Wallonia faces the Plastics Challenge head-on

Spadel shares expertise in supporting role

The Region of Wallonia – home to SPA and BRU – is seeking to support and further develop the circular economy. In a bid to help SMEs and startups innovate in the transition towards a circular economy, Wallonia has launched its Plastics ‘go green and circular’ Challenge. Olivia Grégoire, Public Sector Expert with Möbius Business Consulting, has been coordinating the initiative in collaboration with the Service Public de Wallonia, or SPW.

€150,000 in subsidies

Europe set itself the target of becoming the world’s first zero-emission economy back in 2017 in order to meet the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. In December 2019, it presented the European Green Deal. As the roadmap towards a sustainable economy, the Green Deal is a major driving force behind all manner of initiatives aimed at halting climate change. Under one of the many initiatives to boost local innovation, SPW was granted €150,000 to be divided over ten projects.

Challenges of Plastics

“As you can imagine, the challenges that come with reducing our use of plastic are manifold,” explains Olivia. “To find out exactly how widespread the problem is, we spoke with lots of different stakeholders, including corporates, civil society, the public sector and waste management/intercommunal organisations. From innovative sorting solutions to making bioplastics more readily available, we were impressed by the variety of problems and the inventiveness of proposed solutions.”

“SPW first launched a call to express interest in May 2020, from which we were able to distil the ten main challenges linked to reducing plastics in our economy. We then launched a callout for projects that propose an answer to these challenges. We’re in the third and final stage now, where we are supporting the chosen projects financially with €15,000 each and practically by helping them with market analyses, action plans, and so on.”

Strict Criteria

Nine projects were selected from the first round of proposals, and the final three projects will be announced at the beginning of December 2020. As this is a one-off initiative SPW wanted to make sure the selected projects were both realistic and achievable. To help them make a substantiated choice, the project teaminvited experts and industry stakeholders to join the jury. Franck Lecompte, Innovation and Sustainable Growth Director at Spadel, was one of the jurors.

“Creating a circular economy requires cooperation beyond the traditional borders. Spadel is happy to share its expertise to support innovative ideas, and help the transition towards circular packaging.”- Franck Lecomte, Head of Innovation and Sustainable Growth

“We were strict with our selection criteria,” continues Olivia. “We needed to see innovative solutions to the challenges presented. We also considered the level of maturity of the proposal, the quality of the business plan and the ability of the company to execute the concept. Time to market was another important consideration as we didn’t want projects that would be looking at years of R&D before being market ready. Most importantly, the environmental impact has to be significant.”

Olivia Grégoire

“Innovation alone is not enough. Proposals need to be realistic, achievable and be relatively quick to bring to market.” – Olivia Grégoire

Realistic Solutions

It was important that members of the jury came from a variety of backgrounds explains Olivia. “After scoring the project proposals, the jury met to discuss individual projects. It was hugely interesting, as everybody brought a different point of view. A plastics expert, for example, might see a future in the technology behind a proposal, but if it’s not realistic from a business point of view then the project’s viability needs to be reconsidered. This is where the experience of partners such as Spadel comes in. Their commercial expertise and insights can really help project leaders move forward.”

With both startups and established organisations winning grants for their proposals, the Region is looking forward to seeing the results of these innovative projects. The Challenge Plastics ‘go green and circular’ may be coming to an end in May 2021, but SPW has other ways of supporting innovation in the industry says Olivia. “Wallonia is actively supporting organisations in the transition towards the circular economy. There are all sorts of pilot projects taking place. The Plastics Challenge is just one of our initiatives, but it’s a great way of getting people thinking about the practicalities of the circular economy. But above all, we hope the Plastics Challenge will deliver great value to both the market and our environment.”

To find out which projects made the cut, visit the SPW Plastics Challenge website.