Companies and research centres in Navarre, on the road to ecological transition

Pamplona, 10 October 2023

Are Navarre’s companies ready to tackle the Net Zero challenge? Will they be able to meet the targets set by the European Union? How can they start on the road to decarbonisation?
These and other questions of great interest to the business sector were discussed this morning at the event “Navarra EcoCircular Tech. Technology for the ecological transition and circular economy”, organised by ATANA Technology and Consultancy Cluster, ENERCLUSTER Renewable Energy Cluster of Navarra, IRIS Innovation Pole of Navarra and ADITECH, coordinator of the Navarra R&D&I System SINAI.

Both research centres and leading companies from Navarre took part in the conference, sharing their projects based on the energy transition and good practices in the circular economy.
Miguel Ángel Latasa, president of ATANA Technology and Consultancy Cluster, welcomed the attendees, stressing the key role of technology companies in the path towards the circular economy: “Technology companies have a lot to say in this world we are currently living in. We are moving from a linear economy to a circular one, with an energy transformation towards sustainable energies”.

As this conference has shown, technology is essential for companies to be sustainable. In this sense, technology centres and research institutes develop R&D&I on which to base the creation of practical solutions applicable to the business environment.

The first researcher to speak was Ibai Funcia, from the National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER), who presented the “Zebra Life” project, which aims to reduce the environmental impact and promote the circular economy in the paper sector through a by-product reoriented to its application in multiple sectors: rubber, polymers, fuels, lubricants, cosmetics…

In its aim to contribute to industrial sustainability, one of the initiatives being developed at the Navarre Mobility and Mechatronics Technology Centre (NAITEC) revolves around the recycling of electromagnetic materials. As explained by researcher Itziar Landa, it is based on two key points: the circular economy, through the use of ferrites from electromagnetic devices that are no longer in use; and eco-design, the optimisation of the design to print ferrites in 3D and thus lighten the components and the quantity required for their manufacture.

“Navarra is a pioneer in the use of biogas. We are at the forefront in the use of industrial and urban (domestic) waste,” said Joaquín Erice, head of Energy Projects at the Navarre Industry Association (AIN), a pioneering organisation that has been involved in a project for almost three decades at the Góngora Urban Waste Treatment Centre, which is managed by the Pamplona Region Association. Thanks to this research, the methane gas generated by the discarded organic matter is converted into energy to supply the Regional Urban Transport buses, among other uses, thereby minimising the carbon footprint. He added: “Waste plants have a negative connotation, but they must be seen as a source of energy generation and use, as an opportunity”.

Jose Calleja, head of Strategic Initiatives at the TECNALIA Research and Technological Development Centre, began his presentation by stating that “the amount of waste that is not reused is going to collapse the system. There is no plan B”. This is why the European Union wants to introduce new regulations such as the Digital Product Passport, a way to promote sustainability and transparency in the entire life cycle of a product, from its manufacture to its resale or disposal. “This will allow us to reuse materials, provide more information to consumers, promote the circular economy and take advantage of new business opportunities that arise in this area,” he said.

At the round table moderated by Andrés Seco, director of the Chair of Transfer and Innovation in Circular Economy of the Public University of Navarre (UPNA), all participants agreed that the challenge set by the European Union is very great, and the situation is worrying, since important efforts are already being made by companies in Navarre, but they believe that they will not be enough to achieve the demanding objectives set by European institutions.

After the presentation of IRIS EDIH services in Navarra by Andrea Urrecho (ADItech), several leading companies in Navarra presented their success stories in this area.
Ion Arocena explained how the R&D&I developed at Nabrawind Technologies has made it possible to significantly reduce the ecological footprint in the wind power sector by raising the generators. “We need the technology to reduce the ecological footprint,” he said. He added: “The most important challenge facing humanity is the challenge of CO2 reduction.
Juan Antonio Prados, from Lexmark, said that “there is no sustainability without circular economy” and that in his company this path is based on technology and innovation: printers that last longer and longer, that save energy, that are made of recycled materials, that reuse components, that are more efficient… “We are part of the problem, and it is about being part of the solution. With the circular economy we all win: the company, the buyer and the planet”.

Javier Villanueva, CEO of RenerCycle, began his speech in the same vein: “The circular economy plays a key role in the long term; it contributes to reducing climate change and helps to preserve biodiversity. Natural capital is limited and therefore, although it is within our reach, we must be responsible in its use. It is time to think about another economy, a circular economy that ensures a better future based on sustainable development, promoting responsible consumption and the reuse of materials”. He also made reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations that pursue a better future by addressing development in a sustainable manner.

Adrián Larripa, CEO of bigD and professor at the University of Navarra, highlighted the importance of eco-design in the circular economy. In his company, which specialises in the design and innovation of technological products, they are committed to innovation through design and linked to strategy.

The second round table of the day was moderated by Cristina García, manager of ATANA, and analysed how these circular economy practices are being developed in our community and whether companies in Navarre, especially SMEs, are prepared for this great challenge. The debate once again highlighted the importance of technology companies as providers of solutions to guide society and companies towards the path of the circular economy.

The last presentation of the day was given by Gonzalo Bañón, sustainability and climate change consultant at EY, who gave some guidelines for companies to start preparing for the regulations required by the European Union, which will soon come into force. One of the main ones is the European Green Pact, which aims for there to be no Greenhouse Gases (GHG) by 2050, which has given rise to a lot of legislation in this regard to require European companies to achieve this goal.

The event ended with an invitation to reflect. Because sustainability is no longer an option… Many habits and consciences have to be changed. And for this, the public administration has to set very high demands and get companies and citizens to get down to work; something that will entail a great effort but which, in the future, will bear

Speakers at the Navarra EcoCircular Tech event organised by ATANA and ENERCLUSTER.


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