Almere’s city administration has an ambition to improve both resource efficiency and the circular economy within its bounds and wider region. As new economic activities focused on the production of innovative circular products aren't easy to launch, Almere co-founded and facilitated the UpCycle City competition with the province of Flevoland and Dutch central government.
UpCycle City stimulates start-ups, companies and research institutes in developing business cases that provide innovative solutions for waste upcycling and a financial plan that renders investment economical. The first contest led to two winners in June 2017: an upcycling initiative for local street furniture and concrete plant using the city's mineral flows. These have now signed an agreement with the city's Almere Urbanisation Fund, which is providing €3 mn in co-financing over 3 years and helping to facilitate the realisation of the winner's respective plans.
This UpCycle City tender process differs from standard procurement insofar that instead of asking for a specific service or product, Almere invited potential entrepreneurs to write convincing business cases that generate both new economic activity in waste upcycling and employment opportunities for citizens with a lower education level.
Obtaining the correct information about residual flow volumes released yearly with maintenance and management also represented a challenge as these are not discharged by the municipality but contractors. Existing regulation thus proved to be a barrier and could be amended to introduce some flexibility allowing local administations to make residual flows available for new economic activities.
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The city administration has challenged participants to describe a business concept that adds value to residual flows produced during the maintenance urban public spaces.
The first contest winner is a collaboration of four companies that aims to to develop a sustainable concrete station using mineral flows from the city to create recycled concrete. This station is produce between 80-90% of this concrete, as well as creating green concrete with organic fibres.
The runner-up is a co-operative project between two companies aiming to manufacture street furniture from 100% bio-based and circular residual flows.
Not only was this competition a unique tender in the Netherlands, it also showed that companies and entrepreneurs are willing to work together as soon as they receive a little push from the government. Companies that often see each other as competitors can work in synergy when local administration provides assistance in overcoming financial and regulatory hurdles.
While the tender itself is an innovation in stakeholder-led city procurement, a review of the tender process did reveal that some potential entrants felt the timescales were too short and insufficient guidance was provided to adequately participate in such an innovative competition. Additional time to draft bankable proposals and workshops to assist with proposal drafting are under consideration for future iterations.