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Plastic Design Challenge

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Are you the future designer, business developer, artist or engineer that will come up with an actual solution for the ever-growing plastic waste issues of large organisations? Dare to challenge yourself and give yourself the chance to join the ranks of our famous former BlueCity Circular Challenge participants! Those former participants are now proud owners of startups and are leading the way towards a circular economy. Join them and start by subscribing for the Plastic Design Challenge!

You can apply with every background. From industrial design students to material experts and from fashionistas to infamous instagrammers. We believe in a multidisciplinary approach to any problem. It’s all about motivation, we will help you with the necessary expertise. We will support you with design thinking, business development and contacts with lots of experts. You will work together in a team of creative thinkers, specialists, starters and students and eventually build a prototype and a business model for your solution. Use all your passion and it will be the kick off for your own circular future!

The challenge will start 26 november at BlueCity Rotterdam and will last until March 8, 2019. Expect to spend 8-16 hours on the challenge each week. For more information continue reading or sign up below.

The courses will be divided into two main topics, I. Design Thinking and II. Business Development - and they will be inherently interlinked. As the product prototype you will be designing will be part of a real business model, both need to fit together like a glove. Your assignment will root either an organisation’s procurement issue or a waste driven problem, or both. You will analyse market needs to develop business, as well as a product or service system that fits these needs, and combined they will solve the issue technically and provide a long term impact business wise. You will get taught by the greater Rotterdam thinkers ranging from internationally established trend forecasters and you will get help writing your business plan from experienced business developers such as PwC.

You will be selected as individual, but will be assigned in a group, and although group composition may be subject to change along the way, and even though you may have an expertise in either prototyping, business, materials, philosophy, or something completely different, you will always experience the interconnectedness of both main subjects of design thinking combined with business development.

The Course




1. Market & Technical Analysis Phase

Every solution starts with a problem which is to be solved, you will need to understand and breathe the problem that is at hand, in order to solve it. Understanding your problem properly is half of the solution. Alongside the provided problem, exists a market, internally and externally of the proposed problem, and every market has its needs, they are key factors in order to eventually get to a solution. The goal here is to allocate and name the edges of what is possible, and find the wishes and demands in order to create something which is needed.

2. Idea Generation Phase

After you have gathered as much of the information that is needed from markets, user interviews, technical possibilities and limits, you will get to an idea generation phase - going wildly and numerously against all odds, generating ideas that could in essence solve (part of) the issue at hand. You will learn brainstorm techniques, but mostly, you will learn to rid yourself of limits.

3. Conceptualization Phase

You’re ideas weren’t for nothing, some may have seem weird and unsuitably, suddenly, somehow, they have become part of the potential solution. You will choose at least one, or multiple directions that seem to fit, combining several ideas to make it even better. Conceptualizing ideas is to test further explore them, while being critical, and them alongside the wishes and demands you have statically put up in the earlier phases of the design process.

4. Detailing Phase

You’re almost there. Along the way, while choosing the best option which we will eventually want to test into a working prototype or pilot - we make assumptions, on what will work and what will not. The detailing phase is to work out exactly, on paper, what does and doesn’t - for as far as we can. At least it can provide the whole team a clear range of expected costs and working principles, in order to further work out if we need to make important design changes before we start investing money into actually creating it.

5. Prototyping Phase

Your product appears to have actual value, market wise, emotionally and functionally. Now it is time to prove it; we have several fablabs or makerspaces, material-experts and machine-know-it-alls, that can help you make whatever you have thought of tangible. This is the time to make it visible, to make your client actually feel it in three dimensions.



1. Product

You’re team’s concepts are varied, ranging from expensive to cheap, from environmentally impactful or dashingly complex. It is time for a real world check, making them cope with business thinking - how will they sustain? Bringing in business wise thinking, may evolve in choosing the right product for the right market, while actually solving the client’s need. When the eventual direction is chosen, you will be able to explore and influence the team’s decisions in a numerical way; will it uphold a market need, will someone actually buy it, and, will the solution itself be actually profitable?

2. Marketing

Whatever the chosen direction may be, and whatever theory may prove it to be a great solution to any market - will it be marketable? How will you approach the market, who are they, who will make the decision to actually spend money on your solution? But more importantly, why will they do it? Is it a growing market, or maybe an established one? How will you convince them your solution is better than all the others? How will you make your audience experience your product as valuable?

3. Business System

So you found a proper product, and a working market, your business model is key if you are aiming to make long term impact. How is your solution in essence profitable, how will it make a long term impact and survive the long hard reach of time, realizing nothing is as big as you wanted it to be, tomorrow. Are you able to find a business model that encopasses growth while making impact at the same time, and solving the problem that your client needs?

4. Realization Schedule & Risks

Except for Hannibal in the A-team, no plan will ever succeed in the exactly the way we planned it, we know that, but we also know that without it - we have nothing to lean upon when things go wrong. A good plan is to make assumptions on what can go wrong, how, and when, what would be the consequences and what we could do in order to prevent it - if it ever would happen.

5. Finance

While at the one side your team is working on detailing the product, you’re working on the long term solution. Most of the expected product costs and revenues connected to market and growth can be grossly predicted - in order to turn assumptions into a viable business plan, it could even lead to changes in the eventual design - influencing its most costly investments. In any case, your team will be responsible for delivering a profit and loss statement, revenue numbers and a return on investment model.

Final: Executive Summary + Pitch Presentation

Everything will have to be summarized, briefly, wasting as little time as possible, you will need to be able to sell your intervention in one sentence, on every corner street, in every family party, to whomever you may speak. But moreover, your client needs to understand it and be convinced of it. Wrap it in, wrap it up, convince and make an actual case for change.

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Partner program

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As procurement manager or team leader in your company you face a variety of difficult and less complex challenges everyday, and even though you always manage to make the right choices at the right time, you are constantly looking to further develop the company, secretly or less secretive you manage to slowly slide in sustainable principles, while you get your work done. 

But, it can never be enough, and you believe that as a company you are responsible to make even better choices, and you want to lead your company in becoming a frontrunner that not only talks about circular principles, but is actually implementing them.

Now you have the chance to become an integral part of difficult challenge we face: plastic waste. Every company has it, and past decades - almost without our conscious consent, the amounts have been using it in everyday working life has been steadily increasing. Now we are almost unaware we use a lot of it - everywhere; it is found in every pen, and every printer ink cartridge, it is used to wrap single sliced food, or to bring lunch from home to work. As a company you are responsible for the amount of plastic intake, and the amount that eventually ends up as waste - as a company you pay for both the products that you buy, as well as the waste processing of the material at the end of its use, we can offer solutions on both sides of the scale. Thus, we are guiding teams of thinkers, tinkerers, designers, engineers, material experts, etc, to help you define and face your plastic challenge, with the purpose of tangibiably solving it in a business wise fashion.

If you become a project partner, we will identify your company plastic waste streams, and / or procurement needs in order to formulate a proper starting point, hereafter, within a few months, a dedicated team of circular economy experts-to-be will deliver a tangible product and or service system up to product-prototype level, while defining a solid business plan at paralel; which basically means you will end up with a profitable business, ready to be implemented - doing so will make you frontrunner, claiming leadership within your industry.

As project partner, you will have to:

  • Believe your company wants to become global frontrunner in terms of adapting circular economy principles.

  • Be able to invest time to help guide your dedicated design and business team, for about one hour every two weeks, lasting three months.

  • You will be asked to open up your doors when if we need to do research, and you will be asked to partly open up your books so we are able to find actual thresholds and hooks that make sense.