New research hub to boost the circular economy in the UK

The University of Exeter’s new research hub will spearhead efforts to create a sustainable, circular economy in the UK – delivering huge benefits to the environment and the nation’s economy.

The National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Hub is supported with £3.5m from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It will operate with the five circular economy centres that were recently announced to explore how reusing waste materials in a wide range of industries, including textiles, construction, chemical and metals, could boost the circular economy in the UK as well as deliver enormous environmental benefits.

The circular economy hub will provide national leadership to facilitate the exchange of knowledge across the five centres and with the UK’s wider research and innovation landscape. A collaboration between the hub and these centres will form part of a £30m UKRI programme to strengthen the circular economy.

The National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Hub will be led by Professor Peter Hopkinson and Professor Fiona Charnley of the University of Exeter Business School. Professor Charnley said: “The circular economy hub and wider programme provides a unique and timely opportunity to coordinate and accelerate interdisciplinary circular economy research at a national scale, positioning the UK as thought-leaders in this growing field. As a country, we need to radically change how we use resources and by bringing together and harnessing expertise from academia, business and government we can enable that transformation.”

Professor Hopkinson added: “We need a complete system redesign of how resources are used. The plastics economy, to give an example, has evolved over the last 50 years – we can’t wait that long to build a better system, which will only be possible if all stakeholders are pulling in the same direction.”

The hub will develop and deliver the UK’s first national circular economy observatory, which will improve the provision and quality of data, providing a source of evidence for the nation’s road map towards a circular economy. It will create a dynamic platform of national research, knowledge, and tools to inform new research, policy, and industry solutions, facilitating collaboration across a wide range of sectors and strengthening a UK-wide community dedicated to delivering a circular economy.

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