Industrial areas are major consumers of raw materials, but are also still largely virgin territory for the circular economy. Industrial activities are still often poorly coordinated with each other, and sharing equipment or dealing with waste in a sustainable way is usually considered a prohibitive distraction from one's core activities.
It is the complex role of a business park manager to coordinate industrial areas internally. Due to the diversity of his tasks and the wide range of knowledge and skills required (understanding production processes, financial drivers, market dynamics ...), he does not have enough time or budget to seize interesting circular challenges and opportunities, despite his interesting position.
PlatformU is an online tool and platform that supports business park managers in their complex management task. The tool helps them collect a whole range of useful data (available local resources, space, technologies, waste ...), while the platform simplifies and promotes mutual interaction between companies.
In this way, PlatformU can help reduce waste and facilitate local partnerships. Once several locations are using the platform, regional opportunities can also be explored.
The digital tool not only contributes to better management of raw material flows, but also helps to improve the resilience and innovative capacity of industrial estates. The end result is easier access to the circular economy and greater symbiosis in industrial zones.
PlatformU is the first data and knowledge gathering platform for business park managers in Flanders. Their complex management task becomes clearer and more accessible, which gives them room to act on the circular opportunities their job offers.
By collecting and geolocating so much useful data about companies and their material use, waste streams, local infrastructures, technologies ..., it becomes clearer where it is possible to focus on recycling, reducing waste and synergies.
PlatformU improves the communication and exchange of knowledge and information between different companies. This makes it easier for them to take concrete actions, which also speeds up the creation of collaborations or local partnerships.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Circular economy is highly dependent on the good leadership of facilitators and entrepreneurs. This is certainly the case for the circular transition within industrial estates. Business park managers have the critical function of providing guidance and support.
While business park managers are ideally placed to seize opportunities for innovation, cost savings and implementation of circular principles, many carry a huge responsibility. Their opportunities are too often limited by time and budget.
There is little suitable software to support the business park manager in his complex tasks. This provides an interesting opportunity to not only make his role more effective, but also to immediately embed the right circular principles into the core of business park management.
16,4 millionTonnes of industrial waste
500Flemish business parks
100Business area associations
1Digital tool and platform
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
PlatformU still needs a long-term test phase to eliminate potential problems, such as those related to data and privacy. We need to get a better view on the number and type of data that companies are willing to provide to the business area manager.
Furthermore, we would like to diversify the application areas of PlatformU, for example by expanding into the building and food sectors. We have already started a second development phase.
Finally, the platform is limited by the capacity of business park managers to get things moving. It is therefore important to also focus on training. For example, we have plans to develop training programmes to provide business park managers with additional knowledge about cost reduction, developing circular or symbiotic projects, exploring new business models, and so on.