find solutions, or researchers that can help. Read more here.   

Maja Blomquist, SMICE/SNIUS and the Circular Business Model Canvas (Sweden), emphasized how important it is with the border crossing cooperation. In the recently finished SMICE-project they had Norway and Trøndelag as partners and Maja stated that it was absolutely important to speed up the process, see new trends and deepen the knowledge. She also stated that TRUST is an important factor when introducing something “new”. In SMICE they focused a lot on the innovation support system but also on changes at a policy- and regional level, in example working with the regional development strategy. One concrete result from the project is that they helped the Swedish Agency for Economical and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) to develop a Circular Business Model Canvas, a circular business modeling tool. Download the circular business model canvas for free here.   

It is evident that Circular Business Modeling is not the issue of one sector, all sectors that have the knowledge and experience must help to promote the shift and close the knowledge gap – no matter if you are an entrepreneur, business developer or researcher!

Blogpost by:
Amanda Mannervik, Strukturum (Se)
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF (No)

Circular Economy – an introducing workshop

In april 2020 the Swedish GRUDE-team held a first (online) workshop about Circular Economy to introduce the topic. Here are some highlights that we would like to lift up and remember from the workshop.

What is Circular Economy?
Ann-Sofie Granzell, founder of the Swedish Circular Economy network CirEko (where Strukturum are members) gave us a thourough introduction to the topic. In short, Circular Economy is an economical system designed to keep resources in the loop, instead of todays linear economy where we buy-use-throw away most products. Something that was also new to some participants is the horrible fact that the average Swedish person consumes like we have 4.3 planet Earths!

Plenty of information and inspiration for you who wants to learn more can be found at Ellen MacArthur foundation, who works with educating in Circular Economy since several years. A good introduction too the topic that they have made is this short video:

Re-thinking progress by Ellen MacArthur foundation.

Circular Business Models
Depending on whom you ask they would call this five models different things but one example of the models could be described like this:
1. Prolonging the lifecycle (ie upcycling, repairing, maintenance, spare parts)
2. Product as a service (buying “light”, not a lamp or “the hole in the wall” instead of a screwdriver)
3. Renewables (to allready in production design for circularity, using renewable materials etc)
4. Optimize product performance, energy effiency etc
5. Resource efficiency (ie deliver a service that connects the user with owner or need with solution, sharing platforms etc)
Sharing Economy is also a part of Circular Economy, introducing a new (or really old?) view of ownership.

Breakout rooms
After the presentation we had discussions in breakout rooms on what we allready see as excisting circular economy related businesses and services where we live, but also what solutions we think are lacking/what we would like to see. We got some examples on allready excisting companies and NGO:s around in Norrbotten County but also a lot of wishes about a future with more circular services both from companies as well as public sector. Repairing services was frequently mentioned as something the participants would like to see more of in their local communities (both for bikes, clothing, snowmobiles etc). Circular business models was interesting to many, which we followed up with an education on the business development tool, Circular Business Model Canvas.

Sharing Economy, summary of Swedish workshop autumn 2020

Better late than never! Here comes a summary of the Swedish workshop on Sharing Economy that was carried out in the autumn 2020. Since the workshop was held we have gotten rumours about workplaces in Jokkmokk that practices sharing and clothes-swopping amongst the collegues and also the local group for the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) informed in their newsletter that they gladly help out if you are interested to learn more about sharing and how to get started at your workplace or in your neighbourhood in example.

Sharing Economy is part of the Green – and Circular Economy and there are many ways to organize the sharing. We took help from five experienced keynotes to give us some ideas on what it could look like. Philip Näslund from Sharing City Umeå told us what the Municipality of Umeå is doing to try out and pave way for different kind of sharing initiatives. Marcel Berkelder is one of the cofounders of “Bråns utrustningsfond” which is a sharing platform that the inhabitants in the village of Brån in Vännäs Municipality (Västerbotten County) has created together and that has lived for many years now. Ola Degerfors, founder of the commercial sharing platform Hygglo gave us some impressive numbers on how many idle machines there are around the households in Sweden and why it’s so important to rent and share instead of buying something new.
Peter Parnes, co-founder of the creative meeting space and NGO Makerspace Luleå told us how its possible to create a Makerspace even on smaller location and was very transparent on their financing model. Besides sharing tools and knowledge Peter described that one of the main reasons they exist is to make the world more equal – young girls should also have the opportunities to get interested about programming, building and creating. Sofia Bystedt, the creative leader at Re:tuna galleria told us the impressing story about how it was possible to launch the worlds first recycling mall. The municipal inhabitants donate their unwanted belongings to the sortings station and then all the products get new life by redesign, upcycling or reuse in one of the many shops that are run by independent entrepreneurs in the mall.

Sharing Economy in the rural north
Yes, some of the obstacles are obvious, like that it’s harder to reach a critical mass for a certain type of service or that it’s harder to find exactly that thing you want within reach in your village. BUT, on the other hand people living in rural areas are generally historically more used to help each other out and therefore the mental obstacles to overcome could maybe be smaller. One thing that also speaks against Sharing Economy in rural areas in the north is that we (according to Philip at Umeå Municipality) are so used to be able to take care of ourselves and that we therefore need some kind of cultural change in this behaviour.
One trend watch that was given was that the sharing platform AirBnb has increased their presence in rural areas during the pandemia.

After listening to the keynotes we had a discussion amongst the participants, following a set of questions. One thing that they highlighted as an obstacle is that we in the Nordic countries generally are so wealthy and therefore our incentives on sharing are quite small. Also that the law rather supports consumption than sharing today – but change is on its way regarding that!

Evaluation of the workshop
The participants rated 4.3 on a 1-5 scale on if their knowledge on Sharing Economy has increased during the workshop. The question if they got inspired to share more also got a 4.3 on the 1-5 scale.

Shared mobility services also seems to be something of interest here – we will keep that in mind for future workshops and seminars!

Sustainable Arctic Societies – Towards a Circular Economy

GRUDE Greennovation Camp Event was operated by GRUDE Swedish partner STRUKTURUM and it was full of inspiring topics, keynotes, ideas and motion. This online event left no-one cold as the participants got to enjoy not just interesting keynote speeches but also some physical yoga exercises and see the outcome, the results of the workshop moments illustrated before their eyes.

Energy Boost of the day was presented by Ylva Maria Pavval who got all the participants to stand up and do some yoga. Stretching and taking deep breaths was very welcomed before starting such an exciting morning sitting still listening to the keynotes.

Briefly about the keynotes,

Laura Vidje, sustainability consultant from Elva Hållbara, shared her views on the big picture of external analysis on circular economy for the public sector in Norbotten. It´s all about rethinking and redesigning.
Reduse. Reuse. Recycle. Dispose.
These points stand for all production of goods and materials. Laura made the point quite clear, “nature´s cycle is already looping, nature doesn´t have the problem of design. People do”.  The system needs changes and solutions could be online education and circular business models. Emphasis in municipalities should be put to procurement of refurbished IT as an example.

The illustration describes details of Laura´s presentation

Susie Jahren, Circular Economy Lead and Senior Business Developer from SINTEF Norway, described different aspects of jobs, economy and emissions in the Norwegian circular economy. Susie talked about what if scenarios as a result in value and job creation study. Susie processed the lifecycle of personal electronics, what if they were longer lasting? And how could you prolong the durability of these goods? Maybe by leasing or sharing them? Instead of buying new equipment the life time of existing equipment could be prolonged by repair services. This angle would offer the greatest value creation potential in the service industry.

The illustration describes details of Susie´s presentation

Leena Vuotovesi from Micropolis, municipality of Ii gave the audience some concrete tools on how to tackle climatic change with economical benefit. Municipality of Ii has invested on resource efficiency and circular economy with carbon neutrality, zero waste and avoiding over consumption. Their method is pretty much similar as heard on Laura´s presentation:
Reuse. Redo. Recreate.
Ii produces and consumes only renewable energy, wants to include all the citizens in the climatic change tackle and utilises shared economy platforms as well as clean traffic such as leasing electric cars powered by wind and solar energy. The municipality believes in three driving forces of managing the power of an arctic society: commitment, trust and belief. These local solutions to global challenges have had an impact on the city budget worth over 2M€ annually, cuts on city taxation 1,5% and 80 new jobs on energy sector. Leena asks “How can you NOT afford to invest on climate work?”

The illustration describes details of Leena´s presentation

Weine Wiqvist from Swedish Delegation for Circular Economy introduced the delegation and a national strategy of circular economy in Sweden. The delegation is a coordinating forces between different activities of the society, businesses and public organizations for example. The delegation is an advisory body of the government and works with different expert groups encouraging the overall cooperation. The academia, industry and rural angles are to be taken into consideration. The delegation´s priorities are plastics, public procurement and design. Circular economy requires involvement of many parties, agencies, organisations and individuals.  

The illustration describes details of Weine´s presentation

The keynote speakers got to answer some questions after their presentations during a panel discussion. The idea was to dig a bit deeper and hear some details and concrete ideas on how to move forward and what to do, where to start in municipalities.

Energy break lead the participants to orientate into working in teams and creatively as the next stage of the event was the workshopping stage. The participants got to imagine what would an ideal municipality look like if a) a miracle had happened and b) there are no obstacles.

Workshop stage

All the groups got to contemplate the same question: How can we create a change towards sustainability in rural arctic societies?

The question was framed with sectors:

On public sector dialog and networks between different stakeholders was found important. A mutual arena for discussions is needed and tools for efficient communications would be appreciated. Decision making in both public and private sectors needs courageous testing and awareness to lead the change of mindset and attitudes.   

Research and education can offer system thinking and solving centers bringing together universities, businesses and municipalities. Students should have sustainability and circular economy angles added into every field of their studies and young people in rural areas need support and mentoring for starting their own businesses.

Civil society point of view brings together people of all ages, voices of children, students and elderly need to be heard and taken into consideration. Spaces such as empty real estates could become casual meeting points for discussion, living room for municipalities´ and cities´ own societies.   

Business & business supporters need comprehensive networks in rural communities. Calculated risks need to be taken to foster cross sectional collaboration. New technology and applications can help lead businesses towards sustainability. This and new focus on the possibilities of change will offer new possibilities to local economy.

Finally, people need to learn more about their regions and just love living there.

The BigBrain Agency illustrators were with us during the day making amazing illustrations of every stage of the day. These illustrations present the results of each stage of our Greennovation Camp and classify each idea into a poster like picture.

Join the Greennovation Camp atmosphere and sense the inspiring feeling of the event by listening to the recording of the event and all the keynotes here:

Sini Yli-Suvanto, Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Reporter of the day


Virtual workshop 2020-11-11

Norway has completed its first workshop. The objective of this workshop was exchange of experience and discussion about whether, and possibly how work with sustainability can help to create attractive local communities where people want to live». Including issues such as «what does it take to create willingness to live and attractiveness in local communities?», and «what are the biggest challenges to get people to settle down in the rural districts?».

Some of the biggest and most central issues when recruiting young people to the districts are the lack of leisure facilities, transport facilities and jobs. These factors are challenges, at the same time as they are essential to create the attractiveness and willingness to live in the districts. This is paradoxical, and the question: «What came first – the chicken or the egg? » is a highly relevant question within this issue. Should the inhabitants initiate measures to attract newcomers, and hope for them to stay there and maintain these measures? Or should newcomers move from the urban cities to the districts, without preconditions about neither work or school- and kindergarten offers, just to hope for it to develop gradually?

Among the participants at the workshop there was a general understanding of the importance of access to relevant jobs to attract people from the big cities. One problem is that positions often are not advertised on the open market, but rather through contacts and networks. Newcomers, without acquaintances in the region, may find it challenging to know who to get in contact with. Active municipalities that follow up the business community and initiate companies to recruit new employees to the region, is essential.

How can work with sustainability help create attractive local communities where people want to live? The work on sustainability and the transition to a circular economy can help create housing in the districts by helping to create new jobs. Young, educated employees see sustainable workplaces as highly attractive and many apply to companies that operate responsibly and focus on sustainability. Sustainability thus has a marketing value for companies and the whole community – a factor that can attract people to the districts. If attractive jobs are created, with sustainability in focus, this can contribute to graduates wanting to move to the district. A circular economy, which makes better use of resources, can lead to more innovative business models and new jobs.

This workshop has provided many suggestions that may be interesting to follow up further, including: (1) Can the digitalisation boom we have seen during the pandemic make it easier for people to move to the district? (2) What types of marketing tools can be used to market the region as well as attract more people than today? (3) Can more focus on cooperation and networking – across sectors and disciplines – attract people to the districts? We look forward to more discussions about sustainability and attractiveness in the future.

Article by:
Frida Hansen, UiT (NO)
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF Nord (NO)
Kine Jakobsen, SINTEF Nord (NO)

LECO – Local Energy Communities and a pilot in Vuollerim, Jokkmokk

Today, the 11th of November 2020, the EU-project LECO – Local Energy Communities had their final conference. Silva Herrmann, Project Manager at Jokkmokk Municipality presented the LECO toolkit and some examples of useful tools open for everyone to use, including templates for strategic plans and business plans. All the project material can be found here until five years after the project. Use it!

One of the pilots that was made in the project took place in the village of Vuollerim in Jokkmokk Municipality in Sweden. A result from that is that the community members in Vuollerim are discussing ways forward to create a solar park together in the community as well as a joint procurement of air-to-air heatpumps. See the pilot video below.

Well done LECO and hopefully your project knowledge finds its way out there to many more!

Greennovation Camp 9.9.2020 workshop group 3

Environmentally aware citizen makes sustainable decisions

The megatrend cards lead the group to discuss the versatile aspects of arctic bioenergy and megatrends.

Concentration of the population in a small number of areas megatrend inspired the group to contemplate the current situation in Northern rural areas. As the population tends to concentrate in a few large growth centres, other regions will face a decline in population and a growing proportion of senior citizens. How can we keep the younger generation in these regions and maintain the required basic services for both families and ageing population? At the same time, we need take into consideration vitality of regional economics and entrepreneurship. Regional decision makers have challenging times ahead as vital decisions need to be made to support regional and local economy.

Internationalism versus nationalism and excessive consumption and variable availability of resources megatrends lead the group to acknowledge that for example tourism sector in Finland is highly dependent on international tourists and the logistics such as flight connections that enable tourists to travel to distant locations. We depend on international contracts but simultaneously we need to create new business models to support local entrepreneurship and local production. On larger scale circular economy aspects need to be considered when manufacturing goods and services. The product lifecycle and sustainable service design includes all stages of the cycle. When designing products, the recyclability is an essential factor. The losses need to be minimised and utilised.

How to be responsible consumer? or responsible local business? or responsible global business? The group came up with “an environmentally aware citizen” who only consumes something that can be recycled and avoids purchasing unnecessary goods and overconsumption. Environmentally aware citizen behaves responsibly and makes energy saving choices to preserve the environment. When discussing energy production, the group realized that renewable is not always sustainable. Since we are running out of fossil fuels it´s axiomatic to produce energy from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydropower. This is though not necessarily sustainable way of energy production. When considering energy solutions, the question is not solely the origin of energy but also the consumption of energy. This is when the environmentally aware citizen steps into the picture, not to mention regional and local decision makers and businesses. Small problems can be solved locally and simultaneously keeping in mind that overconsumption of any resources is not the sustainable solution.

The changing structures of work megatrend leads us to the environmentally aware citizen again. COVID-19 has forced us to study, work and socialize remotely. This is a new normal that also makes it possible to work from any location which can save energy, fuels and environment to some extent. New technologies become the absolute value as fast connections are needed also in remote regions to make working remotely efficient or possible for that matter. New technologies become vital also in terms of food and energy production. Self-suffiency is prerequisite when fighting global challenges such as pandemics but also when vitality of local economy becomes a priority. Keeping the value in small regions has a pervasive impact on the citizens of all generations on those regions. Flourishing local economy and prosperous businesses enable production of basic services to people of all ages.

Article by Sini Yli-Suvanto on behalf of Group 3 fasilitators:
Amanda Mannervik, STRUKTURUM, Sweden
Satu Ervasti, Natural Resources Institute Finland
Sini Yli-Suvanto, Lapland UAS, Finland