The new Chair of Transformation of the Economic Model: Circular Economy in the Water Sector of the University of Valencia was presented today at the Joan Plaça Auditorium of the Botanical Garden of the UV. This chair has been created jointly by the University with the inance and Economic Model Department of the Generalitat Valenciana, and has been presented in the ‘Reuse in the context of the circular economy: a necessary challenge’.ç

The Vice Chancellor of Innovation and Transfer of the UV, María Dolores Real, has opened the meeting beside the general director of Economic Model, Autonomous Financing and Financial Policy, Juan Salvador Pérez and the Professor of Applied Economics responsible for the Chair, Francesc Hernández. Real highlighted the importance of the chair regarding the promotion of dialogue between the academic community and the business and institutional sectors. Moreover, she is confident about implementing new solutions: “R&D must propose innovative solutions to promote a change towards circular models”.

Paradigm shift
For his part, the General Director of the Economic Model has talked about the need to change the paradigm, but the mentality as well: “In less than 10 years, the demand for water will exceed 40% of the available resources. The situation is urgent”. Given the problem, Juan Salvador Pérez considers it is essential we stop looking at wastewater as waste. On the contrary, “they are a fundamental and very valuable resource” on the road to a new productive and economic model.

For Francesc Hernández, director of the Chair, the main objective is “to contribute to the transformation of the economic model”. According to his opinion, “the circular economy must be the engine of that transformation. It is not about not having many more options, it is the only one we have.” He also highlighted the practical and operational nature of the chair and relied on its character as a generator of change: “the theoretical framework is clear, now we have to start working for the main actors of our society to implement the principles of circular economy”.

Then, the general director of the Economic Model has spoken about the role of the circular economy in the transformation of the Valencian economic model and has said that “the change towards a new productive model has been a priority of the Botanic Government since its inception”. He also stressed the importance of the circular economy within the 2017-2027 Action Plan given its strategic nature: “the circular economy generates value for both society and businesses. It is a more efficient model helping the reduction of consumption and emissions. In addition, it can also generate niche markets and jobs”.

Future’s challenges
In turn, Roberto Arnau, deputy director of innovation programs of the Valencian Agency of Innovation, has explained in detail the programs and lines of action of the organization and highlighted the need for innovation in the circular economy. Moreover, Arnau explained that the Agency is working on different challenges of the circular economy, such as the future of agri-food or the treatment and reuse of waste, especially water.

The director of the new Chair and Professor of Applied Economics at UV, Francesc Hernández, has closed the first part of the meeting with the presentation of the ‘Guide to financing for circular economy projects’. Hernández believes that institutional support is necessary so that the circular economy can generate change and jobs. The guide is born “with the aim of making known all the financing programs available in the field of circular economy, especially in the context of the European Union”. In addition, with the preparation of this guide for both companies and administrations “we also want to show that it is perfectly feasible to ask for aid and very likely to obtain financing resources.”

Businesses and City Halls
After the coffee break, the head of the Hydrological Planning Office of the Júcar Hydrographic Confederation has talked about the challenges of the circular economy in the water sector. For his part, José Miguel Vanyo, Operation Manager of Hidraqua, has exposed his vision on the implementation of the circular economy in the management of water from a business perspective, and so did Jaime Castillo, director of Institutional Relations of the Global Omnium company. Finally, the mayor of Ribarroja del Turia, Robert Raga, has talked about successful experiences in the implementation of the circular economy in the Local Administration. The meeting has been completed with a debate between speakers and attendees.

During the meeting, the potential of reuse as an engine of transformation of a productive economy has been addressed and its important benefits for the environment and the welfare of society have been analyzed. It must be remembered that the raison d’être of the Chair is the verification of the growing scarcity of a basic resource such as water, especially relevant in areas such as the Valencian Community. As it has been shown on the meeting, a paradigm shift towards a circular economy approach is necessary in which wastewater could be seen not as waste, but as a valuable resource in the current context.