DECIDE – Digital Services for Circular Economy – a Toolbox for Regional Developers & SME

Funded by: Interreg Danube

Project duration: 1.1.2024 – 1.7.2026

The future holds many challenges and the EU responds with respective programs and objectives, like Agenda 30‘s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Fit for 55 – the EU’s plan for a green transition and especially the Circular Economy Action Plan (part of European Green Deal). The latter sets clear objectives which also contribute to the goal of the other programs: Make sustainable products the norm in the EU; focus on the sectors that use most resources and where the potential for circularity is high, including batteries and vehicles, packaging, textiles, plastics, ICT, construction and buildings, food, water and nutrients; ensure less waste; make circularity work for people, regions and cities.

With regard to the EU response, it is clear that Circular Economy Business Models (CEBM) are given a special role in addressing current and future challenges at a transnational level and that they are significant for achieving the set objectives. However, the development and implementation of CEBM meets common obstacles in the DR such as local regulations contrary to the circular concept, lack of infrastructure for waste treatment, lack of recycling technology and especially a lack of adequately planned business models.

This is where the project aims to intervene by providing methods and tools to SMEs, Startups, Economic Developers for the development of successful CEBM by modelling existing best practice CEBM (in batteries, food, textile, packaging, smart city), in-depth simulations on ecological and social dimensions and continuous monitoring of the CEBM’s success – protected by blockchain technology. Accordingly, the implementation of practical pilots and targeted qualification measures will ensure a thorough understanding of CE value chains and allow for knowledge transfer from the existing best practice CEBM across borders and sectors within the DR, turning the supposed weakness of geographical segmentation into a new and unique innovation accelerator.

Enhancing Brewery Operations with New Digital Tools: The HIGHFIVE Project

Funded by: HIGHFIVE Innovation Project, that has received funding under the European Union’s I3 programme under grant agreement 101083989.

Project duration: December 2023 – November 2024

Anteja ECG is working on a new project titled ‘Digitalizing Value Chains in the Brewery Industry for the Twin Transition.’ This project focuses on improving our main platform, the Value Chain Generator (VCG.AI®), by using artificial intelligence and big data to help create better business connections. Our aim is to adapt this platform specifically for breweries, testing and applying it in real-life situations on a large scale. We plan to add more data sources, improve our AI models for handling bigger datasets, develop a module for simulating business scenarios, and thoroughly test everything in real working conditions to help breweries work more efficiently and sustainably. To facilitate decision-making process and implementation, business case simulation module will evaluate also economic impact of building new value chains and act as a sales accelerator/tool.

The HIGHFIVE project is set to tackle specific problems faced by the brewing industry, especially the low rates of recycling and reuse in the EU. We’re focusing on BioLink models for breweries to help them find new ways to connect with other sectors, create more business value, and speed up the shift towards greener practices by finding better uses for waste materials. By incorporating VCG.AI in their operations, breweries could significantly cut down on waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while also seeing economic advantages. This project is not just about improving how breweries operate, but also about helping Anteja ECG grow and expand its market reach.

Developing circular economy in Rwanda as a potential for job creation

The aim of this project was to support private sector companies in their adoption of circular economy business opportunities in Rwanda for sustainable economic development and to stimulate job creation in Rwanda.

The project was commissioned in the context of two initiatives: Invest for Jobs and CE4A initiative.

The Invest for Jobs initiative was created by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), among other partners. It supports German, European and African companies who invest and expand their business activities in Africa. Offering advice, contacts, and financial support, the initiative aims to create 100,000 jobs and 30,000 training places in seven African countries, including Rwanda, to improve local working conditions and promote sustainable economic development.

To support circular economic development in Africa, Invest for Jobs co-initiated the Circular Economy for Africa e.V. (CE4A) initiative. CE4A is a demand-driven and results-oriented consortium of multi-stakeholder actors who share the aim of contributing to the global transition towards a circular economy through joint action in Africa. It focuses on the development of circular thinking, waste management and recycling, and the creation of sustainable, inclusive, quality, and green jobs.

Our tasks included:

  1. Creation of a report on the status and development of the circular economy in Rwanda.
  2. Development of 10 project ideas and 5 concrete project concept notes, indicating how Invest for Jobs can concretely support business or cluster opportunities in the circular economy for more and better jobs in Rwanda, through financing agreements or technical assistance measures. 
  3. Based on the most promising concept notes, development of two Terms of References and cost estimates for the tendering of circular economy support services by the GIZ Invest for Jobs programme. 

Client: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Date: November 2021 – March 2022

EU Interreg GoDanubio

Participative ecosystems to foster the revitalization of rural-urban cooperation through governing circular bioeconomy in the Danube regions and cities.

Project duration:

Project start date: 01-07-2020

Project end date: 31-12-2022


Overall: 2713796.5 EUR

ERDF Contribution: 2214155.21 EUR

IPA Contribution: 92571.8 EUR

ENI Contribution: 0 EUR

Danube regions and cities face major societal transitions regarding demographic change. The rural exodus is caused by better employment opportunities for the youth and the prospect of a better life in cities. The movement of labor leads to depopulated areas leaving an aging and increasingly unskilled population behind. However, regions can make a significant new beginning. But a multi-level participative governance approach and new institutional capacities are needed to pool existent excellent competencies and development potentials.

Co-creating future strategies to increase the attractiveness of rural areas is the key to give the youth new incentives to revive rural areas. Circular bioeconomy is used as a tool that promises to foster regional development: It is a concept focusing on the transition of a fossil-resource based economy towards an economy making use of sustainable production of biological resources and processes to develop new products, thus setting rural areas and their development into focus.

The concept catalyzes interdisciplinary cooperation also between different policy areas/levels to actively address demographic change, by enhancing value creation through new collaboration, business models and value chains raising the attractiveness to stay and even move to rural areas.

Long term goal of the project is to enhance the socio-economic status of the regions, contribute to environmental, climate and resource protection as well as foster development of rural areas. An ecosystem for systematic multi-level governance with actors from the interested public, academia, industry and political decision making will be developed.

That ecosystem gives space for co-creation and new forms of integrated urban-rural cooperation leading to increased institutional capacity to tackle demographic change. Thus, overcoming the persistent lack of engagement of societal actors in the political system by giving them ownership to address demographic change.

Project website

Accelerating Sierra Leone’s circular economy of plastics

Recognizing the risks of plastics pollution to tourism and other sectors, Sierra Leone creates opportunities for an increased circular economy, sustainable tourism, economic diversification and environmental conservation.

The project is part of joint efforts of the Government of Sierra Leone (Ministry of Finance) and the World Bank Group, within the initiative “Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project (SLEDP)”. It aims to facilitate investment, growth of SMEs, and entrepreneurship in non-mining productive sectors in Sierra Leone, such as tourism. 

The project focuses on helping Sierra Leone reduce the problem of plastic pollution. This is done in several stages. As a first step, we identified the economic sectors that contribute to plastic pollution the most. These sectors were assessed in terms of their potential to substitute, re-use or manufacture products from recycled plastics. Initial mapping points included, but didn’t limit to, healthcare, agriculture, hospitality, transport, and construction. This helped to identify and profile sectors that can stimulate the reduction of plastic pollution via regulatory changes concerning the practice of recycling, which leads to the development and production of alternative materials.

The project encompasses in-country interviews with focus groups, stakeholders, and entrepreneurial discovery workshops (EDW). It is also intended to create a Plastics Leadership Platform to further enable SMEs, companies, start-ups, NGOs and governments to contribute to solving plastic pollution challenges. The project does not just tackle pollution, but contributes to gender equality via the creation of career opportunities for women and girls in the fields of plastics manufacturing, re-use, and R&D.

The consortium, formed by Anteja ECG (SI) and VDI/VDE-IT (DE), and ManoCap (Sierra Leone), has had substantial experience in similar assignments related to the circular economy in Africa and globally. The involvement of local partners ensures participation of companies and plastic waste management stakeholders.

Partners: VDI/VDE-IT (DE), ManoCap (Sierra Leone)

Client: The World Bank Group

Date: January 2021 – June 2022


EU Interreg ARDIA-Net

EU Interreg ARDIA-Net
Developing an Alpine Space Research, Development and Innovation by lowering barriers for cross-regional cooperation.

Project duration

Project start date: 1.10.2019

Project end date: 30.6.2022


Total eligible costs: 1.591.414 EUR

ERDF grant: 1.169.952 EUR

Ardia-Net aims to develop a multilevel, multinational and coherent Alpine RDI Area for cross-regional and interdisciplinary cooperation and implement a joint funding framework and pilot projects, addressing circular bioeconomy and health economy megatrends.

ARDIA-Net project is led by BIOPRO Baden-Wurttemberg and involves 7 other partners located in 6 different Alpine regions. ARDIA-Net tackles a common challenge to many Alpine Space (AS) regions: the excellent AS innovation hot spots operate in a disconnected way since there is a lack of a multilevel transnational governance for a cross-regional S3 approach. S3 across the AS relies on existing capacities in relevant priority areas, such as digitization, agro-food, health, materials, which represent huge synergy potentials at cross-regional level. For this reason, actors should cooperate transnationally along the value chains to have an impact and implement the macro-regional strategies, such as EUSALP.

The challenge is to create a Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) area which, other than the Interreg-program, addresses the regions’ specific interest in synchronizing and funding joint activities across regions. This can lead to a mutual benefit for the alpine regions, through a smart connection of S3.

Furthermore, the improvement of the macroregional cooperation can significantly enhance the growth of new cross-sectoral value chains in the fields of circular bioeconomy and health economy, which are based on critical mass of actors and investments.

ARDIA-Net aims to develop a multilevel, multinational and coherent Alpine RDI Area for cross-regional and interdisciplinary cooperation and implement a joint funding framework and pilot projects addressing CBH megatrends. Regional S3 are aligned through synergy diamonds developed in the S3-4AlpClusters project, allowing the identification of mutual benefits, highest potential for innovative products and services related to CBH and contributing to common EUSALP priorities (eg. advanced manufacturing or eHealth).

ARDIA-Net’s partnership is actively involved in regional policy deployment and is composed of actors of new CBH value chains. It allows the efficient synchronization of RDI calls, the alignment of relevant actors, leading to hands-on innovative projects covering entire new CBH value chains, from research to market. ARDIA will result in a ready-to-use funding environment and innovation beacons for future cooperation in S3-implementation.

Project’s website

EU Interreg AlpLinkBioEco

Linking bio-based industry value chains across the Alpine region

Start date: 16.4.2018
End date: 16.4.2021

Total eligible costs: 2,036.020 EUR
ERDF grant: 1,730.617 EUR

A missing holistic transnational/regional approach in the Alpine Space causes existing actors in the bio-based economy to operate disjointed. Relevant clusters operate disconnected, important value chains are not established especially for producing high value applications and products that address critical societal needs: circular economy, environmental sustainability, local employment and quality of life. As the Alpine Space regions possess huge biomass resources and the necessary knowledge and technology to use them in sectors such as green chemicals, biopolymers or bio-based materials, Alpine Space competitiveness potential remains then untapped.

AlpLinkBioEco created a cross Alpine Space circular bio-based strategy, establishing awareness, assessing, selecting and creating transnational/regional new value chains connecting all relevant actors, and demonstrating the implementation of successful business opportunities.

Main results of the AlpLinkBioEco project are:

1. Value Chain Generator Tool

The Value Chain Generator (VCG) Tool is one of the main outputs of AlpLinkBioEco and it has been developed by the Institute of Complex Systems, School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg (HES-SO//FR HEIA-FR).

It is a software that allows to match actors from different sectors and countries to create novel bio-based value chains and it has been tested and successfully exploited by the project partners for this purpose during the project. Both intra-regional as well as cross-regional new business opportunities can be envisaged if data is shared, as it was the case during the project. The primary users of the VCG are the stakeholders of innovation ecosystems, companies, researchers, policymakers, but also cluster managers. New users are invited to join, since the source code of the VCG software is available under a permissive software license.

VCG website

2. Joint Masterplan on circular bio-based economy

The Masterplan collects inputs, resources and assets analyzed through the AlpLinkBioEco Project and gives valuable recommendations to boost the definition of a joint bioeconomy strategy in the Alpine Region.

Project’s website

AlpLinkBioEco – Creating BioBased Value in the Alpine Space (2021)

AlpLinkBioEco – Joint Masterplan on circular bioeconomy (March 2021)


Opportunities for digitalization in natural fibres value chains.

Start date: 1.8.2019
End date: 31.1.2021

Total cost: 233.588,89 EUR
Amount of ARPAF co-financing: 210.230,00 EUR

Funding: co-financed by the European Parliament through the Alpine Region Preparatory Action Fund (ARPAF)
Coordinator: Schweizerische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für die Berggebiete – SAB

– BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH (Germany)
– Department for Economic Development, Research and Labour of the Autonomous Province of Trento (Italy)
– Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science University of Maribor (Slovenia)
– Anteja ECG (Slovenia)
– Hub Innovazione Trentino – Fondazione (Italy)
– Ecoplus, the Business Agency of Lower Austria (Austria)

The aim of the Smart SMEs project is to understand to what extent SMEs that produce, process and apply natural fibres use digitalization tools and approaches. The project will also evaluate obstacles that prevent SME’s from exploiting the full potential of digital solutions. An international consortium for the project has been formed, comprising the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science University of Maribor and partners from Italy, Lower Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Every SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) routinely uses email addresses, but digitalization now offers enterprises a whole raft of solutions to make life easier and business more profitable – from electronic document management systems, promoting goods and services on social media to eCommerce and Big Data. Digitalization measures are only successful when company managers want and support them. SME’s, however, tend to have small management teams that are overwhelmed by other tasks, leaving them little time to identify and use the potential offered by digitalization. Businesses in rural areas have the additional problem of often unreliable internet connections.

The Smart SMEs project will contribute to finding solutions to overcome existing barriers. In addition to this, Anteja ECG together with BIOPRO, will organize and host a Policy Action Forum to bring policy makers from different sectors (digitalization, rural development and bioeconomy) together to begin sharing experiences and to validate the roadmap.

The project will be specifically focusing on enterprises in biobased value chains that produce, process and apply natural fibre-based materials, both cultivated and recycled from biological waste. The project is therefore tackling the idea of sustainable transformation in the Alpine region through the bioeconomy concept.

Project’s website

Project’s report

BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH. (May, 2020). Smart SME’s – Mapping of actual state of play and needs, Synthesis report. Smart SME’s.

EU Interreg DanuBioValNet

Multiple countries’ effort to enable the transition from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy in the Danube region.

Start date: 1.1.2017
End date: 30.6.2019

Overall: 2320844,8
ERDF Contribution: 1.857.124,54 EUR
IPA Contribution: 115.593,54 EUR
ENI Contribution: 0

Bioeconomy has a huge potential in the Danube region which could promote development based on innovation, new services, and value chains. The development of new bio-based value chains from primary production to consumer markets requires connecting firms across national boundaries and industries. Together with other expert groups from across the Danube region, Anteja helped to articulate a joint bio-based Industry Cluster Policy Strategy to further promote bio-based value chains. The clusters and SMEs benefit from the innovative tools and methods developed for transnational cross-clustering. Three sector-specific value chains were established and serve as a model for future development of bio-based industry activities in the Danube region. The main stakeholders include the four ministries from the region, the clusters and their SMEs, and the nine cluster organizations involved.

Project’s website

Project’s report

Meier zu Köcker G., Patzelt D., Dermastia M., Osvald D., Švajger G., Keller M. (June, 2019). Common Action Plan towards better framework conditions for bio-based eco-innovation in 1 Danube Region. DanuBioValNet.

EUSALP Transalp

Bringing the circular economy to farmers in the rural Alpine region for sustainable growth by establishing medicinal and aromatic plants value chains and supporting green infrastructure.

Duration: January 2018 – March 2019

Funding: The project is co-financed by the European Union (Alpine Region Preparatory Action Funds – ARPAF).


  • Cluster Agency Baden-Württemberg (DE, Lead)
  • Plastic Innovation Competence Center (CH)
  • Provincia autonoma di Trento (IT)
  • Poly4EmI hosted by Anteja ECG d.o.o. (SI)
  • Bavarian State Ministry for Environment and Consumer Protection (DE)

Medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) are botanical raw materials that are used for therapeutic, aromatic or culinary purposes as components of cosmetics, medicinal or food products. There is an increasing demand for medicinal and aromatic plants thanks to an increased production of healthcare formulations. MAP’s-based supplements have a market of $35 billion p. a.

The project aims to bring the circular economy approach to farmers in rural Alpine region for more sustainable growth by establishing medicinal and aromatic plants value chains and supporting green infrastructure networks by promoting sustainable practices and awareness raising.

The main results of the project are a strategic overview on how this cross-cutting topic can work in the Alpine Space, one fully developed medicinal and aromatic plants’ value chain, proposals for upgrading skills of actors and first experiences how green infrastructure networks can work in practice.

Project’s website