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: Concrete recommendations for further action presented to the policy-makers 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 solve issues around information transfer, a key hurdle to achieving a circular economy. They can contribute to making products, processes and services more circular, foster new sustainable business models and enable companies to scale-up and profit from the circular economy. They can contribute to reducing waste, reusing resources and materials across value chains, and producing quality recycled materials. They can be used to educate and influence citizens, and encourage more sustainable production and consumption patterns. . 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 circular economy and the digital agenda in a multi-stakeholder setting and contribute to shaping the policy agenda.

The EPC Task Force has discussed how digitalisation and innovative technologies can support the transition to a circular economy. It is in the process of developing a roadmap for action that aims to boost the synergies between the circular economy and digital agendas

Activities and outputs

The Task Force has reviewed, 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 during a series of multi-stakeholder discussions. Following a launch event, 8 workshops were organised in 2017-2019. Organised discussions include:

  • Launch event 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 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 “Transition towards a digital circular economy: the case of remanufacturing”, 19 October 2018
  • Workshop on “Addressing the key barriers to a circular economy: information transfer”, 23 November 2018
  • Workshop on “Digitalised circular economy: the role of public procurement”, 7 February 2019
  • Workshop on “The policy framework for action: what should be done to facilitate transition to a digitalized circular economy?”, 28 March 2019

Discussion Paper, along with the main findings and recommendations will be presented to the key policy-makers in an expert discussion on the 5th of July. A final study will be presented by the end of 2019 at a final High-level Policy Dialogue.

Partners

Partners include 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, Orgalim, the province of Limburg and UL, Fondazione Cariplo and Cariplo Factory.

Contacts

Annika Hedberg, Senior Policy Analyst, a.hedberg@epc.eu
Stefan Sipka, Policy Analyst, s.sipka@epc.eu

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