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What we do

Circular Society researches small-scale circular systems in living labs. This is how we map out where the greatest circular impact can be made, providing new knowledge and scientifically-based methods and tools that professionals can use immediately. And with which students are better prepared for a circular future.

Making society circular is easier said than done. There is no shortage of smart technologies to recycle or upgrade products and materials. But reusing materials also requires the redesign of products, processes and business models. Circular strategies like remanufacturing and refurbishing, for example, require different manufacturing procedures and processes. And they can only succeed if they are supported by significant behavioural change. Developing reusable medical devices only makes sense if doctors (and patients) are willing to work with them. And reissue of leftover medicines is only possible if they are managed correctly and safely. Moreover, in circular systems, errors can easily creep in or contaminants enter. Preventing these ‘show stoppers’ is fundamental to designing reliable circular systems.

Living labs

These are precisely the challenges we have immersed ourselves in at Circular Society. Together with professionals at companies, societal organisations and governments, we research circular systems. We map those systems that most-urgently need to become circular, and work in living labs on small-scale circular systems that can be scaled up for maximum impact. We do this in healthcare – using a hospital as a small-scale system – and at the interface between city and countryside.

In such living labs, we investigate the hotspots – for instance, where most raw materials are wasted – and how to tackle them effectively. We also get hands-on with innovations, such as the reuse of medical devices and equipment. And we analyse any barriers to upscaling that hinder rolling out solutions more widely.

Multi and transdisciplinary approach

By linking the knowledge and expertise of the four institutions that comprise the Alliance, we are able to take a multidisciplinary approach to circular issues. In other words, we look at them from different perspectives and use each other’s knowledge and networks. Moreover, our work is transdisciplinary, involving stakeholders from the field. In this way, we arrive at effective solutions that contribute positively to the entire system.

Sharing knowledge

From our broad systems approach, we gather knowledge on how to develop circular systems, what skills are needed to do so and how to scale up. We share these insights with as many professionals as possible inside and outside the Netherlands. We do this through publications, meetings and Lifelong Learning programmes, and by offering education to students connected to the Alliance’s four institutes. At Circular Society, we are explicitly open to cooperation with other consortia in the Netherlands and abroad. For instance, we maintain intensive contact with regional ecosystems such as Brainport, Utrecht Science Park and Foodvalley NL. And we participate with our alliance partners in a broad consortium to promote water reuse: AquaConnect.


Jurgen Ganzevles

Want to know more about our research and education programme? Please contact us at j.h.ganzevles@tue.nl