Circular Economy

Biobased and Circular Economy.jpg
The world is heading towards a new economy. Value creation, closed-loops systems and social innovation are important ingredients in that new economy.

Our current economy is based on a "take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model. As a result, resources are running out and nature - our home - is destroyed. Therefore, we need to make the transition to a circular economy, which is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.

The principles of the circular economy are first described in the book Cradle to Cradle written by chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough. The circular economy builds on this knowledge and focusses more on closing the loops in a viable new business model. In this minor you will obtain both theoretical knowledge of the circular economy concept and learn to apply it in practice.

In this research theme we will work on research assignments from companies and/or governmental institutes, which are tackled by inter-disciplinary project teams. Economics students work closely together with chemistry, biologic, engineering, logistics students, or students from a social domain. You will develop a new business model or a transition strategy. Radical innovations are invented, and new products or product-service systems are designed.

The research projects are accompanied with courses, excursions and guest lectures of transition experts, (social) entrepreneurs, eco-designers, and policy makers. Students will not only develop circular economy skills in their own domain, but by co-creation you will become aware of the integral approach of transition towards a new economy.

Would you like to work on these topics in a minor?

Are you interested in working on and learning in these projects? You can do so by participating in the minor Becoming Fit for the Future (30 ECTS, September - January or February - June). Download the brochure (PDF) or find the same information at the educational platform Learn (access with an HZ account only).

For participation in this minor, the conditions set down in the implementation regulations of your Bachelor’s programme apply. Research projects aimed at a circular economy greatly benefit from knowledge from different disciplines. Therefore, this research theme offers many opportunities for students to obtain learning goals, additional to the general learning goals, as defined in the brochure Becoming Fit for the Future. That means that if a student still needs to acquire certain learning goals (technical design, process design, data science, marketing, communication, finance, logistics, ecological, etc), this is often possible. An example is given below of how this works out in a practical research assignment.

You will

  • Learn and acquire skills about restorative and regenerative product and services design
  • Learn about renewable energy sources
  • Learn to apply new business models and transition strategies, such as circular and smart lighting in industry and circular residual flows
  • Develop skills like change making and research capacity in a practically-orientated research project

Contact moments specific for Circular Economy: meetings with supervisor will take place at least once a week, usually in the monring on Tuesday or Thursday. In addition, students are required to organise meetings with fellow-students. Also, excursions or other activities will take place.

Can additional learning goals be obtained whilst working on a certain assignment within the Circular Economy research theme?

YES! Let's clarify this:

One example of a research project is the project "Light on Demand". The assignment is to work out a circular lighting concept for the company Oiltanking, a terminal located right near the Westerscheldt, next to a Nature protected area (Natura 2000). For safety reasons, lights are on day and night on the terminal and the jetties. This creates light pollution for the seals and other animals, as well as human beings. Lamps often break down due to the influence of salt water. The rapid developments in smart lighting should make it possible to design a lighting system, which creates less light pollution and is circular in design; that means for example that when a lamp breaks down, the armature and pole should not be replaced but only the malfunctioning lamp itself. And why should the company own the lamps, whereas they only need the service of light?

  • Learning goals in terms of product and process design can be obtained by figuring out a new circular lighting design; which products are suitable, how can products be designed in a modular way, enabling easy maintenance, replacement of the lamp only instead of also the armature, enabling re-use of certain components at the end-of-life, and enabling upgrading the electric circuit board with new smart lighting techniques adding functionalities to the lighting system.
  • Learning goals in terms of supply chain management can be obtained by figuring out how different parties in the supply chain, suppliers, contractors, users, distributors, waste processors, and governments, should work together to create circular products and processes and optimize the (reverse) logistics process.
  • Learning goals in terms of data science can be obtained by figuring out how additional functionalities can be added to the lighting pole, such as LIFI, and how data needs to be transnfeered in a smart lighting system.
  • Learning goals in terms of organization and management, can be obtained by figuring out how these different parties can work together effectively.
  • Learning goals in terms of marketing and communication can be obtained by figuring out how different parties in the supply chain can be convinced by telling the story behind the product.
  • Learning goals in terms of economics and finance can be obtained by figuring out how a new business model can be created, taking into account not only the financial costs and benefits but also the social and environmental costs and benefits. Should the product or a lamp be turned into a product-service system, and should the ownership of the product actually be transferred to the customer? And how can the social and environmental costs and benefits be calculated?
  • Learning goals in terms of ecology and human health can be obtained by figuring out how different lighting systems, intensity and colour, effect nature and human health.

The learning goals above just serve as an example; the exact assignment and focal points will be defined based on the learning goals that students need to acquire, in collaboration with the assignment owner and the supporting lecturer.

A MOOC about Circular Economy is a mandatory aspect of this minor, students that lack a background in sustainability are obliged to follow the theory classes of the 4th year International Business course "Sustainable Practice" and take the exam of that course.

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