What is the challenge?
Throughout its 200-year existence, our industrialised society has been dominated by a linear way of producing and consuming goods. Raw materials are extracted, worked, used up and finally discarded. This spells a waste of limited resources. It also exacerbates the risk of unstable prices for, and unreliable supplies of, raw materials, which affects not only resource-intensive sectors but the whole of society.
We therefore need to shift from a linear to a circular societal system, with an economy based on more closed-loop material flows. Industry needs to boost its rate of reuse, repair and remanufacturing of products and components. There also needs to be a marked increase in recycling of materials from products and components. However, the gaps in knowledge of how to develop resource-efficient, circular solutions are large.
How can the programme contribute to solutions?
Mistra REES’ remit is to develop principles, methods and guidelines that make resource-efficient products, services and business models possible. Another aim is to propose policy instruments and policy packages that favour the transition to a more circular economy.
Twelve companies and two municipalities and non-profit organisations are taking part in the programme, which comprises seven connected projects. In the first project, a knowledge base is being created for the rest of the programme through exploration of which conditions in which products and services are more resource-efficient. Business and policy drivers and obstacles are also being studied. Based on the first project, there are three projects to devise methods and tools for developing products and services, business models and policies. In addition, there is a project to synthesise knowledge in the above-mentioned projects and explore scope for different parts of a circular economy to work together efficiently. The last two projects in the programme serve to disseminate the results to specific target groups.
Who will benefit from the results?
The businesses, municipalities and organisations taking part will obtain a head start in terms of knowledge, greater visibility to the public, customers and clients, and access to a network of similar stakeholders. However, to strengthen competitiveness in the long term, the results must be disseminated to the whole of Swedish industry. In addition, decision-makers from other sectors in society will be offered practical tools, such as workshops, textbooks, popular-science articles and summaries for decision-makers.
Mistra REES intends to move the research frontline in circular economy forward and mould a new generation of Swedish interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners through, for example, the nine PhD and master students participating in the programme.
‘In our resource-limited world, the need to move away from linear material flows and towards more circular ones is greater than ever. Mistra REES takes a comprehensive approach to these issues and we hope to be able to contribute to a rapid reorientation of society towards greater sustainability, which will benefit industry and consumers alike.’ Mattias Lindahl, programme manager