‘Start-ups and spin-offs make the wheels of circular economy turn’

‘Start-ups and spin-offs make the wheels of circular economy turn’

At the Circular@WUR conference (April, 2022), a workshop took place on the crucial role of start-ups in the transition towards a circular biobased and climate-proof society. The workshop was organized by Corporate Value Creation  of Wageningen University & Research supported by the Thematic Technology Transfer (TTT) program ‘Circular Technology’, a collaboration between the  4 technical universities in The Netherlands and TNO.

To kick off, two speakers started by setting the scene; Maurits Burgering and Gitte Schober argued “particularly these agile new and knowledge intensive ventures are able to actually achieve concrete results with their dedicated entrepreneurship and often they realize the necessary breakthroughs to get the transition moving,”. Maurits added that “more often we see that startups and spin-off teams make a huge difference in society, due to the disruptive technologies they develop”.

The interactive workshop continued with inspiring contributions by entrepreneurs from Time Travelling Milkman, FUMI Ingredients and MEZT. All three invited start-ups come out of the Wageningen & 4TU entrepreneurial ecosystem and they joined the discussion panel for sharing their insights and challenges. After elaborating on their sustainable solutions and introducing their business, the audience and the panel started a lively discussion guided by the skillful moderator Anja Sinke.  Consensus was identified in the lumbering law and legislation as a main barrier for start-ups succeeding in the circular economy. Present legislation is an obstacle for successful adoption of sustainable innovations to market. Disruptors are changing the rules of the game and our national and EU legislation is simply not able to keep up with the pace. Which is very troublesome, as we, as a society, need these disruptive innovations to accelerate sustainability and serve the health of our planet without exhausting its natural resources.

For breaking through these barriers, the panel, speakers and audience concluded that it is important not to lobby as individuals, but as collective. Structural collaboration between policy makers, corporate partners, facilitators and impact investors in programs such as TTT provides a congruent message that is exemplified by the active involvement of the network around the start-up ecosystem. And this movement is currently starting to set sail; vivid examples are e.g., the waiver of EFSA rules for the use of insects as alternative protein sources. Similar things are happening around cell-cultured meat.

To conclude, giving the floor to start-ups, spreading the word and communicating about promising, innovative circular solutions clearly contributes to an accelerated transition towards a circular economy. The discussion during the workshop made clear that structural collaboration in the ecosystem around innovative solutions is key for an accelerated transition. So, join forces and act now because innovative solutions and legislations that foster them are needed right away.

Do you have an innovative idea with application potential and would you like to explore the possibilities of bringing this idea to practice (as a service, product, tool or another value creation route)? Don’t hesitate to reach out to valuecreation@wur.nl or get in contact with Maurits Burgering or Gitte Schober.


Smart Industry

Nico Nijenhuis


Circular Technology

Maurits Burgering



Esther Rodijk


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