EIT RawMaterials continues to support the implementation of the Circular Economy Strategy in Slovenia

EIT RawMaterials together with EIT Climate-KIC, the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia launched a joint “Circular Slovenia” project aiming to position Slovenia as a European and a global leader in harnessing circular economy models to transform its economy at home and drive new exports of services and products. Our cooperation will support the development of a Europe-leading Circular Economy Innovation Impact Community (“A Deep Demonstration of a Circular, Regenerative and Low-Carbon Economy”) in Slovenia and will connect to a European Circular Economy Innovation Network. To support this vision, we will bring the expertise and networks to scale fast to be at the front of the Horizon Europe agenda and cohesion agendas in the next decade.

In November 2019, we presented to the Slovenian Parliament the EIT Innovation Community model and how it can help in decarbonising Slovenia through the transition to a circular economy in cooperation with the European Commission and the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) Innovation Communities EIT RawMaterials and EIT Climate-KIC.

Circular Slovenia project focuses on one of the key societal challenges – the transition to a low carbon circular economy.

Being a small but highly innovative country, Slovenia has the potential to demonstrate to Europe and the world how to achieve rapid transformation into an inclusive, prosperous, circular and zero-carbon communities by 2030.

This project will illustrate the horizontal nature of the transition to a low carbon circular economy, which requires orchestrated action by the entire Government of the Republic of Slovenia as well as numerous stakeholders from all sectors and at all levels. The Circular Slovenia project is designed to link different areas across the silo thinking of individual sectors and will contribute to the achievement of concrete results through the implementation of measures.

By implementing this project, Slovenia will show consistency in translating political commitments into measures that contribute to concrete results and thus help in positioning Slovenian companies and other relevant stakeholders active in the direction of decarbonisation and the establishment of circular business models. Consequently, Slovenian companies and organisations are playing an active role in the realisation of the project. EIT RawMaterials partners in Slovenia are already significantly contributing to the project’s objectives, not only by being members of the relevant Slovenian Strategic Research & Innovation Partnerships (SRIPs) along the nine determined Smart Specialisation Strategies but in particular due to their specific scope of work and the diverse circular economy – EIT RawMaterials funded – projects they have already been conducting for several years and will execute in the upcoming years. These are projects that contribute both directly and visibly to the goals of a circular economy, but also fundamental projects that start with the industrial mineral and metallic raw materials or rather their local primary and secondary sources of every economy and will ensure their sustainable and circular use in Slovenia and the whole Western Balkans.

EIT Regional Innovation Scheme strengthening the innovation ecosystem in Europe

Being a pan-European organisation, working closely all along the raw materials value chains, starting with exploration and mining, processing and refining, to recycling, substitution and the circular economy, with both local and regional climate champions and the biggest climate influencers across all of Europe is part of the EIT RawMaterials core value proposition. This means targeting where the potential for rapid action is greatest and circularity, sustainability and climate change is being felt most acutely.

The EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (EIT RIS) is the EIT Community’s outreach scheme and the programme that helps us having a pan-European footprint and being relevant where the impact is most needed. The EIT RIS was introduced in 2014 to focus more on those parts of Europe that were less involved and underrepresented in our activities and also parts of Europe where innovation is most needed to help accelerate local needs. We believe that active involvement at a regional and sub-national level is key to ensuring that Europe continues to lead the way in circularity and climate change development and a prerequisite to a successful, long-term EU climate strategy.

EIT RawMaterials Innovation Community is actively present in Slovenia

There is a number of activities supporting the innovation of the region. We work closely with our partners in Slovenia including Geological Survey of Slovenia and Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute as core partners, supported by many others contributing to our educational, innovation and outreach projects.

EIT RawMaterials has been active in Slovenia since its very beginning in 2015. Via its EIT RIS programme, it has intensively reached out to additional entities in Slovenia and the whole regions that have not been partners to its activities yet. The goals are to engage strong key partners to enable outreach to the local stakeholders, to carry out core activities in innovation/upscaling and education with additional partners in the region, and to grow participation from non-partners (and potential partners) by securing a strong presence via local Hubs and by targeted outreach.

Joint founders and facilitators of the EIT RawMaterials Hub – Regional Centre Adria are Geological Survey of Slovenia, Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute and Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Zagreb.

EIT RawMaterials Hub – Regional Centre Adria started operating in January 2018. It acts as an interface for mineral raw materials stakeholders primary focused on Slovenia and Croatia with further outreach to all Western Balkans countries based on mutual patrimonial and re-established connections. The objective of the Hub is to connect the EIT RawMaterialswith local raw materials ecosystems and to integrate the Knowledge Triangle in the countries. It acts as a local platform for interaction and brokerage, as well as a channel of the knowledge sharing, and good practices acquired by EIT RawMaterials.

EIT RawMaterials presence in the Western Balkans is essential for whole Europe due to the richness of primary and secondary raw materials in the region, and it is well-aligned with the recent European Union (EU) communication on enlargement perspective and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans. EIT RawMaterials Hub – Regional Centre Adria works as an interface between regional environments and EIT RawMaterials, enabling information about EIT RawMaterials projects and activities.

One of the main objectives of the EIT RawMaterials Hub – Regional Center Adria is to encourage networking, project ideas exchange and offering support to potential new partners of the EIT RawMaterials Innovation Community. For all regional stakeholders, business, education institutions, research organisations and local authorities it represents informational “one-stop-shop” for EIT RawMaterials knowledge transfer. At the same time, it connects local raw materials communities with their international EIT RawMaterials counterparts.

Some of the examples of the EIT RawMaterials Innovation Community fostering innovation and raising awareness about the raw materials sector and circular economy in Slovenia include the following projects.

RC Adria Internship Programme – Connecting students and businesses in the region, creating opportunities for both

RC Adria Internship programme is a part of the Regional Center Adria Hub. The internship programme aims to enable students enrolled in the last year of the Master’s study (in the fields of mining, geosciences, metallurgy, waste management and similar) to work as interns in different companies and institutions, but also (at the same time) to train a certain number of future trainers at the aforementioned companies/institutions. The matching and cooperation between the students and the industry will help to develop a new generation of young professionals with fresh attitudes, innovative ideas and an already existing awareness of real-life challenges in the raw materials sector. Therefore, the programme is envisaged as a booster to new concepts of high education and early employment strategies.

RM@Schools – Raw MatTERS Ambassadors at Schools

RM@Schools 3.0 is a Wider Society Learning project, focused on an innovative program to make science education and careers in the raw materials (RM) sector attractive for youngsters. Active learning will be proposed to schools by RM Ambassadors (experts in some raw materials-related issues and trained teachers) by involving students in experiments with RM-related hands-on educational kits, in excursions in industries, and in science dissemination activities. The students will be asked to become Young RM Ambassadors (science communicators) and to create dissemination products focused on issues related to raw materials in English and other languages.

Skills4Future – Fostering the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in Europe

Securing a circular, sustainable and ecological supply of raw materials in Europe requires both, a transition toward a circular economy including reduced waste and improved recycling, and sustainable development and use of domestic resources based on new innovative technologies and social approval. In 2019-2020, Skills4Future students from around Slovenia will work with industry mentors to take on the challenge.

The Briefcase of mineral applications – Learning the uses of minerals through non-conventional teaching tools

The Briefcase is addressed to students between 6 and 14 years old. It contains a set of minerals, tools to identify them and products of daily life, as well as various games focused on deepening this knowledge. It teaches students to recognise the most common minerals and their applications with practical experience and to reflect on their own purchasing decisions to encourage the requirement of ethically robust practices to companies. The Briefcase also shows the consequences of “not in my backyard”, an attitude that has displaced part of mining outside Europe, sometimes to other places where the human rights of the workers involved are not respected.

VirtualMine – as a modeling tool for Wider Society Learning

The main goal of the VirtualMine project is to increase awareness among the local community about the importance of raw materials and its possible use for better development of the European regions. Furthermore, the project aims to popularise mining among the general public, especially children and students who start to develop their career path, as well as to show the importance of the minerals in our modern world. The main stress should be put on creating conditions to convey knowledge on raw materials as key to the development of the circular knowledge-based economy in the most effective way.