Lowering barriers to green technologies uptake
More than 300 small businesses in Flanders have benefited from professional advice, coaching and operational training on sustainable technologies at the Prodem centre in Mol in the north-east of Belgium. Launched in 1996, the project has been renewed several times, partly financed with European funds.
"Prodem helped us to validate technologically an innovative procedure to maximise the benefits of mechanically deboned meat. The demonstration project enabled us to assess the feasibility of setting up a new business line and we've invested €12 million in a new production plant."
Constant Vanneste, Manager, Proliver
The project is hosted by VITO, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research. It supports small businesses in taking the step towards sustainable production by setting up demonstration projects and feasibility studies.
Advice, studies and demonstrations
In Flanders, most small businesses know their core business. But few have the time or knowledge to introduce more sustainable development practices into their workplace and operations.
VITO is an independent and customer-oriented research organisation. It provides innovative technological solutions as well as science-based advice and support to stimulate sustainable development and reinforce the Flanders region’s economic and social fabric. It decided to focus on sustainable development practices through Prodem, which stands for PROmotion and DEMonstration Centre for environmental and energy friendly technologies for small businesses.
The project has continued more or less continuously since it began in 1996, with several different Flemish regional partners. It has also benefited from EU co-funding through the ERDF since 2000.
At the centre in Mol, companies learn how to green up their production processes. They can for example assess the appropriateness and feasibility of existing and proven environment-friendly technologies. Or they can participate in demonstration projects to test new technologies, before deciding to invest in them.
Encouraging sustainable investment
During its partnership with Antwerp and Limburg provinces, the project helped a number of Flemish companies to make more sustainable investments in areas ranging from sewage to odour and dust remediation. It also pioneered environmental technology verification (ETV), helping one firm and its technology-supply partners to select for instance photo-oxidation as a way of tackling odour in its production process. Under Prodem, the technology verification check cost around €15 000 for the small business and its technology-supplying partner, but could represent a significant breakthrough of an innovative technology.
Prodem also organised several seminars highlighting success stories for use of environmental-friendly technologies in Flanders. Towards the end of the project, the focus was increasingly on renewable energy technologies, in response to questions from small businesses about smart energy networks.