“Take the opportunity to transition to more sustainable production, and a stronger and more competitive position after the crisis.” This is the advice to companies in the plastics and composites industry from Ingrid Bergqvist, head of the polymeric materials and composites division at RISE.
For many companies, the coronavirus crisis means shrinking order books and financial challenges. There is, however, still the other side of the coin, according to Ingrid Bergqvist at RISE, who explains her thinking:
– “Recently, we’ve seen a need for companies to transition their production towards sustainability. Of their own accord, OEMs have already started implementing measures to reduce their environmental impact, and they’re imposing the same requirements on their subcontractors. So, unplanned downtime in production during the coronavirus crisis could be used to transition production towards sustainability.”
Greater appeal and larger exports
According to Ingrid, transitioning production could also give a company a stronger position once the crisis ends and inquiries increase again.
– “Sweden is already to the fore in sustainability and recycling, and by transitioning production towards sustainability, companies can increase their appeal as well as their export opportunities.
Christian Olsson, a materials, process and recycling researcher at RISE, adds to this:
– “Since much of industry is still up and running in Sweden, we also have a head start compared to countries with total lockdowns.”
It’s much easier for these companies to be prepared when they receive an inquiry
Help with material mixes and evaluations
RISE has previously offered corporate training in sustainable materials under the aegis of the BioLyftet project, and through this saw clear demand among companies for learning the practical aspects of applying theoretical knowledge to their products.
– “RISE helps companies to develop material mixes suited to their processes, as well as to evaluate any demonstrators that are produced based on their product requirements,” Ingrid explains.
– “Many companies are wary of transitioning until they’ve tried it themselves,” says Christian. “But once they’ve tried it, and seen that it works, they can end up with even greener production as they maybe transition a larger part of their production.”
Making the transition and seeing that it works, Ingrid believes, offers an opportunity to increase the companies’ faith in themselves.
– “Once they know what works and what it costs, it’s much easier for these companies to be prepared when they receive an inquiry, responding as quickly as need be.”
SME support department
In order to support and facilitate small and medium-sized enterprises, RISE has a dedicated support department with a number of regional representatives who can visit companies nationwide.
“The support department is to offer a fast and convenient channel for SMEs, ensuring that these companies get the support and expert help they need,” says Susanna Kindberg, SME operational support coordinator at RISE.
Besides more company-specific matters, the support department also helps to search for possible grants and subsidies which could be used to finance potential joint projects with RISE. Companies contacting the support department are also offered several hours of free advice.
“There are many different regional and national forms of assistance that SMEs can apply for, for example, for a research project, a verification or some kind of a preliminary study,” says Susanna Kindberg.