The Czech Institute for Circular Economy is launching the Czech Circular Hotspot, which will facilitate cross-sectoral and international cooperation in the field of circular economy. The goal of the platform is to create a space where public and private sectors can cooperate to help accelerate the Czech Republic’s circular transition. The Czech initiative makes the network of Visegrad hotspots complete, joining Hungary, Slovakia and Poland that have a local circular hotspot already.

Pre-Christmas presentation of the activities of the Czech Circular Hotspot on the Hybernská Campus with the Czech Institute for Circular Economy (INCIEN)

At this point, some might ask: what is exactly a circular hotspot and where does the idea come from? Let’s have a look at the concept and the origins of circular hotspots.

The idea of circular hotspots

The purpose of circular hotspots is to share and disseminate knowledge in the field of circular economy. Moreover, it makes the cooperation of different social actors easier, stimulates the implementation of circular economy principles and creates opportunities for the emergence of new business models. Circular hotspots initiate activities such as the organization of conferences and regular meetings of working groups, coordination of various workshops and educational events, as well as information services.

The idea to establish the first circular hotspot was born in the Netherlands in response to the governmental program Circular Economy in the Netherlands by 2050. The platform Holland Circular Hotspot was created in 2016 to enable the interaction and cooperation of governmental, scientific and non-profit organizations with the business sector. This initiative has inspired many countries around the world and other circular hotspots began to emerge, for example in Luxembourg or Scandinavia. However, circular hotspots have also already started to operate in other Visegrad countries, namely in Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. This provides the Czech Republic the opportunity to get inspired, learn from them and hopefully establish further cooperation.

The Visegrad experiences

For inspiration and practical experience, we can look to Slovakia, our neighbouring country. The platform Circular Slovakia was launched in 2019, when seven founding partners signed a Memorandum of Cooperation. Among the partners were, for example, the Ministry of the Environment, the Institute for Circular Economy and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Circular Slovakia has grown gradually and nowadays has more than 50 members with various backgrounds. The members come from the private and public sectors, the research community as well as non-profit organizations. The hotspot membership allows them to participate in working groups and other interesting projects, take part in excursions, webinars and discussions and share knowledge and expertise. The membership is paid, which enables more independence and better functioning of the platform. Other activities initiated by the platform include mapping of financial instruments that support the circular transition, market research, looking for international business opportunities and participation in the creation of a circular economy road map.

Signing declaration of cooperation between Holland Circular Hotspot and founding members of Circular Slovakia as part of the event “Building the platform” in 2019

Denisa Rášová, the chairwoman of Circular Slovakia, summarizes her experiences with the platform as follows: “Based on feedback from our members, we can say that 2021 was a successful year for the platform. Almost all our members want to continue the partnership and intensify their involvement in the platform. They especially appreciate the possibility to receive information about current events, participate in educational activities, exchange experiences and have access to the network of active institutions engaged in the circular transition of Slovakia. In 2022, we will welcome ten new members. We have a lot of plans in the coming year. In cooperation with the Slovak Institute for Circular Economy and the Barney Creative Studio, we are launching the “Target Circular” initiative in February, which will publish the circular goals of various entities on a local level and provide the opportunity to evaluate goals by independent authorities. We also plan to focus more on personal meetings with members, as the pandemic did not allow us to do so last year. We are also looking forward to international cooperation, including support for the establishment of our sister organization, the Czech Circular Hotspot.”

The Hungarian Circular Economy Platform was founded in 2018 on the initiative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Business Council for Sustainable Development in Hungary (BCSDH) and the Ministry for Innovation and Technology. Nowadays, the platform has almost 100 members. One of the most influential activities of the Hungarian hotspot is an annual Circular Economy Summit, which takes place in November each year. The main themes of last year’s conference focused on reaching climate goals through the circular transition, measuring circularity on a company level, corporate innovations, integrated approach to financing sustainability as well as a project called Circular Regions. Experts coming from different countries, sectors and backgrounds performed at the Summit. The event is financially supported by ING Wholesale Banking Hungary.

Organizing parties of the Hungarian Circular Economy Summit 2021: ING Wholesale Banking Hungary, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and representatives from BCSDH.

In addition, three or four working group meetings are organized annually, where seminars and webinars are held to share knowledge, experience and best practices. The aim of the Hungarian platform is to build a community bringing together key actors and stakeholders in the country’s circular transition and foster cooperation between them.

The Polish Circular Hotspot was established in 2018 with the support of the Institute of Innovation and Responsible Development (INNOWO) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Currently, the platform has more than 60 members from various sectors and backgrounds: companies, NGOs, experts and sustainability businesses. Key issues for the hotspot are construction, food, packaging, electronics, plastics, transport, energy, textiles, waste, chemicals and agriculture. The mission is to smooth the way for the transformation towards circularity by exchanging knowledge and expertise and supporting the process of creating new business models that strengthen the position of companies on the market. The platform seeks to create a business network, establish partnerships in Poland and abroad and create a database of innovations and programmes related to the topic of circular economy. Furthermore, members can participate in workshops with topics such as circular public procurement or take part in conferences where they can present their activities. An important issue for the hotspot’s agenda is urban circularity; the platform can help to identify key challenges, search for possible solutions and come up with projects that support the transition to the circular operation of cities.

Organizing partners of the Polish Circular Week 2021: INNOWO, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Holland Circular Hotspots

The Polish Circular Hotspot’s most influential initiative is organizing the annual Circular Week. It is an international event focused on topics related to circular economy and sustainability, which takes place throughout Europe. The aim is to establish cooperation, promote sustainable business models and raise awareness of the circular economy. Every year, Circular Week offers a series of expert panels, webinars, workshops, discussions and networking sessions, addressed to representatives of businesses, start-ups, think tanks and public administration. In 2021, the goal was to get as many institutions as possible involved and thus promote the implementation of the circular economy. The event invites any interested parties to present their organization (e.g., platforms for food sharing or clothes swapping). The task of INNOWO, as the main coordinator of the project, was to bring together the individual initiatives and support their promotion. Subsequently, selected projects were presented at the prestigious the Circular Economy Mazovia Summit in Warsaw. The fifth edition of the event will be held on 3-9 October 2022.

Together for the Visegrad Group’s circular transition

An interesting project, created through the cooperation between Hungary and Slovakia, is the Cross-border capacity building for developing circular regions. It aims to support the circular transition in the two countries by boosting SMEs in improving their circular performance. The project began by mapping cross-border regions and gathering sector-specific information about the main obstacles of implementing the circular economy. Besides, training materials were developed on issues related to the circular economy and on possibilities to evaluate the circular performance of businesses. The partners also organize educational seminars, since the two countries still lack circular economy experts, and the available ones are mostly located in the capitals. A new consultancy service was developed for SMEs based on a Dutch methodology and now the service is being tested in selected companies across both regions.

Collaboration is essential to build a sustainable and circular future. No single company or country can go through the circular transition alone. The members of the Visegrad group must join forces in implementing the circular economy, and the local hotspots will have a key role in coordinating the regional cooperation.