During the past summer months the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) kicked off the living lab on industrial symbiosis in Belgium. Building on its experience to facilitate the cooperation and the symbiosis between industrial partners and with the research and knowledge centres, the OVAM organised different gatherings. These intended to discover the potential for a software tool matching the supply and demand for (secondary) raw materials from waste streams. The OVAM also wanted to reflect with its partners on the challenges facing the building sector while making the transition from a linear to a circular economy.

On 22 and 29 June 2017 the offices of the OVAM in Mechelen (a city also know as Malines, in French) were the venue for the stakeholders from several industrial sectors, waste traders and research institutions. They met to discuss the pros and cons of an online symbiosis platform. Apart from getting insight in the expectations and relevant features of a future ICT-platform, a few more fundamental questions were raised: How does an ICT-platform safeguard a higher valorisation of waste? How do we guarantee the financial viability of the platform? How will we evaluate its success? How can we open up the debate on industrial symbiosis and circular economy from a mere academic debate to a common practice?

On 28 August key stakeholders of the construction and demolition sector met with government officials and researchers. This time the aim was to get to grips with key questions and challenges of urban mining for the building and demolition sector. They further aimed to identify research questions that could be taken up in the following labs and possible trial projects. The challenges were manifold: from mere technical and logistic issues, to legal and financial brain twisters and a call for new and different business models.

We have learned a lot from these meetings of the First Belgian living lab on symbiosis. It now remains for the OVAM and the stakeholders to draw conclusions from the discussions. It is still a difficult task to bring some of these questions to a higher level. These guiding questions for the further research will steer us along with our partners towards innovative solutions.