An Italian start-up company working in end-of-life management of IT assets and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) seeks technical partners in the electronic equipment manufacturing, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and chemical sector for the valorization of valuable components and secondary raw materials extraction. Potential cooperation types: commercial agreement with technical assistance and technical/research cooperation agreement.
The Italian start up, active in the IT asset end-of-life industry, is the new member of a group with a long-standing expertise in strategic business and IT consultancy, company management, auditing and circular economy. The group has a vast network of clients in the IT, Banking, Manufacturing and Automotive sectors.
IT assets that reach end-of-life are disposed of as WEEE (waste electric and electronic equipment) or simply surrendered to companies working in the second-hand market. The landscape of such companies in Europe is quite fragmented, with a few actors that have implemented e-commerce sites for high-end/good quality refurbished IT assets and smaller companies that work on an “availability” basis. WEEE is treated in registered facilities that perform operations such as size reduction and materials separation to further sell the output along the value chain for secondary raw materials utilisation. In particular, valuable metals and rare earths/critical elements that are present in WEEE are extracted where possible, in specialised facilities that tread a wide variety of metals.
The goal of the Italian company is to set-up an integrated facility that is capable of applying circular economy principles to the treatment end-of-life IT assets and IT-WEEE materials and evaluate the most rewarding pathway for each asset that enters the factory. The assets will be evaluated, separated in categories such as “reconditioning”, “components harvesting” and materials recycling and then subjected to the appropriate treatments. The goal of tailored processing of the incoming materials will be achieved through the implementation of industry 5.0 principles, among which an information system and smart factory approach, coupled with continuous technical and strategic training of employees and the development of an open innovation ecosystem.
The company is also developing a R&D project on secondary raw materials extraction from IT-WEEE components, with particular focus on precious metals and rare/earths/critical metals in order to demonstrate and scale-up a green chemistry or biorefinery technology for such extraction and to evaluate its techno-economic feasibility and environmental impact (LCA).
The company is developing the reconditioning task of the business which is currently at the commercial stage and is looking for technical partners to develop the features related to components utilization by assembling into new equipment (for example for domotic applications or e-mining). The utilization pathways will have to take into account the inventory of available components and possibly of circular design options, where components can be interchangeable to maximise the utilization of the recycled components stock available and products are designed for durability and reuse.
Partners are sought for the definition of re-use strategies for electronic components (central processing unit-CPU, slots, hardware-HD, etc.) in control systems for logistics, warehousing, domotic applications and for extraction of valuable raw materials from electronic waste (precious metals and rare earths).
- Type of partner sought: The Italian company is looking for the following technologies/expertises:
- Expertise in the development of IT hardware, with particular attention to reused/recycled components for applications in various fields. Previous experience in funded projects or collaboration with large companies in the development of products, such as control systems products for domotic applications, control systems for logistics/warehousing and naval and nautical use is welcome.
- Expertise and/or technology for pre-treatment and extraction of precious metals, rare earths or critical elements from WEEE-type materials, preferably IT-derived. Such expertise should encompass the use of either green chemistry technology or preferably biorefinery approaches and be tested at least at the proof-of-concept level/1L/1kg laboratory scale and have been preliminarily evaluated via Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or sustainability assessment.
- Expertise and or technology in design and construction of bio-refinery or green-chemistry dedicated pilot and demo plants for the extraction of metals, with tailored control systems and Industry 5.0 approach.
- Specific area of activity of the partner: IT hardware developer/control systems development: company with proven expertise in the development of IT and control systems hardware, for domotics, logistics/warehousing, robot systems, preferably using recycled components (CPU, RAM, HD, other materials). The role of the partner is to evaluate the components bank available at the Italian company and define which type of hardware can be produced, in addition to providing technical specifications and production steps.
Materials extraction through green chemistry/biorefinery: innovative company that has developed a technology (at least TRL 3 to 4), based on either green chemistry or biorefinery approaches for the pre-treatment and treatment of WEEE/IT waste (mainly circuit boards) for the extraction of:
- CRM (critical raw materials)
The role of this partner will be to optimize the technology (if needed) and to transfer the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) to the Italian start up for the set-up of a pilot or demo-scale facility. The partner, in collaboration with the Italian company, will work towards demonstrating the techno-economic feasibility and evaluate the LCA of the technology.
Green chemistry or biorefinery plant engineering: The partner sought should have expertise in chemical/biorefinery plant engineering and design within the tenets of the state of the art of sustainability and circular economy and have previous expertise in the design of plant for secondary raw materials extraction or biorefineries for chemical intermediates production. The role of the partner will be to implement the design and engineering of the pilot and demo plant on the basis of the laboratory-scale specifications delivered by the “materials extraction” partner. Particular