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Published

15 November 2016

Circular economy makes Mistra REES seek inspiration further afield

Mistra REES is one year old. Work is going to plan and the first results are in. One realisation is that systems of circular processes are seldom found on our own home turf. The most inspiring innovations are very often to be found in completely different locations, and working with several sectors is therefore important.

Global resources are overused and there is concern that the world may, in the foreseeable future, experience shortages of natural resources. Mistra REES (‘Resource-Efficient and Effective Solutions’) is a research programme designed both to analyse the problem and to help find solutions.

The vision is that Swedish manufacturing industry will move towards a circular and thereby more sustainable economy. The programme comprises five main projects. The purposes of the first four range from creating a database of knowledge about the circular economy, for researchers and interested parties to use, to developing methods of shaping products, services, business models and strategies. The fifth project is intended to describe and analyse the connections among all the components of a circular economy.

The initiative is now a year old and the results are beginning to come in. Some of them were presented at the annual programme meeting in the autumn.

‘To date, we’ve concentrated mainly on analysing the current situation. But when we presented the results to our stakeholders there was a hugely appreciative response. The whole meeting was successful and we had masses of interesting discussions. Our 16 stakeholders, which are both large and small companies, thought they got new inspiration for their activities,’ says Mattias Lindahl, Mistra REES’ programme director.

Much mutual intersectoral learning

One vital realisation by the companies taking part was that they very often face similar challenges although they operate in completely different industries.

‘Companies often seek solutions on their own home ground, but now they’d assembled and heard about our analyses, it was clear that the top innovative ideas are very often found in completely different locations.’

All the projects in the programme are now in progress and the work is going as planned.

‘Everything feels tremendously good. In many cases we’re ahead of schedule, and we like to think that’s a result of our devoting extensive efforts to forms of work even before we knew we’d assume responsibility for the programme. Now we’re harvesting the fruits of that work, although there are still details to adjust.’

In the year ahead the work will be intensified. It will include implementing a number of major studies while developing more tools for analysing the results. Mattias Lindahl also wants to work to bring about more intersectoral collaboration.

‘As we get more to tell others about, we want to put more resources into informing them about both advantages and disadvantages of this type of resource efficiency measure.

Facts about Mistra REES

The mission of Mistra REES 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 transformation of the economy into one that is more circular. Linköping University, Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University are involved, as are 12 companies (Attends Healthcare, Ericsson, Godsinlösen Nordic, HTC Sweden, Inrego, Off2Off, Polyplank, Qlean Scandinavia, Stena Recycling, Ståthöga MA Teknik, Volvo Group and Volvo Car Corporation).

Two municipalities (Lund and Malmö) and two non-profit organisations (Din Fabrik and Stpln) have also joined the programme, which comprises seven interconnected projects. The hope is that Mistra REES will push forward the research frontline in the circular economy and shape a new generation of Swedish interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners, including the nine PhD and Master’s students who are taking part in the programme.

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