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Towards Sustainable Circular Business Models

The 6th Network Training Event took place on-site at Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands, from the 17th of October till the 20th of October. The theme of this NTE was “Plastics in a Circular Economy”.

The first day of NTE-6 started with a team-building activity of the ESRs which consists of a question-reply game to help the ESRs to get to know each other better.

Afterwards the ESRs had the opening session “Introduction to Sustainable and Circular Business Models” given by Dr. Boukje Huijben. Dr. Huijben gave the ESRs an introduction to business models, which tools can be used and what sustainable business models can be. For sustainable business models there needs to exist a balance between environmental, social and economic aspects. Circular business models are currently a new and emerging topic and one of the important factors that needs to be taken into account is the rebounding effect, i.e., a negative consequence of applying circular economy. The difference between closing and slowing business models was also discussed with some examples.

Next, the first day of the workshop on business models took place. The first day consisted of the group formation and definition of a potential business model. The ESRs needed to think of a business case and complete a Canvas Model during this workshop.

Day 1 ended with a social dinner at 1910 Restaurant, a great opportunity for the ESRs and supervisors to interact and relax a bit after the first day.

Day 2 started with the microteaching session of ESR 4, Alejandro Fonseca, on production of sustainable and recyclable phosphorus flame retardant additives. Alejandro explained the need of substituting the current brominated flame retardants to non-toxic, biodegradable and recyclable alternatives, such as phosphours-based flame retardants. In his work, Alejandro created a one-step process to synthesise phosphoramidates and tested different catalysts and process conditions (solvent, temperature, concentration). With his process high yields of phosphoramidates are obtained and the catalyst can be recovered and reused.

The next speaker, Prof. Dr. E.J.Nijssen, gave a lecture on Marketing & Business Models with focus on Entrepreneurial Marketing – How to develop customer demand. Professor Njissen explained why and how the customer side of the business model is critical, since radical innovation requires behavioural change and cognitions of the customer. Co-development with the customer at early stages of the business is important, this means, that the entrepreneur should engage and involve the customer and ask for their opinion/needs/suggestions during the design phase of the business. Professor Nijssen also explained the difference between marketing and sales, and how they are boundary functions. In simple words, sales convince the consumer to buy and marketing creates the conditions for the sales.

The lunch break followed and then the ESRs had a company excursion at Ioniqa guided by Dr. Egor Fufachev. Dr. Fufachev gave the ESRs an introduction to Ioniqa, which is a start-up spin-off company of TU Eindhoven working on glycolysis of PET. Currently, Ioniqa has a demonstration plant at Geleen, in the Netherlands. Next, the ESRs went on a tour to visit the Chemical Engineering Department of TU Eindhoven.

The second day finished with a dinner and bowling session, which was again a great opportunity for the ESRs to network.

The third day for the NTE kicked off with a micro-teaching from ESR 15 (Christina Kibuta) on the topic of Recycling of polymers from collected Ocean/beach plastics. She demonstrated in her presentation how plastics are produced in the first place from the very beginning with major raw material being just crude oil. She also presented the ESRs with information regarding the application of physical and chemical technologies to characterize beach and marine plastics based on their composition, presence of contaminants and physical/mechanical properties. She also showed her research plans for her project i.e to recover high-quality polymers from marine and/or beach plastics by identifying suitable collection systems for marine and beach plastic feeds, extraction and cleaning of target polymers from the bulk using innovative recycling technologies such as solvent-based purification and enrichment processes like Creasolv technology, employing and evaluating the effectiveness of chemical recycling technologies and to use analytical techniques such as GC-MS, HPLC-MS to determine the purity, quality and quantity of the recycled polymer.

After the micro-teaching Prof. dr. Ir. Jaap den Doelder delivered a deepening lecture on the topic: Industry view on plastics in a circular economy. The ESRs were introduced to several major trends that are reshaping the plastics and chemicals industry, which include the evolving roles and relationships within the plastics value chain, a renewed definition of competition and cooperation, and environmental, legislative, stakeholder, consumer, and societal pressures, among others. At the end of the lecture, the ESRs reflected on the potential changes each player on the plastics value chain needs to enact.

After the engaging and thought-provoking deepening lecture the ESRs continued with the workshop on Business models with Iteration no. 2. In this Iteration the ESRs chose their respective business models for the pitching and then discussed about all the essential elements that were required on the business canvas model for their collective group idea for business. All the groups came up with the ideas which were related to the theme of the NTE i.e., Plastics in a Circular Economy.

Third day ended with an interactive pitching training by pitching trainer Natalia Fokina. She demonstrated the differences between a bad and a good pitch and, she illustrated how to intrigue the audience in a short span of time while having an conversation. It was really an insightful session and it helped very much the ESRs in their final pitch which was planned for the next and final day of the NTE.

The final day of the NTE started with a hybrid session, at first an interesting deepening lecture was delivered by Prof. dr. Erik Paredis followed by engaging microteaching session by Nur Gizem Yalcin (ESR 13) on the topic Politics and governance in a circular plastics economy. The ESRs were taken on a helicopter view of sustainability and circularity and were introduced to the relevance of global inequality in perpetuating unsustainable consumption, leading to intertwined social and environmental challenges. Subsequently, the ESRs participate in a policy role-play, enacting various circular plastic discourses and engaging in a debate on a hypothetical policy for bioplastics.

After the exciting morning session, the ESRs continued their work within their groups for the final Pitch in the last workshop no. 4 of the NTE. The ESRs refined and finalized their business model idea and prepared script and presentation for the final Pitch. All 4 groups performed very well on their final pitch of 2 minutes. The pitches were evaluated by external judge Dirk van Meer after which the third group (consisting of Namrata, Amir, Nur and Christina) was selected as the winner.

The NTE concluded with the final Cool (Co-operative learning) activity for the ESRs where they discussed the execution of making final version of the Children’s book with the publishers of Supertime books.

The final closing remarks were then given by Dr. Boukje Huijben, thanking everyone who participated and all the members of organizing committee who helped in making this a successful NTE.

On the final evening, all ESRs organized a pizza night as their own social activity at Pizzeria La Vita and then said goodbye with a promise to see each other in the next and final NTE of the project at Greece in summer of 2023.


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