Award scheme highlights environmental as well as social innovation

Award scheme highlights environmental as well as social innovation

A European award scheme for innovative social projects shows that social innovation often goes hand in hand with environmental innovation. The European Social Innovation Competition gave out its first awards in 2013, and the scheme is now getting ready to open its fourth edition, with a launch event in Amsterdam on 25 February 2016.

The awards are designed to provide a boost to business ideas and social start-ups that deal with social inclusion. The 2015 theme was ‘New ways to grow’, and the intention was to recognise projects that envisage new ways of inclusive economic development, such as through collaboration, sharing, new technologies and the circular economy. The awards are open to projects in EU countries and in 13 other countries eligible to participate in the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and development programme.

Among the three winners in 2015 was Wheeliz, a French car-sharing platform aimed at wheelchair users. The scheme’s idea is to enable disabled owners of vehicles that have been adapted to their needs to rent them to other disabled people who might not have easy car access. According to the Wheeliz website, the rewards of sharing can be significant – it claims that owners of adapted cars make an average of €345 per week by renting out their cars, thereby enabling more efficient use of the overall fleet of adapted vehicles.

Another of the winners, Apiform from Bosnia and Herzegovina, encourages wheelchair users to participate in beekeeping. Apiform has developed a wheelchair accessible beehive that opens from the back rather than from the top. European bee populations are currently under pressure, and beekeeping could help address this.

A number of the finalists for the award also combined social and environmental innovation:

  • Belgian cooperative De Landgenoten promotes sharing and crowdfunding so that land for sustainable farming can be purchased by young farmers who might otherwise struggle to raise sufficient funds.
  • Italy’s LastMinuteSottoCasa has set up a local information distribution system for food retailers, enabling them to send SMS notifications to local consumers about stock that is approaching its use-by date and which is being offered at a discount. The project has calculated that it is reducing food waste by 15 tonnes per month, and has significant scope for expansion. The scheme can also help cut food costs for those on low incomes.
  • Phee is a Greek venture that produces 3D printing filament from waste seagrass leaves.
  • Monar is a Polish NGO that helps marginalised people. It aims to produce its own healthy, sustainable snacks, which will be sold through a network of vending machines.

For more information

Information on the 2016 European Social Innovation Competition, which has as its theme social innovation for refugees and migrants, is available at http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=8626

Details of the 2015 finalists are available at http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=8520