Circular economy – a real opportunity

Chronicle · Erik Bresky, processledare på Smart Textiles · 2018-11-29

When I visited companies a few years back and talked about the circular economy, many thought that it seemed abstract. This is no longer the case. Today, I am met with great curiosity and also an awareness that we must leave the throwaway culture behind us. At the same time, there is uncertainty surrounding circular economy in practice – how can it be implemented in my business?

Repairs, upgrades and the recycling of materials create profitability in a servitised business model. The customer does not pay to own a machine but rather to get a job done – “to sell the hole, not the drill”. For those who offer a particular service, every finished job involves a deal. The longer a machine or tool can be used, the greater the gain.

The development within private car leasing is an interesting example. An increasing number of people are choosing to rent a car because they are uncertain of the resale value, partly because of emissions scandals and political regulations that change over time. This shift means that there is a much stronger incentive for the car to run smoothly for a long time.

The traditional industrial systems are based on the sale of new products, although we are now seeing a possible shift. We can now create a longer service life for our products, whether it is a textile or a technical detail. Digitalisation also offers new conditions for updates, preventative maintenance, repairs and recycling.

New business models and new technical possibilities that can be exploited in cooperation with others. For example, at Smart Textiles, we have begun to look at how collaborative robots can be used in the textile industry. A natural next step is to link Automation Region’s and Robotdalen’s networks to the textile industry.

A cross-industry perspective is a prerequisite for meeting the societal challenges that lie ahead. There is also a great need for environments that can inspire and help companies to progress. Here, iHubs – which brings together all of Vinnova’s Vinnväxt initiatives – can function as an enabler and open the door to new collaborations and constellations.

When HUI Research announces that its Christmas Gift of the Year is a recycled garment, it sends an exciting message that it is not only relevant to us within the textile industry. The circular economy is not about “greenwashing”; rather, it entails a real opportunity to do profitable business, with greater care for the earth’s resources.

Erik Bresky
Process Manager at Smart Textiles