Scaling up the circular economy!

The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF2019) was held in Helsinki 3-4.6.2019. It was the third time this international Forum was organized by SITRA to bring circular economy enthusiastic together to share knowledge, ideas, thoughts and real-life cases on how countries, businesses and other agents have implemented circular economy from a concept to action. WCEF2019 aimed to scale circular economy up! What this means is that it is time to move from talking to action, it is time to move from local to global, it is time to move on from take-make-waste mentality and linear economic model to circular economy.

WCEF2019 had a broad range of international attendance with participants over 90 countries with over 2000 circular economy thinkers and doers. The program was dealing with circular economy issues in cities, governance, international trade, plastics, construction, investments and so forth. The program was really interesting, and it offered a lot of variety. The panel conversations were inspiring, and they offered more detailed insights for instance on plastics and new business opportunities. Carlsberg has an innovation that reduces drastically plastic use, when they use new glue innovation to keep cans together instead of using plastic wraps. The CEO of Carlsberg said that this does not solve all, but this is a good example of business opportunity when thinking and implementing circular economy practices. Another example was by company Tomra which offers bottle and other waste sorting machines and with their machines they sort over 40 billion bottles in a year. They are taking sorting to all over the Europe, some parts of Asia, Australia and USA. A brilliant example of business opportunity on a global scale.

Though, from the point of view of small and medium sized companies, the Forum did not offer as much as we hoped for. We believe that, even though politics and large companies are really important agents in scaling up the circular economy, SME´s in Finland are perhaps the most important change agents. They are the most numerous, they employ the most and they generate the most of new jobs and innovations. The view of entrepreneur was also missing. We believe that entrepreneurs are the real change agents. Besides that, entrepreneurs, especially with growth attitude, have a really important role in societies when implementing circular economy in to their businesses.

What now? Is circular economy still at the level of talk and not action? The answer is both. Certainly, circular economy is going forward in many ways with countries, businesses, third sector organizations, researchers and consumers. The attitudes are changing fast, consumers are demanding businesses to have new solutions and it was great to see that businesses are developing their business with customer-oriented way and they are engaging them into their value chains even more than now.

To conclude, the Forum offered insights on circular economy and the opportunities it offers in many industries. We also got info on circular economy and the effects on regulation, international trade and most importantly we got cases on business opportunities that are already in markets or are in the developing phase. Moreover, circular economy demands new innovations, new ways of thinking, agility to create and exploit the opportunities, that is, scaling up the circular economy!

Ville-Veikko Piispanen

Hanna Lehtimäki

CICAT2025-project is financed by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland. CICAT2025 aims to facilitate the transition from linear to circular economy. The project supports Finland’s strategic objective to become a global leader in circular economy by 2025. The project will work to identify measures hampering and supporting circular economy and search solutions for companies and regulators to support the transition to a circular economy.

Find more on CICAT2025:

Find more on WCEF2019: Cicat Logo Suomen Akatemia Logo Strateginen tutkimus

Strategic entrepreneurship – a key for business growth

Today, entrepreneurship raises a lot of interest in the society. Government decision makers see it as a vehicle for economic growth. Growth of small companies brings jobs and tax revenues and gives a boost of energy to the economic activity. While entrepreneurship is a solution to many macroeconomic challenges, it also opens up new and exciting opportunities to people who want to create something new.

Interestingly, most new companies that start out small also remain small through the whole lifespan. In fact, it is very rare that a small start-up grows into a large company. One explanation is that the majority of business start-ups are imitations of existing businesses in the matured industries. Another explanation is that start-ups are typically located in local markets, and therefore, their growth potential is limited. Yet one more explanation might be that many start-up entrepreneurs are not at all interested in business growth, instead, other aspects of being an entrepreneur motivate them.

But how about those entrepreneurs, who are growth oriented, what could be done to support their ambitions? Start-ups are agile in detecting and creating new opportunities, but upholding competitiveness is not in their best game.

Despite few in number, there are entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. One way to support these entrepreneurs is to guide them into strategic entrepreneurship. The core idea in strategic entrepreneurship is in balancing the competitive advantage seeking and business opportunity creation when making business decisions.

I found in my doctoral thesis that the best way to balance between competitive advantage seeking and business opportunity creation sequentially is to alternate the emphasis on one or the other over time or to create an organization so that different people look into one or the other.

My study shows that there is a great but underutilized potential in the Finnish entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs show great resilience in pursuing renewal even in difficult financial times and show commitment to their business ideas in the face of many challenges they face. There is a great growth potential in the Finnish entrepreneurial field. With support on strategic entrepreneurship, we could see many more growth oriented start-ups and read many more exciting success stories on business growth.

Ville-Veikko Piispanen, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus. Adm.)


Title of Doctorate thesis

Strategic Entrepreneurship in Small Business Context
Supervisor: Professor Päivi Eriksson