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Exciting times for NISP: Still connecting industry – creating opportunity but better than ever!

19th September 2018

Industrial symbiosis is as exciting to me today as it was in the early days of NISP, over 16 years ago. The reason why it is continues to captivate is its continuing relevance, be it in the context of the SDGs, circular economy approaches, or simply good policy and good business.


Recent amendments to the European Waste Directive mandate Member States to “promote industrial symbiosis” and “prioritise replicable practices of industrial symbiosis” (Official Journal of the EU L150 Vol 61, 14June 2018).  Apart from gaining prominence in European Law, industrial symbiosis is increasingly entering legislation in countries outside Europe (such as Israel and Turkey).

The implication for the UK is quite clear, regardless of BREXIT scenarios: clearly all our European friends and competitors are going to be doing more industrial symbiosis and will be developing the tools to do so efficiently.  The driving force behind this is not the environment (important as that is to many of us) but the fundamentals of the economies at large including material security, competitiveness, resource availability, and job creation.

For the benefit of the UK economy we should really be putting industrial symbiosis at the heart of our industrial, and resource & waste strategies.

The definition

Given the increasing appearance of industrial symbiosis in recommendations and policy it would be a good thing that we all had the same understanding of what industrial symbiosis is (and is not). Enter the European pre-standard (CWA) on industrial symbiosis.

Launched in Brussels earlier this year by Dr Janez Potočnik, former EU Commissioner for Environment and now UNEP International Resource Panel, and chaired by Dr Rachel Lombardi from International Synergies, this consensus building process engaged businesses, practitioners and academia across EU Member States.

Supported by 4 major European programmes (H2020 SHAREBOX and EPOS, Interreg TRIS and SYMBI), and administrated by the CWA secretariat (SIST – Slovenian Standards Institute), the pre-standard proposes a consensus definition of industrial symbiosis, and will be published in November by CEN.  The pre-standard I believe will finally put to bed some old myths around what is required for industrial symbiosis to happen.

Not just on an international level

As with climate change more generally, it is not just at the national and international level where action is been taken — cities and regions are taking a lead.  Both Interreg projects TRIS (Transitioning Regions towards Industrial Symbiosis) and SYMBI (Industrial Symbiosis for a Resource-Efficient Economy) are advancing industrial symbiosis across many European countries in terms of removing policy barriers and cascading good practice.  The project lead on TRIS is Birmingham City Council who are also leading on an ERDF project, the Birmingham And Solihull Industrial Symbiosis (BASIS) programme.

In addition, and subject of a H2020 bid, Birmingham City Council are looking to integrate industrial symbiosis in the construction and deconstruction phases of the Commonwealth Games using SYNERGie®4.0.

SYNERGie 4.0

Many of you will be aware of the award-winning ( Sustainable Product Innovation Award 2017) software SYNERGie® we use to support both individual private sector clients and our facilitated programmes worldwide.  Last week we were delighted to launch our latest offering SYNERGie®4.0 in the SUEZ Circular Economy theatre at RWM in Birmingham. SYNERGie®4.0 represents a step change forward in that it now encompasses an ‘Advisor’ that recommends opportunities based upon machine learning (AI), the ability to upload external data sets for pre-poplation of the system has been enhanced.

The app is ready for desktop, iPad or Android tablet. SYNERGie®4.0 will start operation this month in no less than six countries! All this together with a completely new user-friendly interface suggests we may have a world beater on our hands. We’ll be showing it off next week at the 5th anniversary of NISP-spin off MIROG (Major Infrastructure Resource Optimisation Group) including a cross section of major U.K. infrastructure providers — Heathrow and Gatwick, Highways England, HS2, National Grid, Network Rail, TFL, Environment Agency, EDF Energy– alongside International Synergies and AECOM.


March 2018 saw the publication of ‘Cooperation for Industrial Symbiosis’ prepared for DG Grow by UCL and Technopolis Group.  International Synergies were a major contributor to the report which (apart from recommending public investment for facilitated programmes) estimated the market for industrial symbiosis as exceeding €73 billion per annum across the EU28. It was 16 years ago when we said that we were only scratching the surface of industrial symbiosis opportunity…well we’ve given it a good scratch and the opportunity is even more enormous!

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