Technology-Enabled Circularity (TEC): Digitalisation and Sustainability in Manufacturing

Generator fund

Awarded: April 2022

Community Leads:

University of Bath: Rick Lupton
University of Bristol: Jennifer Johns (PI)
Cardiff University: Aris Syntetos, Daniel Eyers
University of Exeter: Okechukwu Okorie

Project overview

An interdisciplinary network bringing together expertise in digital manufacturing and circular economies to build more sustainable manufacturing futures.


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

Individual academics and institutional communities already have some sense of the key questions around digital technologies and circularity. What is missing is a network of academics from different disciplinary backgrounds to operationalise expertise and research capacity to develop interdisciplinary frameworks, develop critical mass with industry contacts and knowledge of industry need, and debate and refine the appropriate empirical contexts and research methods. The two main outputs of the project will be: 1. to deepen our academic understandings and integrate perspectives from across the social sciences and STEM in a truly interdisciplinary network. 2. to help meet industry and policy demand for potential solutions to social and economic problems through securing grant funding.

Community site (GW4 Portal)