Change to circular economy is inevitable
Research and education are the two most important elements of circular economy. Most of the central factors of circular economy are already well represented on TUT’s agenda.
Mari Pantsar is the director of Sitra’s Resource-wise and carbon-neutral society project and a member of TUT Board. Photo: Sitra
The world has reached a stage where we have no choice but to update our notions of how we consume, how enterprises make profit, and how they create jobs. The Earth can only endure so much, and climate change is getting faster and more threatening by the day. Despite this, global consumption of raw materials and energy is only expected to rise further.
This is the end of the road for the linear model of economy, where we take raw materials from nature, make products out of them, and then throw the products away after use.
In the new model of circular economy, products are designed and manufactured in a way that allows their materials and value to be kept in circulation. Nothing is lost. Consumption is no longer based on ownership, but rather on services: sharing, renting, and recycling. Used materials are not destroyed; they are used to create new products, over and over again. The most added value may come out of maintenance, reuse, re-manufacture, or service-based business, which is very labour-intensive.
Finland has every opportunity to become a global pioneer in circular economy and find new competitiveness from this fast-growing international market. As the first nation in the world, we have already devised a national road map towards a full circular economy.
Finnish cities are racing to become the national circular economy capital, universities are profiling themselves in circular economy, enterprises are devising ever more fascinating and innovative business models, and the people’s environmental awareness is increasing.
The two most important elements of circular economy are research and education. In circular economy, products have to be designed in such a way that their materials can be retained and reused. This requires expertise in materials science, design, and chemistry. Digital platforms and machinery can boost service-based business and sharing economy as well as provide added value to products with smart functions. Technology must be designed to benefit both the people and the environment.
Most of the central factors of circular economy are already well represented on TUT’s agenda. Once the Tampere3 project – the merger of Tampere’s three higher education institutions – adds the humanities and the research of well-being to the mix, all the elements needed to become the world’s leading university in circular economy will be in place.
Circular economy is a safe choice for a focus area. You can’t go wrong with investing in growth, employment, and competitiveness while also providing solutions to the most wretched problems the world is facing: climate change and overconsumption of natural resources.