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Published

30 September 2015

Flying start for REES in Söderköping

REES, the newly started Mistra programme that seeks to facilitate the switch-over to a circular economy, is well and truly under way. Nine doctoral students have been appointed and an initial academic article has been published. On 5 October a kick-off meeting will take place in Söderköping.

The objective for REES (Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions based on circular economy thinking) is to develop knowledge and ideas that will result in a circular economy, based on closed material flows.

This calls for a comprehensive approach to issues of policy, commercial development and product and material design. The plan is for the new doctoral positions, three at each participating higher education institution (HEI), to supplement one another in these respects. They are oriented towards policy issues (Lund University), environmental system analysis (Chalmers University of Technology) and product development (Linköping).

‘It’s a variant of a graduate school or postgraduate programme. But we not only have joint courses, as in one of these, but are also trying to coordinate the projects,’ says Mattias Lindahl, the REES programme manager for REES.

Researchers’ mutual learning

Lindahl wants cross-fertilisation among the various PhD projects, in terms of both scholarly content and practical work. His vision includes the doctoral students helping one another in collecting empirical evidence, for example. A doctoral student who interviews a company, for example, might be accompanied by another, or the latter might add questions. This is a method that Lindahl has used before.

‘It’s efficient and, what’s more, the PhD students can share one another’s analyses.’

Lindahl refers to ‘crosstalk’, in the sense of the various doctoral projects listening, responding to and benefiting from one another. They vary in focus, but their analyses need to be linked together.

‘If you make changes at policy level, it has consequences for product development and business models. We’re trying to adopt a broader approach to the circular economy, and that’s why we must also have closer cooperation at supervisor level.’

The job advertisement for the nine doctoral positions was placed in the journal Ny Teknik (‘New Technology’) in May.

‘Instead of focusing the announcement on the PhD students, we opted to provide more information about REES instead. We wanted to show industry that we had now got started. We were convinced that we’d get good doctoral students.’

Hoping for synergic effects

On 5 October the doctoral students and supervisors will meet when the programme kicks off with a get-together in Söderköping, hosted by one of the 12 companies of all sizes taking part. In the ensuing days, there will be numerous activities in which the doctoral students and the other people involved in the programme will get to know one another.

Mattias Lindahl is pleased to be getting the chance to test, in a major programme, the ideas he has been fostering. He is particularly pleased with the collaboration involved in the application, which took place entirely at a distance among the various HEIs taking part.

‘We didn’t have a single physical meeting. Everything took place by Skype, telephone and email. Some of us had not even met before we got going.’

The application will now pave the way for publication of articles. Lindahl wants to see more cooperation among the universities.

‘Sweden is too small for the universities to compete. We should get better at cooperating in relation to other countries. If we can create unions and alliances, we’ll get tremendously strong. It would also attract companies if they saw that there was a concentration of good research, researchers and students in a particular area. This is something the funders should think about,’ Lindahl says.

The programme is in its start-up phase, awaiting the arrival of some internationally recruited PhD students, for example. But one publication has already seen the light of day, in the Nordic Environmental Law Journal.

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

REES (Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions based on circular economy thinking)

Function: to use knowledge and innovative ideas to contribute to the emergence of a circular economy, i.e. a society based on closed material flows.

Programme period: 2015–2020.

Mistra’s investment: SEK 42 million.

Other stakeholders: an equal amount in money or other inputs of their own.

Participants: 12 companies, two municipalities, non-profit organisations.

Programme Director: Mattias Lindahl, Linköping University.

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