June 25, 2020

Tevi and Circle Economy: Working together to grow the local circular economy in Cornwall

Tevi and Circle Economy have collaborated to increase local awareness of the circular economy in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the UK. In this blog, Tevi's Project Manager Dan Bloomfield reflects on the collaboration and what embracing the circular economy means to a local, coastal region like Cornwall.

Written by Dan Bloomfield, Project Manager at Tevi

Tevi and Circle Economy have collaborated to increase local awareness of the circular economy in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the UK. As part of this collaboration, Circle Economy assessed the number of jobs related to the circular economy using our Circular Jobs Monitor, ran a three-week circularity in-depth course for SMEs, and set up the Circle Assessment Tool that enables businesses to understand and identify which circular opportunities are relevant to them. In this blog, Tevi's Project Manager Dan Bloomfield reflects on the collaboration and what embracing the circular economy means to a local, coastal region like Cornwall.

As anyone who has visited Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly knows, it is a beautiful part of the world.  Even before the railway came to Cornwall in the 19th century, early forms of tourism were being catered for, as people were drawn to the fabled, dramatic romance of our beaches, coves, villages and cliffs.  It’s a place with an impressive history of industry and commerce too; by 1847 122 million fish were exported from Cornwall each year, and the mining industry exported tin, copper, silver and arsenic – as well as knowledge and know-how – all around the world.  

Sadly, this wealth has faded. Cornwall is now one the very poorest parts of the UK, which is why we’ve been the focus for structural assistance from the European Union. Tevi (Cornish for ‘grow’), an EU-funded business support programme, has looked at one thematic opportunity in particular; bringing together the concepts of environmental growth and the circular economy.

It’s been an enormous success, as demand for our help is high and rising. That’s because, despite relatively low retention of higher skills and lower levels of private sector investment, Cornwall’s business community has a number of things going for it.  

First, its diversity and co-reliance. The 28,000 or so enterprises in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly tend to be small, often family-run, and frequently seasonal. Being stuck out on a peninsula in the Atlantic breeds a certain sort of self-reliance and community spirit, and our businesses reflect that attitude. As a result, finding ways to shorten supply chains, eliminate waste, and come together to transform the economy are ambitions that fits well with Cornish business owners.

Second, there is the other ambition of Tevi – to capitalise on the clear reliance upon the natural environment.  The environment’s quality, history and variety is why people come here to visit, to re-locate, and often, for those lucky enough to be born here, to return.  All our enterprises rely on the environment in some way, and making that link explicit has resulted in us unearthing new synergies between businesses and sectors, and in the development of new products and services. The ambitious scale of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Environmental Growth Strategy – aiming to reverse all forms of environmental decline over the next 45 years  – an unusually long-term piece of public-sector thinking, reflects that.

You can’t live in Cornwall and be inward-facing, however. As well as our history of export and our annual welcoming of visitors from all over the world, there is the simple fact of facing the sea. With deep, natural harbours, and a history of transatlantic communication by cable, wireless and packet ship, Cornwall naturally looks beyond the horizon. We have a growing international community of students at our Penryn campus, where Tevi is headquartered – jointly occupied by Falmouth University and the University of Exeter – and it has been energised, in considerable part, by the entrepreneurial spirit of students with a global conscience and a local eye for profit.  So it was a natural step to look elsewhere to find partners who could help us grow and diversify our support to businesses, and Circle Economy in Amsterdam felt like a perfect fit.

Photo by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash

At Tevi, we know a fair bit about how to bring small businesses together around common concerns. We know that an industrial manufacturer does, in fact, have plenty in common with an app developer, or a food truck owner with an arborist. We know how to work with communities in small towns and villages, and how to maximise the gains of doing so, both for the business and for the environment. But there were quite a few things we didn’t fully know.

1 ) First, we needed to learn from elsewhere. What can we learn about the work in other regions, from different parts of Europe?

2) Second, we needed to know how to measure progress.  What were the indices we needed to be able to compare ourselves to last year, or to somewhere else, as we strive to become increasingly circular? 

3) And thirdly, how can we bring all this together into a useable package, for enterprises to be able to take themselves forward on their journey towards a more circular business model?  What are the mechanics of that, the practicalities and hurdles? We wanted to learn from an organisation that had plenty of experience.

So we at Tevi have learnt a huge amount from this collaboration with Circle Economy, and we sincerely hope and expect to keep this partnership going. What it means to build a circular economy in a relatively distant, poorer region, and in the context of a preponderance of small- and micro-businesses, is a question I think both partners are committed to answering. And as we move into an ambitious future for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – outside the EU, with a spaceport, and with new investments in renewable energy and geo-resources – answering that question will help determine the next chapter in the history of this remarkable region.

Explore the Circular Jobs Monitor and read our baseline report to find out about the jobs contributing to the circular economy in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. 

Sign up to the Circular Jobs Initiative newsletter through the CE newsletter to stay in the loop on this and other partnerships.

Tevi is an ERDF-funded programme helping Cornish SMEs to grow whist supporting Cornwall's transition to a circular economy. Tevi currently supports over 300 enterprises through bespoke consultancy services, challenge networks and a grant scheme. Tevi is delivered by the University of Exeter in partnership with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Council and Cornwall Development Company.

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