Wed 16 Jan

Live Case 1: Exploring the Circular Economy model in Gloucestershire

In Gloucestershire, a range of new policies are emerging that affect the way that urban-rural relations in the county will develop, and that are pertinent to the Communities of Practice. Key policies include:

  • the Industrial Strategy, which highlights regional competitive advantage and plans for a high-skills economy;
  • the Resources & Waste Strategy, that aims to maximise value flows by reducing waste and reusing materials;
  • and the Agriculture Bill, which links the enhancement of natural capital, including through food production, to future agricultural subsidy.

More locally, the public consultation around the "Gloucestershire 2050 vision" has devised possibilities for economic growth, environmental enhancement and urban expansion. Such policies are explicitly connected to ambitions for a circular economy. They envisage a reduction in food waste, maximising values and lifecycles of materials, and ensuring that rural and urban benefits emerge from land management. We will therefore focus our Living Lab around the question: how viable is a Circular Economy (CE) model of growth and prosperity in Gloucestershire? In terms of our Communities of Practice we anticipate that the Living Lab will test, for example:

  • How the use of contracts in public and private food procurement could reduce food waste and support supplier conformation
  • What existing CE attributes, such as joint ordering, designing for component reuse, and social investment of profits are evident in local businesses, and how their adoption be expanded
  • Possibilities for flood and water authorities to incentivise rural land managers in practices that reduce urban flood risks.

Catalysting change in the region

Our Living Lab aims to be responsive to user needs and integrate with existing policy developments to ensure co-operation by local actors, and be radical in its focus on circular economy.

Local versions of the strategies outlined will need to be prepared. Our Living Lab work can inform these processes. In addition, a Living Lab-of-sorts has taken place in the form of Gloucestershire 2050 vision. This has been a lengthy public consultation process that encouraged citizens, firms and institutions to visualise and discuss interventions which might benefit the county’s future economy and environment. Examples include a new River Severn crossing and substantial urban expansion. The 2050 Vision currently makes little mention of food, and many of the development objectives of the vision are centred on ‘hard’ developments – housing, motorway connectivity and industry clusters. The Living Lab could help, for example, by emphasing the interdependence of town and countryside.

In summary, we see the Living Lab as an independent process which is both highly complementary to policy development in the county, but able to focus on specific urban-rural functions by testing opportunities for changes in governance.

Challenges

One current challenge is the uncertainty linked to Brexit. Setting this aside, we note that policy frameworks for the county seem linked to conventional metrics such as productivity, Gross Value Added and workforce retention. New indicators will be needed to track progress towards the circular economy that can be embedded in policy processes.

It will be important that (i) the Living Lab tackles innovation needs, rather than discusses problems linked to particular industry arenas; (ii) the Living Lab proceeds on the basis of evidence generated in response to research needs identified in the Living Lab process; and (iii) the Living Lab leads to realistic and tangible results and indicates future directions beyond ROBUST’s timeframe.

Related Communities of Practice

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ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

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