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New tool to boost eco-innovation in SMEs



The EU-funded LiMaS project has developed a web-based tool to facilitate eco-innovation in SMEs, leading to the development of products with an improved environmental performance.

Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a limited knowledge about environmental regulations or tools they can use to improve the environmental performance of their products. The LiMaS project helps to overcome this by providing a simplified and user friendly approach to addressing different environmental issues during the product design process.

“Essentially, the project tries to fill the gap between companies that are not so aware about environmental issues and those that already use specialised tools to improve the environmental performance of their products,” explains Juan Carlos Alonso, LiMaS project coordinator. “The main advantage of the LiMaS tools is that they are user-friendly. The tools that have been developed are designed to be used by technicians, without the need for environmental experts.”

The project, which receives funding through CIP Eco-Innovation Programme, has initially targeted SMEs which manufacture energy-using products as well as electric and electronic equipment. For such businesses, the new tools facilitate:

  • A first analysis of legislative requirements – the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Restriction of Hazardous Substances and Energy-related-Products Directives and Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals Regulation – using specific questionnaires;
  • An assessment of the environmental performance of a specific product, considering its complete life cycle – ecological profile;
  • An assessment of the main environmental impacts of the enterprise – such as energy consumption and air emissions. This step is particularly needed for implementing an environmental management system such as the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme or ISO 14001;
  • The tracking of the hazardous substances used in the product; and
  • Information about the alternative means of communicating the environmental performance of the product – for example eco-labelling or environmental product declarations.

The data required is collected by means of a questionnaire. A shortened version – about 20 questions – allows users to carry out a first assessment of these issues. Different modules can then be used to adjust the initial data and develop more detailed assessments.

The support tools are currently available in desktop format. A desktop software tool, EuPecoprofiler, allows users to assess the environmental performance or ecological profile of a product. It then facilitates a comparison of different product design alternatives, using 16 different environmental indicators. Separate spreadsheet applications cover the other environmental aspects outlined above. These tools are currently available free of charge as downloads on the LiMaS website.

The long-term goal is to commercialise the final tool, LiMaS WebSuite. The application will be web-based and integrate all the functionalities in a single tool. The release of a beta-version is expected sometime before the end of 2011. This will be offered for free to promote its use and to collect feedback from the users. This feedback will be used to improve the final commercial version.

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