Iceland maintains an advantage in environmentally friendly solutions

The business accelerator Hringiða will be held for the second time this spring, but it is a project organized by KLAK - Icelandic Startups and the accelerator is dedicated to the circular economy. 

Kristín Soffía Jónsdóttir, executive director of KLAK, says that the discussion about the circular economy has gained a lot of momentum, as it is a concept that unites many groups and many issues of struggle. "When sustainability and environmental issues come up, you can often hear voices of criticism that consider the approach out of touch with the real economy and the announced solutions not much more than the interests of the most financially powerful companies; that ordinary people, companies and entrepreneurs have other things to think about and need to own up. But the circular economy is based on a different vision and is not least about creating new jobs and creating value."

As a good example of what the circular economy approach can achieve, Kristín mentions the success that has been achieved in the utilization of by-products in the Icelandic fishing industry. "There, the policy was made to make full use of the catch, and as a result, new companies were created that produce collagen, medicines and medical products from raw materials that were previously almost worthless. This strong focus on minimizing waste is also reflected in the fish processing solutions of companies such as Marels, who designed automatic solutions to process the fish even better and at the same time create a better and more valuable product."

Kristín says that in many parts of Icelandic business life and society, the circular economy is just starting to take shape and countless business and innovation opportunities are just around the corner. "There is a lot of value in all kinds of resources that we are not fully utilizing, and for example, Terra environmental service estimates that Iceland will lose around 9,000 jobs due to underutilized opportunities in the circular economy."

Be prepared to receive European funds

Hringiða sets the goal high and Kristín says that they are mainly looking for medical and knowledge professionals who deal with deep technology or high technology and boast innovation in their solutions and implementations. "We want to see projects that are more advanced, and we are especially looking for projects or companies that define themselves on the TRL scale as "4+", i.e. they already have a prototype for a new product." 

Hringiða's sponsors are Orkuveita Reykjavíkur, the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, the City of Reykjavík, Sorpa, Terra, Faxaflóahafnir, the Confederation of Industry and Ölgerðin. 

At the end of the accelerator, the participants should be able to apply for European grants, including the LIFE program, which is an EU cooperation program based on the concept of the circular economy. Up to ten teams will be selected for the accelerator, but the deadline to apply is April 4. Both individuals and start-ups can participate in the accelerator, but also cycle-related projects within companies or institutions. 

Insland has an advantage that needs to be maintained

"We also see the accelerator as a collaboration platform for circular companies in Iceland, where individuals from companies and organizations can meet other people who are passionate about and work within the circular economy," says Kristín, adding that there are really interesting business opportunities in this area: "Environmental and climate issues are not going off the agenda anytime soon, and for enterprising people it can be seen as an inexhaustible resource to find new solutions aimed at solving urgent environmental problems. This is also an area where Iceland has a natural advantage in a certain way, and we have solved our domestic heating problem a long time ago, while other nations are now struggling to find solutions to no longer have to rely on heating with natural gas. We need to continue to build ingenuity within the circular economy and thus increase our advantage. Would that both increase the number of pillars of the business world and lay the foundation for new value-creating companies, but also be our contribution to the world in the fight against the woes that befall us."  

An interview appears in Morgunblaðin on March 21, 2022