Circular Economy Innovation and Investment: Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland

Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland, blogs about how the shift to a circular economy represents a massive opportunity for Scottish SMEs.

We’re fond of saying that Scotland is a nation of inventors and innovators. And through its circular economy ambitions, new ideas and processes are gaining a momentum worthy of the country’s pioneering heritage.

The roll call of Scots inventors who famously changed the world through their vision range from steam engine pioneer James Watt to John Logie Baird, one of the inventors of the television.

The circular economy offers a new, longer-term sustainable model for business: designing products more smartly, remanufacturing and reprocessing to create new products from old, and repairing what we can – all to keep products and materials within the economy for as long as possible.

Moving towards a more circular economy is an environmental imperative, reducing reliance on scarce raw materials to make new products and preventing products going to waste while they still have a value.

It’s a lucrative business opportunity. Across Europe, shifting towards a more circular economy could generate £1.4 trillion of annual benefits by 2030. And what’s more, circular models can help ‘future proof’ companies, protecting against volatile supply chains and helping them stay competitive.

Opportunities in the circular economy are huge for people with new ideas, and investment is available in Scotland to help take transformative new business models forward.

Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Economy Business Support Service offers bespoke one-to-one support designed to help small to medium-sized (SME) businesses identify and implement circular business models and opportunities. The work we have done with businesses to date tells us more circular approaches can result in improved profitability, higher quality products, increased customer base and alternative supply chains for future business.

Meanwhile the £18 million Circular Economy Investment Fund, administered by Zero Waste Scotland and aimed at SMEs, is specifically targeted to deliver circular economy growth. Both the Fund and Service are backed by funds from the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

We at Zero Waste Scotland are already out there supporting transformative change. We co-fund the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture as a centre of excellence to increase innovation in remanufacturing – a sector that contributes £1.1 billion per year to Scotland’s economy and has the potential to grow by a further £620 million by 2020.

To date the institute has funded 32 collaborations between industry and academia investigating technical challenges around remanufacturing, and enabling these companies to identify opportunities for remanufacture in their operations.

We’ll be showcasing our circular economy support at Venturefest in September, and look forward to meeting with businesses keen to benefit from Scotland’s sustainable economic prospects.

In Scotland, we’re already seeing circular economy business ideas take off. Several businesses that have benefitted from Zero Waste Scotland’s expert Business Support Service are reaching commercialisation of circular economy products and services – including innovative models such as beer from bread and leasing light.

For individual businesses, the circular economy is an opportunity that boosts resilience, meets increasing customer demand for sustainability, fosters collaboration, and above all enables businesses to grow.

Speak to us about how your idea can help drive Scotland’s circular economy revolution.

Zero Waste Scotland is Scotland’s circular economy expert. Our goal is to help Scotland realise the economic, environmental and social benefits of making best use of the world’s limited natural resources. To find out more visit



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