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The construction industry faces a pressing challenge in managing waste effectively while transitioning towards a circular economy model. Addressing this challenge head-on, the UPSCALE project has secured substantial funding of over €1.3 million from NWO’s Knowledge and Innovation Covenant (KIC) call on ‘Circular Economy: trust, behaviour, and acceptance’. This transdisciplinary endeavour, involving members of the institute 4 a Circular Society’s (i4CS) community, aims to revolutionise waste management practices within the construction sector, paving the way for a more sustainable future.

The construction industry generates an abundance of construction and demolition waste that holds great potential for reuse, fostering a more circular approach to construction. Realising this ambitious objective requires substantial shifts in systems, behaviours, and economics.

About the Project

Pieter Pauwels, overall project coordinator for UPSCALE, and Ekaterina Petrova, scientific coordinator, both from the Department of the Built Environment, underscore the urgency of the endeavour: “The construction sector accounts for 50% of raw material consumption and 35% of all waste, posing a significant societal challenge.” While initiatives like Buildings as Material Banks (BAMB), Material Passports, and Platform CB’23 have made strides in promoting a circular economy, UPSCALE seeks to catalyse further systemic changes.

The UPSCALE project aims to drive a socio-technical paradigm shift by leveraging collective knowledge and expertise from research, industry, and innovation. Through a transdisciplinary approach centred around behaviour, system, and economy, UPSCALE will explore methods to transform traditional supply chains into dynamic supply networks.


The UPSCALE project has a strong connection to the i4CS. Notably, Qi Han (TU/e and Scientific Coordinator Digital Innovations i4CS) and Dr. Laura Piscicelli (UU), who are involved in this project, crossed paths through the i4CS.

Piscicelli reflects on their connection: “Qi Han and I initially collaborated on a different research proposal supported by i4CS. After working together on that, Qi invited me to join this new proposal on circular construction. This connection was pivotal for securing funding.”.

This NWO call in particular required strong interdisciplinary collaboration, defined by NWO as ‘collaboration between researchers from different academic fields: humanities, natural sciences and social sciences’.

“At Eindhoven University of Technology, our expertise lies in technology-oriented research and engineering. However, this call, which focuses on ‘Trust, Behaviour, and Acceptance’, necessitated strong non-technological perspectives as well. This is precisely where Utrecht University excels. Therefore, the UU – TU/e combination was very important for this call.” notes Petrova, highlighting the complementary strengths of the UU-TU/e partnership.


The UPSCALE initiative brings together many more academic and industry partners, with three PhD researchers stationed at TU/e, Delft University of Technology, and Utrecht University. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, alongside SPARK Campus and VONK Rotterdam, will aid in commercialising the research outcomes.

Public partners, including ABN-AMRO, Huisrijk, Volker Wessels, Witteveen+Bos, ADEX Group, BIM-Connected, InnoTractor, Madaster, Martens Ceramics, the Municipality of Rotterdam, and SPARK Campus are among the co-funders, with additional support from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat).

We are delighted that i4CS has played a role in the UPSCALE project, fostering connections and collaborations that will translate into tangible applications and solutions for a circular future.

UPSCALE is set to kick-off before summer 2024.

Read more about the NWO KIC funding.

Read more about the project on the TU/e website.