Searching for approaches enabling circular economy

Novel business models that leverage the largely untapped potential of circular economy are gradually emerging in several industries including metals and engineering industry, chemical and biotechnical industry, and pulp and paper industry. While most existing academic research and development activities in firms have focused on the crucial role of material flows in developing new business models, the Data to Wisdom -project focuses on information flows in the circular economy. The goal is the systematic identification and creation of relevant data in radically new value constellations, and the conversion of this data into wisdom that is used to pilot and implement new circular business models.

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Circular economy can be defined as a system which creates value by minimizing waste, energy and the use of natural resources. It also utilises solutions that aim at slowing, closing and narrowing loops of material and energy. (Geissdoerfer et al., 2017[i]). These solutions include, for instance, long-lasting design, design for easy disassembly and maintainability, maintenance actions such as repair and refurbishing, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling. In the “Data to Wisdom” project, we at VTT focus especially on what is the impact of asset management and maintenance on circular economy and how this impact could be increased through advanced information management.

For instance, digitalization enables better management of life cycle information and better availability of sensor, equipment and process information for the various stakeholders. Therefore, the potential new value could be in real-time optimisation and predictive maintenance. These opportunities may positively affect asset management.

On the other hand, the lifetime of digitalized products and services is often much shorter than the physical assets. This can be seen as a challenge for asset management, since companies have to prepare for new kinds of maintenance, replacements and modernisations.

Jyri Hanski and Pasi Valkokari

“Data to Wisdom” project is funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes). Research partners are LUT and TUT, and co-operating industrial firms are BMH Technology, Fortum, Solita and UPM (Link: http://www.vtt.fi/sites/datatowisdom)

[i]Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken N. M.P. & Hultink, E. J. (2017) The Circular Economy – A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of cleaner production, 143, 757-768.

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