According to “European Commission in Sofia to discuss Circular Economy opportunities”-2018, it was emphasized that a structural reform of the waste management system will accelerate Bulgaria’s transition towards a more competitive circular economy focusing on significant business and employment opportunities in the good application of these polices, next to clear environmental benefits. According to the EU, Greece is also identified to as at risk of missing the target H2020 on waste management and competes in a world of increasingly scarce resources. In the context of this crisis, the partners from both countries decided to combine their knowledge, great experience and know how to implement CURCUIT with the purpose of promoting youth entrepreneurship by providing them support services to existing or new businesses in the field of circular economy.
Common challenges SMEs are facing:
1) Difficulties in obtaining business finance: the most common problem. CIRCUIT, through the info-points that will be set up in each participant town, will provide guidance and support to all interested stakeholders, on the funding tools and support mechanisms by exploring financial sources.
2) Limited access of entrepreneurs to a) business know-how & b) general information & contacts. The consortium is made up of experts on circular economy and entrepreneurship, able to transfer knowledge to people interested on business on a circular economy. CIRCUIT also proposes developing new entrepreneur/mentor networks to support young entrepreneurs, which is considered a key priority by the consortium.
3) Lack of support services for developing competitive products-services. CIRCUIT aims, through the staffed with experts info-points, to inform stakeholders on how to deal with and promote successful production of development products.
4) Lack of access/know-how regarding cost saving technologies. CIRCUIT provides all the required knowledge regarding new entrepreneurial technologies oriented in the field of circular economy through the implementation of its activities (business pre-incubators and incubators, business labs, info-points)
5) Inadequate human development and skills. The project’s experienced staff is always up-to-date and aware of the successive changes in management and development, keeping stakeholders informed about the new technologies, trends and innovative applications needed in the business development model to stay in the flow and be ready for the new demands that may arise.
6) Insufficient customer awareness of the green products’ value. CIRCUIT through its activities/dissemination will keep people aware of the circular economy’s benefits, inform them about the production of green products and services and try to convince them that the circular economy approach is the way forward.
Studies show that companies who prioritize innovation are those who experience the highest increase in turnover; some 79% of companies that introduced at least 1 innovation since 2011 experienced an increase of their turnover by more than 25%, according to the European Commission. CIRCUIT’s innovation points:
1) It combines entrepreneurship among young people at the age of 18-35 with circular economy, dealing the fact that they are reluctant to take on business as owners.
2) Practices in entrepreneurship on circular economy are themselves an innovation. The production process, the process of providing services and the customer service process is based on the concept of protecting the environment and minimizing the impact of the production process on the environment.
3) The training of young participants will be done through the extensive use of digital media (Website, Business Platform, pre-incubators & incubators, business labs).
4) It highlights that entrepreneurship is based on the innovative three-tier “knowledge, skills, attitude”.
Participation of 3 different categories of participants in the project:
1) In the project’s Activities: young people (age 18-35) with an interest in entrepreneurship on circular economy, selected by the “Open Call of Participants”.
2) Indirectly involved in the project’s activities (e.g. through the participation in International Fairs): around 2000, but the partners, through their networks, are able to multiply their involvement.
3) In the Survey that will be carried out based on the project’s results with questionnaires to be answered by young people (age 18-35) in order to collect as much data as possible.