Staff Services Student Enterprise

Innovation based on sustainability and big data

Project contact
Sophie Rippinger
EIT Innovation Manager

CloudEARTHi is a two-year European Institute of Innovation and Technology funded project, designed to build capacity for higher education innovation in the areas of circular economy, sustainability and big data. It is a collaboration between - The Arctic University of Norway, University of Alicante, University of Applied Sciences Burgenland, Technical University of Varna and industry partner, G-Force.

The University of Edinburgh’s main role in the project is to develop, test and commercialise a new business framework that supports start-up companies to embed net zero, circular principles into their business models, and this work is being delivered by Sophie Rippinger at Edinburgh Innovations. 

Early startups can embed circular and net-zero principles from the beginning

Sophie worked with colleague Laura Bernal to create the Earth Centred Business Design Tool (ECBD), following the identification of a gap in business development models for early startups, embedding circular and net-zero principles from the beginning. It includes a series of unique exercises and a canvas, which then enables founders to think differently about how they might run their businesses and be a net force for good, opening up new markets, customer segments and income potential.  

The tool is currently being tested by selected start-ups who are receiving personalised business support from Edinburgh Innovations. University students will soon be able to access the basic structure of ECBD as part of the core support for Student Enterprise.

Making an impact

We already have some great examples of how the ECBD tool has been used by startups.

Using the tool the founders have a one-to-one meeting to discuss their operational plan, product development, financial support, revenue strategies and their role in the ecosystem. Founders then work through the exercises, complete the ECBD canvas, and develop a final action plan. This enables them to incorporate resilience tactics, align business development to net zero and change business strategies to be more circular.

Danu Robotics is an Edinburgh based cleantech start-up working to develop a revolutionary robotic system for the recycling industry to significantly increase recycling efficiency. They incorporated the ECBD learning in their revenue strategy and their supply chain management. They have used ECBD to integrate resilience in their business planning.

Ethy is a sustainability accreditation provider and digital platform. They set future milestones and plans to future proof the business and reach net zero by creating 12 targets from 4 different key areas - environment, social, finance and political. They will track their progress every quarter using the work produced from the CloudEARTHi project.

Example targets are:

  • Measure 1-3 emissions from their business, and define reduction targets
  • Research and ensure that their banking partners are green
  • Implement policies and rules to look after their employees, office space and promote a healthy and inclusive workforce
  • Ensure that their supply chain and partners are transparent
  • Plan and create their own sustainability report using their targets outcomes
  • Deliver sustainability training workshops to their customers on an ongoing basis

Crover Ltd have the world's first granular drone, a robotic device capable of navigating in granular bulks to provide real time grain status and quality information to ensure quality control and grain preservation. They are using the ECBD to review their material, product flows and design.

Heritage Hive Ltd aims to tailor museums retail offering to local and sustainable products that also helps create resilient creative communities, local employment and nature regeneration. Currently much of what is available for sale in museum gift shops is imported, uses unsustainable materials and creates waste during and after the product life cycle, as well as emissions during manufacture and transport. The ECBD has been valuable to them to develop their supply chain resilience and to scale up their proposition.

Outfit of Tomorrow Ltd: brings sustainable fashion to the masses online. It is a website and browser extension that enables fashion consumers to make sustainable choices quickly, easily and with the right information. Their website lists products with relevant links to sustainable brands. And their browser extension recommends users internal or external sustainable alternatives to the items they search for with a similar price range. They have been able to refine their business plan and advance their environmental offerings using the ECBD.

Related Links

Watch a short video on the CloudEARTHi project.

Watch a short video on the Earth Centred Business Design.

Earth Centred Business Design Tool (ECBD)

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