High material and energy prices are a threat to the competitiveness of European manufacturing industries.
But the high prices also present an opportunity to drive eco-innovation and improve resource efficiency.
Today, material consumption accounts for over 40% of the operating costs in a medium-sized manufacturing company. This rises to 50% when electricity, waste and wastewater treatment costs are added, whilst the average for personnel costs is only 20%.
Unlocking the Potential for Innovation and increased Profitability
For manufacturing industries, recycling and resource efficiency can unlock the potential for innovation, growth and higher profitability in three respects:
1. Process efficiency: Reduction of waste, optimisation of operating fluids and improvement of cleaning and conditioning processes;
2. Product design: Dimensions, weight, components or packaging can all have an impact on resource consumption, product life-time and recyclability;
3. Value chain optimisation: Integrated approaches to inputs of raw materials, outputs of finished products, by-products and waste, transport and storage, packaging resources and recyclability of packaging wastes.
In Germany, the Impulse Programme Material Efficiency gathered experiences from more than 700 Potentiality Analyses that had been carried out since 2006. These showed that, on average, 2% of SMEs’ turnover can be transformed into profit by simply using fewer resources.
Innovation Vouchers for Resource Efficiency
REMake is a public-private partnership, which is designing and testing innovation vouchers that enable companies to discover in a hands-on fashion how material efficiency measures and life-cycle approaches increase their profitability. The voucher schemes that are being implemented in the REMake partner countries and regions enable SMEs to access assistance from external experts in as simple a way as possible.
At the German partner, demea, the REMake voucher begins with an online self-assessment after which the voucher can be printed and used to commission someone from the large pool of demea consultants. The voucher scheme was launched in September 2010 and will close in July 2011. So far, 35 vouchers have been awarded.
In the UK, the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) is testing the REMake vouchers with 30 manufacturing SMEs. This voucher call opened in February 2011 and will finish in March 2012. “The REMake project is set to create a significant impact on Welsh manufacturing industry by helping to reduce the amount of waste that manufacturers in Wales send to landfill and by encouraging them to reduce their reliance on virgin materials,” says Beth Winkley, WRAP Cymru’s Programme Manager.
Voucher systems have also been set up in France, in Milan, Italy and the Spanish regions of Navarra and Valencia. Navarra opened its call in February to provide Potentiality Analyses for 20 companies and the call in Valencia opened on 24 May with a similar scope.
This article was originally published in Europe INNOVA Newsletter SPARKS