Innovation in the circular economy

Embedding innovation into circular economy SMEs.

Design Thinking

by Ben Crisp — Aug 9, 2019

On July the 24th, the Design Thinkers Academy London teamed up with Advance London and a range of exciting SME circular economy businesses to run a workshop focussing how to embed design thinking and user-centred innovation methods in their circular businesses.

Six innovative, circular economy SMEs and a design thinking workshop. Brought together to explore how design thinking can be used to improve businesses sustainability and deepen the understanding of the user. Over the course of one day we worked alongside the various businesses to help install design thinking methodology into their working process.

‘The circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Now you can watch the video below to learn all about the day. Here we talk to the various circular economy businesses that were taking part in the workshop about their work, the circular economy and the role of design thinking.

Advance London

Advance London is a three-year programme which places London’s small and medium businesses at the heart of the circular economy. It is jointly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and LWARB. It has provided over 150 SMEs with bespoke support.

Advance London business support team supports SMEs with existing circular economy offerings, as well as SMEs that want to transition to a circular economy business model. With their support, businesses can improve and scale, as they change their processes to become greener and more circular.

Little Freddie

Little Freddie produces baby food that uses ‘high quality ingredients from all over the world to create exceptional recipes that deliver on taste and nutrition. We want to take your child on a food journey….a nourishing, organic and tasty food journey that will set them up to be food confident for life. Our multi-award winning range covers the weaning journey and beyond to ensure your baby has a delicious and nutritious introduction to solids.’

They have launched the UK’s first pouch recycling scheme where nothing goes to landfill.

Chip[s] Board

Chip[s] Board is a biomaterial innovation company, developing environmentally friendly materials using circular economy principles. ‘It comes from “Chips (as in the food) and board (a sheet material) as a play on Chipboard the wood product.”

Sustainability is the core principle Chip[s] Board ltd was founded on and is the driving force behind our need to improve the world we live within.

Their philosophy is that “a circular economy in waste (byproduct) management and material production will create a new sustainable model, utilising the abundant resources we currently have rather than continually processing virgin materials.” Some of the products created by Chip[s] Board, using potato waste, include eyewear, clothing, pop-up event spaces and more.


FabLittleBag is an innovative solution to sanitary waste. It is a discreet little bag that you can drop your used sanitary waste into and then seal securely with one hand. It uses patented finger loops, enabling users to hold a used tampon in the other hand. Fab made from “35% from organic material, oxo-biodegradable, and since there’s no need to flush they keep tampons out of the rivers, seas and sewers.”


Loop is designed to reduce reliance on single-use packaging. It offers a convenient and circular solution to consumers.

Tom Szaky, chief executive of TerraCycle, explained:

“Through Loop, consumers can now responsibly consume products in specially-designed durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials like alloys, glass and engineered plastics. When a consumer returns the packaging, it is refilled. Or the content is reused or recycled through groundbreaking technology.”

A variety of products will be available through Loop, ranging from food jars and bottles, through to deodorant and body lotion.

Oppo Brothers

Oppo Brothers are ‘on a mission to change the way people eat by creating amazingly tasty foods that don’t compromise on health.’ Their food, ranging from ice-cream to cheesecakes, is sourced from around the globe, using resources like the Peruvian Lucuma Fruit — a healthier alternative to Caramel.

Karavan Blockchain

Karavan Blockchain is a platform where companies committed to the circular economy model trade with each other. This is done in a safe, secure, scalable, trustworthy, ever evolving environment. It is building a trade platform based on the circular economy model to empower companies to seek out the best suppliers in the world, to meet their sustainability needs.

“Today’s workshop has been instrumental and invaluable for our MVP business proposition and I look forward to more workshops in the future and applying it to our customer offering.”

Sabina Socoli

CEO of Karavan Blockchain


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