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SEK 10 million to research in the circular economy

LiU researchers have won two major research projects within the field of design and construction for a world in which we husband, recycle and reuse natural resources. Both will be carried out in close collaboration with industrial partners.

The circular economy and associated issues are high on the EU agenda at the moment. Circuit, which is an acronym for the “Circular European Economy Innovative Training Network”, is a project within the Marie Sklodowska Curie programmes in which researcher exchange and the joint education of doctoral students are important parts. A total of 15 doctoral students are to be educated within the programme, two of them at LiU. Researchers Tomohiko Sakao and Mattias Lindahl from the Division for Environmental Technology and Management, and Erik Sundin from the Division of Manufacturing Engineering are participants from LiU.

The objectives for Circuit are to educate future research leaders, to find new business models that function in the circular economy, to develop interdisciplinary networks of experts active in innovation, and to develop new forms of collaboration between the academic world and industry.

Tomohiko Sakao“We plan to analyse how the development towards circular systems can take place over time. If new regulations are introduced or new political decisions made – how will companies react? Can they prepare for these in some way? We will be working with actual cases, but the companies that will participate have not yet been selected,” explains Tomohiko Sakao.

Another important part of the project aims to develop better calculations of lifecycle costs for various products and services. There can be a long passage of time before a product is to be dismantled, remanufactured or recycled.

“The calculations must consider the complete cycle,” says Tomohiko Sakao.

Leiden University in the Netherlands is coordinating the four-year project, in which a further five European universities are taking part. LiU’s part of the project is in the form of a research grant of just over EUR 527,000.

The other research project, Circularis, is part of the Vinnova initiative “Produktion 2030”, which is to provide small and medium-sized enterprises with tools to develop better and more sustainable services and products. This is a three-year project.

LiU researchers Tomohiko Sakao, Yang Liu and Mattias Lindahl, all from the Division for Environmental Technology and Management, are collaborating with researchers from Chalmers University of Technology.

“We will study the impact of solutions that are driven by lifecycle costs on the environment. We must also improve financial calculations such that the choices designers make have a smaller negative effect on the environment. We want to find some basic rules that small and medium-sized enterprises can use,” says Tomohiko Sakao.

“Previous research has shown that products and services that have been developed with a lifecycle perspective are more profitable. But this is something that we need to look at in more detail,” he says.

Industrial partners are also involved in Circularis, two of which are the software developer Maxiom and Envac Scandinavia, which works with automated waste management.

Some CAD software already contains calculations of the environmental impact during the complete lifecycle of a product, but these are not widely used.

“A few large CAD companies have what is nearly a monopoly in the market. Small software developers can find opportunities here, and in this way companies can avoid becoming dependent on a single CAD company,” says Tomohiko Sakao.

The grant from Vinnova is SEK 4.9 million, of which 3.7 million is to go to LiU.

 

Erik Sundin in Alemdalen
The circular economy is high on the agenda. Erik Sundin participated in profiling Swedish industry during the week of political and social discussion in Almedal, 2016.

 

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