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Technology Enabled Circularity (TEC) – Digitalisation & Sustainability in Manufacturing


Within academia and industry, the past decade has seen renewed interest both in more sustainable approaches to economic growth and in technological progress towards ‘Industry 4.0’. These interdisciplinary topics have tended to develop independently. Sustainability is of critical importance to the climate change crisis, with academic focus including economic and social sustainability of manufacturing, food production and national and local resilience in the context of supply chain disruption. Concurrently, work across HASS and STEM has been addressing the digitisation of production and 3D printing, in terms of technological advancement and analysis impact on business models and economy and society more broadly The increased adoption of digital technologies could help to enable the transformation of existing business models, manufacturing systems, supply networks and re-localisation. This brings academic attention together with discussions around circular economies and sustainability. However, despite the potentially significant contribution of existing and emerging knowledge of technological solutions to sustainability, and circularity in particular, there is still relatively little academic work that engages and unifies across these two areas. This network will explicitly draw together researchers working on both digital technologies and circular economies to develop wider dialogue and ensure interdisciplinary perspectives.


Project summary

The community used the Generator Fund to bring together an interdisciplinary network of academics working in digital manufacturing and circular economies, and key industry and third sector stakeholders. They ran several workshops to determine mutual areas of interest, and discuss emerging themes and possible research challenges, including one using the RemakerSpace at Cardiff University. The community particularly engaged with ECRs, holding a workshop specifically to allow ECRs in sustainability and digital technology to network. An RA employed by the community helped to bring together the research ideas generated at the workshops into a report, including how industry and academia can better engage to enable a digital circular economy. The community will continue to collaborate and are working on some large grants and a PhD project which will build on the ideas and partnerships coming out of the workshops.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter