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The Circular by Design Challenge continues. Launched at the end of October at the initiative of the Luxembourg Creative Industries Cluster managed Luxinnovation, with the support of the Ministry of the Economy, the programme is aimed at facilitating the development of new design solutions and innovative business models that are in line with the principles of the circular economy.

Since the beginning of the year, the start-ups selected for the Circular By Design Challenge have been following a 12-week coaching programme which will end at the end of March.

The care and attention that the four head coaches gave individually to the participants was remarkable according to Marc Lis, the manager of the Creative Industries cluster. “They guided them or prepared them for the steering committees during which the candidates presented their project to the jury and the programme partners,” he explains. “It is fair to say that these four main coaches play an essential role in the success of this Circular by Design Challenge. Their mentorship, professionalism and inspiring approach have been essential in helping to refine the ten project ideas, but they have literally gone beyond that mission by helping to shape the first edition of this challenge”.

Following the feedback from the start-ups involved in this programme (read HERE and HERE), here are the points of view the four main coaches. They make up a multi-disciplinary team who support young entrepreneurs participating in the Challenge by sharing their expertise and advice.

Ina Budde: “An enriching collaboration”

Ina Budde holds a master’s degree in Sustainability in Fashion and is a stylist, lecturer and entrepreneur specialising in sustainable fashion. She is co-founder and CEO of circular.fashion, a specialised agency in Berlin.

in the context of the Circular by Design Challenge, she specifically supports the start-ups Nana & Rose (rental of sustainable maternity clothing), Masques Kombucha (face masks) and CareWear (sustainable baby clothing).

“Using our experience and tools, we try to introduce the holistic approach of system thinking and of strong sustainability and circularity criteria by advising the start-ups on circular materials and design strategies,” she explains. “The aim is to refine circular product journeys and recycling pathways for the products and services that the innovators have conceptualised.”

Satisfaction and enrichment: these are the two strong feelings that Mrs Budde retains from this coaching experience. “All these entrepreneurs are really rethinking industry and how they can go beyond existing solutions. It is an enriching collaboration to support the teams in embracing circularity and sustainability in every single aspect of their business.”

Jan Glas: “A great challenge”

With more than 25 years of experience as a designer and teacher, Jan Glas specialises in supporting SMEs and other organisations with innovation through design. He supports the start-up companies MiniCaps (reduction of plastics in caps) and YourGreenKit (circular packaging for meal deliveries).

“The opportunity to supervise two completely different projects is a great challenge for me, but also a valuable learning experience,” he explains. He is convinced that, in any case, “in the future, it will be impossible not to take circular principles into account”.

Each of two start-ups needed a very different type of support from Mr Glas. “The four people who work at YourGreenKit are very dynamic and smart. They are very curious and learn quickly. At the very beginning, they had very ambitious plans, but during the process, our discussions led to a much more realistic solution.”

As for MiniCaps, the challenge is to move from a relevant idea on paper to an economically viable implementation. “We can see very clearly in this project that, no matter how good the initial idea is, there are still many other aspects to consider before convincing the jury and potential investors.”

Samuel Majerus: “An impressive level”

Partner at Simon-Christiansen & Associés, Samuel Majerus specialises in the circular economy. He supports three start-ups in the field of mobility: Dotted-Cars (car-roaming platform), Dial-a-car-wash (on-demand, almost water-free car wash solution) and OurChoice (production of circular sneakers).

“Even for a first edition, the level of the candidates is quite impressive,” he says. “This confirms the growing interest in circular economy in our society. I feel honoured to be part of this challenge.”

During a few weeks, Mr Majerus could observe the motivation of the start-ups who are eager to learn and absorb all the input they receive from this programme. “In the short time since the beginning of the competition, the start-ups have evolved and developed their products in a very impressive way. Moreover, during the workshop on circular economy, I felt that they had a real interest and engagement. It is very refreshing to work with people who have the common goal of improving and learning about the circular economy.”

Jan Walter Parr: “An exciting dynamic”

Jan Walter Parr is the founder, partner and Chief Creative Officer at EGGS, a Norwegian innovation consultancy. He specifically follows the start-ups Capriole (sustainable coffee-based fertiliser) and Cego (circular workspace systems).

“This programme is a great experiment in bringing together different players to find new ways of working,” he says. “It creates an exciting dynamic where new knowledge is being created. And they are very motivated. So it’s promising!”

For Mr Parr, the enthusiasm of the two supported start-ups is a source of great satisfaction. “Their energy is at the heart of this whole initiative,” he says. “They both want to implement their ideas, but the circular economy can be a maze and it takes a great deal of stamina to end up with solutions that are both feasible, viable, and good for the world. So here’s a pat on the back! Keep on going!”

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