In this article, we want to focus how an organisation in the public sector is working on innovation in practice, indeed in parallel with its ordinary activities – what Gartner has described as BiModal IT. We have previously written about how several of our private sector customers have organised themselves when it comes to innovation in parallel, but this is particularly interesting. The intermunicipal refuse group BIR is responsible for waste management for over 360,000 inhabitants in the nine municipalities that own the company. The company also offers waste solutions for businesses.

“Together with WasteIQ, we are now creating an ecosystem in which technology providers, the industry itself and ‘startups’ are contributing to complete solutions,” says Andre Tangen, CDO at BIR. WasteIQ is a digital platform that connects technologies and creates structure in data from different parts of a waste company. “The point is to make the data available to anyone with the relevant needs,” says Anders Waage Nilsen, Business Developer at WasteIQ.

“We need to break down silos and seamlessly connect up and streamline data and processes in order to find new solutions, improve security, and create great experiences for citizens,” explains Eva Skjold, Communications Manager at BIR.

Refuse collection has become a business transaction
“We have pushed a development that the markets and suppliers have kept up with. The goal is volume calculations/limits and ID checks for our waste solutions. In that way we can have a flexible fee model for as many customers as possible. The fee model follows the ‘polluter pays’ principle, in which desirable behaviour, such as reducing residual waste and increasing recycling, is rewarded.

Today, waste collection has become a business transaction that forms part of the basis for invoicing,” says Bente Gansum Daazenko, Managing Director of BIR Privat.

What challenges have you faced?
“This is a classic bimodal challenge,” explains Andre Tangen, CDO at BIR. “We were looking for something that could standardise the flow of data. Traditionally, we have had expertise in waste collection, not commercialisation strategy or focus on scalability. And if we were to escalate and accelerate our ambitions, we needed to look outside our own organisation. We are now focusing more on what how we can use our own expertise and what the market can contribute in order for us to succeed with our societal mandate. We are involved in a process of assessing the corporate strategy in order to further focus on the circular economy and the requirements this sets for development at BIR.”

“In 2017, the economic effect was already NOK 180 million, and over the next year will mean profit of NOK 290 million,” says Tangen.

What have you learned from the cooperation? Technologically and culturally.
“The organisation has matured. Following an organisational development process in 2017 in which we established a separate project and development division, digitalisation and changes in the way we work have been the focus,” says Gansum Daazenko. “In the last three years or so, we have also recruited considerable expertise in digitalisation and risk management. Today, we recognise as an organisation that data flows are important. We have been able to free up a lot of time for more knowledge-based tasks. A multidisciplinary analysis team is looking at how we can use data for management information. Furthermore, we are now recruiting resources in knowledge-based innovation and digitalisation for the waste industry.”

Does BIR view players other than WasteIQ as interesting to cooperate with?
“Our perspective is the circular economy. We need to get away from a cycle of use and disposal and stimulate circular value chains. Therefore, cooperating with others, such as BOB and BKK, would be natural. BOB works on urban and social development. The sharing economy is central because coordination in small geographic areas means recycling, second-hand markets, tool sharing, etc. It is important for urban development that the refuse collection network is part of the infrastructure,” says Eva Skjold.

“We’re also cooperating with BKK in terms of heat energy. This leads to better predictions for optimising operations and we are involved in cloud-based platforms that facilitate the circular economy in new ecosystems. Through Proptech Innovation, we are working to establish a dedicated sustainability barometer, for example, to help citizens make good environmental choices,” says Tangen.

“And we are holding a ‘hackathon’ in autumn, with data from both BIR and BKK. Our challenge to the participating teams will be to come up with new ideas, concepts and prototypes for BIR based on the WasteIQ platform,” adds Eva Skjold. “There are plenty of people out there who want to work with us, not least the banks,” concludes Gansum Daazenko.

A fair fee system that rewards recycling
“WasteIQ is a digital platform that connects technologies and creates structure in data from different parts of a waste company, making the data available to anyone who needs it,” says Anders Waage Nilsen. “Traceability is essential for us to have a fair fee system that rewards parties that recycle through lower waste fees. By collecting data when people throw their rubbish away, we can also register who is good at recycling. Once we know that, and have traceable data on it, we can allow the fee to mirror the effort to create a greener world.”

“WasteIQ has also been developed because some visionary technologists at BIR saw the problem of the need for many different technologies to be able to talk to each other. Our platform collects data in one place so that BIR has a digitised waste system. This is a good example of innovation in the public sector,” says Nilsen.

Focus on transparency and sharing
“WasteIQ collects data from sensors, access control systems, geotracking devices and all sorts of small gadgets you need in a modern waste system, including the vehicles that drive around emptying traditional rubbish bins,” says Waage Nilsen. “This data is entered into a cloud-based platform and made available to anyone who needs access to such data.”

“WasteIQ is based on the concept that transparency and sharing are the key to innovation. We are moving into a world in which we can no longer just let our resources flow into a stream and end up in landfills or incinerators. WasteIQ is a platform that facilitates tracking across systems and across players. That’s how I think that WasteIQ can be a kind of foundation for many of the new models that we will need if we are to succeed with the circular economy,” concludes Anders Waage Nilsen.

BIR – Experiences

  • Operations and top management must show direction and determination
  • Digitalisation leads to organisational development
  • Cultural change – opportunities need to be weighed up against risk
  • Ensure understanding and acceptance through storytelling
  • Changed needs set other competency requirements
  • Think big, start small. Piloting, etc.
  • The data is of poorer quality than you think...
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