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Google to support circular economy start ups

© Shutterstock / Fedorova NataliiaPost Thumbnail

Google has announced the launch of an online only circular economy accelerator programme. Early-stage technology developers can apply  to receive mentorship and technical help to accelerate the shift to circularity.

  • Google is accelerating development for start ups and non-profit organisations, with a specific focus on circularity. 
  • The circular economy model provides solutions that manage resources and connect different industries – one industry’s waste is another’s raw material.
  • As regulatory and reputational pressure around resources management, the search for circular business models is increasing.

The Google accelerator is focused on identifying technologies that facilitate such circular models, whether that’s in reuse, refill, recycling, composting, fashion, food, safe and circular materials and the built environment.

How the accelerator programme works

Applicants, which need to be located in either Asia-Pacific countries and North America, will receive ten weeks of virtual support, including mentoring and technical help from both Google employees and external experts.

Each participant will be assigned a ‘success manager’ that will provide support specific to each project. Applications are open until November 14 and the programme will start in February 2023.

The initiative is building on a previous accelerator focused on climate change start ups in North America. Its alumni are 75F, a software for commercial buildings efficiency, electric vehicle charging app ampUp, construction data analysis tool Bloc Power and CarbiCrete, a carbon-negative concrete solution.

What is the circular economy?

The circular economy represents a new way of looking at resource production and consumption, very often promoting the reuse and recycling of materials to minimise waste.

The widespread linear economic model has resulted in the exploitation of global resources, damaging the environment and deepening inequality.

Over the past few decades, the so-called Earth Overshoot Day – the date when humanity has exhausted the biological resources that the planet takes a year to generate – has moved earlier in the calendar. In 2022 it was July 28, compared to December 14 fifty years ago.

Companies are slowly getting on board with the concept of circularity

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), one of the best known research groups focused on the circular economy, has partnered with multinationals such as H&M Group (STO: HM-B) and Solvay (EBR: SOLB) to support them in achieving their sustainability targets.

H&M is currently reviewing its products, the supply chain and non-commercial goods, such as packaging, to make them more circular. This is partly in response to accusations of greenwashing in its previous approach to sustainability.

The fashion giant now hopes to achieve its 2040 net-zero emissions goal by establishing a circular ecosystem and discouraging customers from throwing away its products.

Chemicals group Solvay, instead, is betting on material innovation. It is working on the development of bio-based, non-toxic solvents, removing the need for fossil fuel ingredients. It is also developing new products and materials that don’t result in environmental pollution if released. 

Circularity at scale is needed

Google’s programme aims to speed up the development of circular technologies and approaches that may disrupt existing markets. In this way there could be an acceleration of technologies deployed address many of the climate and environmental challenges that businesses struggle with today. 

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