Green Tech Valley becomes Global Lab for Digital Circular Economy

Southern Austria is establishing itself on the world stage following the latest R&D projects under the circulAr fuTure industrial consortium. 10 partners are collaborating on the vision of a fully digitised circular economy that achieves significantly higher rates of recycling. Some € 20 million are being invested in the collaborative ventures in the Green Tech Valley. Waste management is being revolutionised under the new ReWaste F Centre of Excellence, with developments in product innovation and the use of artificial intelligence.
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Since 2018, members of the Green Tech Cluster have been working on a shared vision of a completely digital value chain for the circular economy. They include ANDRITZ, Binder + Co, Komptech, Mayer Recycling, REDWAVE, Saubermacher, Know-Center, Montan University of Leoben, as well as the State of Styria and the Styrian Chamber of Commerce. To further this initiative, the Digital Waste Research Lab and the ANDRITZ Recycling Technology Center have recently been opened, and are being followed by the new ReWaste F Centre of Excellence and interlinked projects focused on the application of artificial intelligence and overarching digitisation.

Artificial intelligence boosting recycling and climate protection

The mountains of waste and plastic are growing continuously throughout the world. Artificial intelligence (AI) offers the capability of sorting and recycling of waste materials to create new products, as well as increasing the energy efficiency of processes. The KI-Waste project from Know-Center and Komptech is funded by the Styrian Future Fund, and aims to increase the share of materials recycled by more than 10% through the innovative use of AI. Digital AI-based solutions point towards a greener future. As Carsten Ohl from REDWAVE explains: “This project, and follow-on developments within the joint circulAr FuTure group, will lead to cutting-edge innovations for the industry”. For the first time, image data from flows of material will be combined with data from processing systems. With the assistance of deep learning algorithms, the image analysis software learns to distinguish the materials much more effectively, enabling comprehensive levels of optimisation along the value chain.

New ReWaste F Centre of Excellence

The new COMET project, ReWaste F, funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) is involved in the experimental development of a Smart Waste Factory. Within this, waste is evaluated and characterised at the particle level and the technical feasibility of recycling is determined. Machinery is being equipped with new sensors as well as data acquisition and analysis systems. This further development is essential in waste management to facilitate overall plant monitoring and optimum control of resources and energy in operation. “Under the leadership of the Montan University Leoben,” explains Roland Pomberger from the Chair for Waste Processing Technology and Waste Management, “18 partners will work in this € 4.85 million project up to 2025”.

Pioneering role in the digital recycling industry

As Barbara Eibinger-Miedl, State Minister for Economic Affairs, noted: “Green technology is an industry sector of the future and a specific area of economic strength for Styria. Of the 18 Centres of Excellence in Environmental Technology in Austria, 14 of them are based in our federal state and, together with the Green Tech Cluster, make a significant contribution to climate and environmental protection. Innovation in the digital circular economy is a central component of this. And with this collaborative project in the Green Tech Valley we will further strengthen our role as a leading innovator in this field”.

Hans Seitinger, State Minister for Sustainability, further emphasised that “Styria has always been a pioneer in the implementation of innovative resource management and has also taken on this pioneering role in the digital recycling economy”.

The Green Tech Valley, which is a joint collaborative project between the states of Styria and Carinthia, has grown to become a global hotspot. It spans 230 companies, including 20 leaders in technology, and 1,800 university researchers involved in the collaborative development of green innovation. Within ten years, the companies in the cluster have doubled employment and tripled green sales to reach € 5 billion.


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