Caroline Düberg Martinsson, innovation manager Wargön Innovation. Photo: Elin Segerlind

Caroline Düberg Martinsson is an innovation coach passionate about the circular economy.

Region Västra Götaland continues its investment in the circular economy with the aim of strengthening collaboration and accelerating the pace of the ongoing circular transition. Almost 100 business coaches are participating in the challenge "Circular design & new business", one of them is our innovation manager Caroline Düberg Martinsson.

Regional Development Västra Götaland Region interviewed Caroline about circularity and the challenge.

- Today's lifestyle is unsustainable, we need to start doing things differently and think circularly. In many cases, we have completely abandoned resource efficiency and need to create a culture and an economy that does not reward wasteful use of resources.

Caroline Düberg Martinsson is an innovation manager at Wargön Innovation and is passionate about circularity. She is one of nearly 100 innovation coaches participating in Region Västra Götaland's "Circular Design & New Business" challenge.

Caroline has extensive experience working on sustainability issues, and her interest in the circular economy was born out of frustration that so much of the textile industry was not working.

- We have grown up with things being a certain way, and we get stuck with it. But now the old habits don't work anymore and we have to rethink. This is a big challenge for everyone, both economically and culturally," says Caroline.

From waste to resource

Wargön Innovation specializes in supporting SMEs in the development and commercialization of new innovative products, processes and business models. Here you can test new technologies and new methods to move towards circular business. The focus is on textile and bio-based materials, but especially industrial textile sorting. In its test and demo environment, Wargön Innovation has an automated textile sorting system that can sort by material and color. Work is also underway to see how machine learning and AI can support an efficient sorting process.

- The aim is for each item to go to the right recipient, so that what would have been textile waste instead becomes a raw material in a new business model. In concrete terms, this could mean that a washed-out, holey T-shirt can go to material recycling and become a new textile fiber, while a pair of torn jeans ends up in a flow where they are repaired and can be put on the market again, says Caroline.

With all textiles going into a circular flow, an efficient sorting process is key to developing circular products and services for the textile industry.

- In a circular economy, what is waste in a traditional linear economy should instead become a resource for someone else in the circular economy. In the case of textiles, this involves reusing and recycling to increase the lifespan of the material, for greater resource efficiency and less environmental impact.

Innovation training provided new tools

Despite her previous experience in the field, Caroline thinks she learned a lot during her training in Västra Götaland's innovation system. And she is looking forward to working on the challenge itself, which involves coaching companies in Västra Götaland to transition to the new, circular economy.

- It was a great training course. I got a whole toolbox of different models and examples I can use in my job. But above all, I gained contacts and a large network with which I can exchange ideas. Basically, all innovation coaches share the same issues, even if they are in different industries. Now it's so exciting to finally get started! It's really a huge group effort to support the companies in the region to change. And this challenge we have taken on will be a catalyst that will lead to a plethora of new solutions," says Caroline.

Making circular loops profitable

At the same time, Caroline sees major challenges for companies, not least the current economic situation, which affects companies' ability to change quickly. Basically, it's about creating business models that make circular loops profitable. Packaging the offer so that it appeals to the customer and at the same time is relevant in the new economy. However, Caroline believes that there are also new opportunities here, as companies with a circular offer can strengthen their relationship with customers.

- In a linear economy, the product disappears with the customer, while in a circular economy you can have a relationship with the customer throughout the user phase.

Transition takes time

For her part, Caroline sees a challenge in the challenge itself. Converting a company that thinks linearly to become circular is not done in a flash. You have to work with the entire value chain and work in stages. At the same time, she wants to be able to demonstrate important, clear results during the challenge itself.

- Now it's time for action. After the initial training, we leave the theoretical part of the challenge and work practically with the companies. It's great fun," says Caroline.

Read more about the Circular Design and New Business Challenge

Learn more about Region Västra Götaland's Circular Business Models initiative.