Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Tech start-ups poised for €1.8 trillion ‘circular economy’ opportunity

July 22, 2015

World-renowned sailor-turned-economist, Ellen MacArthur, has spoken of the massive opportunities for tech start-ups to tap into the ‘circular economy’.

Beamed in from Cowes in the Isle of Wight, Ellen was speaking to dozens of start-ups through Cisco’s NVI network, in a discussion chaired by our very own Chief Executive of UK & Ireland, Phil Smith.

Ellen said she found inspiration for the idea of a circular economy while she was attempting her around-the-world voyage. During her time on the boat, she had to cope with a very limited number of resources for over a long period time – but as she explained, it’s all about making the most with what you have.

For humans, it’s the same as having a finite amount of commodities in the world. For businesses, the challenge is to get the most value out of your assets, for the longest period of time.

If being the fastest woman to sail around the world wasn’t enough of an achievement, she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010. Its purpose is to champion the very idea of the circular economy.

According to the Foundation’s latest research, Europe could create a net benefit of €1.8 trillion by 2030 by taking a circular economic approach.

This could reap ‘societal outcomes’ which include a boost of €3,000 in household income, a reduction in the time wasted in congestion by 16%, and 50% less carbon dioxide emissions compared with current levels.

It further translates into an 11% GDP increase by 2030, compared with 4% in the current development path. This creates a huge opportunity for start-ups.

Dame ellen

As we all stride forward towards an Internet of Everything-based reality, it quickly becomes clear the role tech start-ups could play in this vision of a circular economy.

Ellen said data “lies at the heart of all of this,” and with the growth of the Internet of Everything (IoE) there is a “huge need for innovation”.

On top of this, as IoE becomes ever more connected (think smart cities, and everything else beyond), our understanding of the circular economy grows even further, taking the benefits to another level.

It’s this idea that makes us incredibly excited to be the technology partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Disruptive Innovation Festival, taking place later this year.

Voyage to success

As well as speaking about the potential of the circular economy, Ellen gave a fascinating insight to her career as a solo yachtswoman, leaving us all feeling incredibly inspired.

You could see how the similarities between wanting to achieve sporting success, aligned with the aspirations of the start-ups in the room.

She told the watching audience: “You have to have that belief.”

Being able to demonstrate this belief, as well as your personal passion ‘speaks volumes’ to potential partners and investors. In her case, she was vying for the crucial sponsorship deals that would enable her to fulfil her dream of sailing around the world non-stop.

She also talked about being ‘in the right place at the right time’ – something which all hear so often in the world of start-ups.

But Ellen told us she went into those meetings with the attitude that she would sail anyway. It’s all about making the impossible a reality.

Her passion was palpable, and it’s certainly something we should all take on board!

To find out more about the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the circular economy there are loads of great resources on the website which are well worth a read.

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  1. This is truly one of the greatest sectors for startups to be involved in today. It’s been a fascinating journey for us