Sustainable Prosperity for Europe

Digital Roadmap for a Circular Economy


In a nutshell

A project of 18 months, with focused workshops, to see how digitalisation can boost the circular economy:

  • Independence: a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure a frank and constructive dialogue between representatives of EU institutions, member states, regions, industry, NGOs and academia.
  • Innovation: workshops with a multi-disciplinary bottom-up approach.
  • Impact: An action plan presented to the Commission in 2019.

Context and goals

The transition from a linear to a circular economy, where resources and materials are restored and reused, would lead to a more resource-efficient and competitive European economy. With this transformation gaining political traction and winning support from a wide range of stakeholders, different initiatives are spreading across the Union. However, a fully functional circular economy system across the continent requires overcoming obstacles, including engraved linear practices, complex mix of processes and materials, and lack of collaboration between relevant actors.

In its Circular Economy Strategy, presented in December 2015, the European Commission envisaged actions across the whole cycle from production to consumption, consumption to waste and waste to production. The Strategy acknowledged that innovation and technology could help rethink these patterns and processes.

Digital solutions are a perfect example. They can enable a better use of resources and increase the efficiency of processes. They can provide knowledge on materials and behaviours as well as facilitate partnerships between different stakeholders. In order to harness the full potential of these solutions, it is necessary to increase awareness of these possibilities and address the barriers such as lack of resources, knowledge and legal certainty that currently hinder their use. We need to evaluate the current EU initiatives on needed infrastructure for digitalisation and digital transformation of European industry as well as upcoming legislative proposals on cross-border flow of data, online platforms, and the access and reuse of public data from a circular economy perspective. Arguably the transition to a circular economy can only succeed if the Union can make the most of digitalisation, supported by a coherent EU policy framework.

For years, the EPC has been actively engaged in promoting discussion both about being smarter with the resources we have in Europe, how we produce, consume and manage our resources and waste, as well as about creating a digital Europe. Therefore, it is well placed to consider the interlinkages between the circular economy and the digital agenda in a multi-stakeholder setting and contribute to shaping the policy agenda.

The EPC is thus launching a Task Force to discuss how digitalisation and innovative technologies can support the transition to a circular economy. It will develop a roadmap for action that will boost the synergies between the circular economy and digital agendas.

Activities and outputs

The Task Force will start its work at the end of 2017. An EPC input paper will spur the discussion at an opening High-level Policy Dialogue. A Steering Committee meeting will follow.

Five multi-stakeholder workshops are planned so the Task Force can review, with the help of concrete examples, the linkages between digitalisation and circular economy, the opportunities created by digital technologies and the challenges associated with harnessing their full potential for the transition to a circular economy. The final list of topics to be covered remains to be determined by Task Force members. The EPC retains the possibility to organise additional discussions, should the need arise.

Concrete policy recommendations for further action at EU and member state levels will be elaborated throughout the project and presented along with the main findings in a final publication and at a final high-level Policy Dialogue. The final publication will put forward a digital roadmap towards the circular economy, which will be shared also with the new European Commission in 2019.

Events

  • Launch of the project “The circular economy and digitalisation - setting the scene”, 20 November 2017
  • Workshop on “Building knowledge on processes and materials – The role of digitalisation”, 6 February 2018
  • Workshop on “Creating partnerships – the role of digitalisation”, 20 April 2018
  • Workshop on “Developing innovative business models for the circular economy – the role of digitalisation”, 26 June 2018
  • Workshop on “Textiles, food systems and plastics: Digitalisation as an enabler for the Circular Economy”, 19 September 2018
  • Workshop on 'A digital transition to a digital circular economy: the case of remanufacturing', 19 October 2018
  • Workshop on 'Information Transfer: developing an EU information system', 23 November 2018
  • Workshop on 'The policy framework for action – what should be done?', 7 February 2019 (TBC)
  • Policy Dialogue on Public Procurement and the Circular Economy, 28 March 2019 (TBC)
  • Workshop on a topic to be defined, 15 May 2019 (TBC)
  • Policy Dialogue on 'The circular economy – closing the loop through digitalisation' (Summer 2019 -TBC)

Partnerships

The EPC is looking for partners interested in providing financial support to cover the costs associated with the preparation and logistics for the events as well as the drafting and publication of the final issue paper.

This Task Force is kindly supported by Aalto University and the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) (members of Helsinki EU Office), Central Denmark region, Climate-KIC, the Estonian Ministry of the Environment, Estonian Environment Investment Centre, HP, Orgalime, the province of Limburg and UL.

Contacts

Annika Hedberg, Senior Policy Analyst, A.Hedberg@epc.eu

In this programme


Publications
Events