Advance London – 1st Anniversary

January 16th is a very special day. Not only is it my birthday but it was also the first birthday of the Advance London programme – and what a whirlwind of a year it’s been! So in this blog I would like to look back on our first year and some of the key highlights for us and our SMEs.

In the last 12 months we’ve had the unique pleasure of sharing that ‘start-up’ buzz that all of our SMEs have been through at one point or another. Our challenge was identified, we generated lots of ideas about how it could be solved, and we’ve been working on making them become reality ever since!


More than half of the world’s population currently live in cities. London is one of the largest cities in the world. Is it designed to deal with the pressures of providing services and resources to its ever growing population? No. As a result, we’ve seen the rise of trends such as smart cities, internet of things and circular economy.


Over the last couple of years, LWARB has been committed to understanding how the circular economy can enable London to be more sustainable and resilient; and at the same time deal with the growing pressures of population growth, resource demands and rising levels of waste. Through this journey of understanding, LWARB produced the Circular Economy Route Map for London – a comprehensive guide and action plan for transforming London into a circular city.

So how does this relate to Advance London? The route map identified that moving to a circular economy could bring London net benefits of at least £7 billion every year by 2036. The circular economy provides a clear business case for transitioning from traditional business models of ‘make, use and dispose’ to designing for resource recovery and re-use. London has a wealth of SMEs driving its economy, where they make up a staggering 90% of the capital’s entire private sector. But what support is out there for SMEs who are interested in the circular economy? Very little.

So LWARB successfully attracted investment from the European Regional Development Fund to launch our SME advisory support programme: Advance London: a programme designed to help SMEs in London maximise the opportunities that exist within the circular economy.

Our journey so far

One year into the programme and we’ve celebrated some great achievements:

  • We had so much fun at our launch in April 2017 with over 100 guests at City Hall. Check out the launch video here
  • We delivered our first DIF session in November 2017, and you can find the highlights here
  • We’ve worked with 69 SMEs so far (our target for the whole three year programme is to support 100 SMEs, so it’s been busy!)
  • We have attended several events across Europe (including Iceland, Netherlands and Catalonia) to raise the profile of circular SMEs in London and all the amazing work they’re doing
  • We provided mentoring support to the finalists of the London City Fashion Challenge
  • We collaborated with our friends at Circular Economy Club, Future Cities Catapult, GLA and Blue Patch to host a variety of events including networking events and innovation workshops

But this year hasn’t just been about us – it’s been a super successful and exciting year for our SMEs too. Here are a few of their highlights:

  • Cup Club and Skipping Rocks Lab were the winners of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Design Challenge
  • Tryatec won the #CEHack17, a hackathon organised by LWARB, RWM and Suez
  • bio-bean launched an exciting new collaboration with Shell to power London’s buses
  • ZigZag Global were winners of the 2017 Startup Pitch at Shoptalk in Copenhagen
  • At the Climate-KIC UK & Ireland Venture Competition in September 2017, Aceleron, Aeropowder, Customem and Twipes were the winners. All four went onto the European finals
  • Following a successful pilot at Planet Organic in Muswell Hill, Unpackaged has been rolled out at a further two stores in London

This list could go on and on but we want to congratulate each and every one of our SMEs on all of their hard work and success in 2017. We can’t wait to see more results like this in the next two years!

What’s next?

This year:

  • We’ll soon be launching our brand new website. This will be a platform to share news, blogs and best practice case studies from the circular SMEs who are part of the Advance London programme
  • We have a few new faces joining Advance London and can’t wait for you to meet them
  • We will be launching a new series of ‘Circular Economy Sector Guides’ based on our knowledge of specific industries
  • Advance London is hosting lots more workshops and events. Join us!

In the meantime, keep up to date with all our news and events by following us on Twitter: @Advance_London

And if you haven’t applied for the programme, then do it now:

Emma McKenna, Business Advisor, Advance London,