Circular Economy Systems: NICER Programme Webinar

On Friday, 1 October 2021, the Circular Economy Hub (CE-Hub) held their first autumn event, ‘Circular Economy Systems: NICER Programme Webinar’ which took place online.

Professor Peter Hopkinson of the CE-Hub was joined by Professor Frank Boons (Professor of Innovation and Sustainability at Manchester, Director of Sustainable Consumption Institute and Academic Fellow, DEFRA Systems Research Programme).

Peter started the webinar by giving an overview of the NICER Programme and its work, and the ways in which each Centre is working towards a whole systems approach. Peter then handed over to Frank, posing three key questions to guide the seminar:

  • What do we mean by whole systems in the circular economy and in the UK?
  • How do you ‘do’ whole system innovation?
  • What is the evidence base for whole system innovation?

Frank started his talk by discussing the ways in which interacting societal challenges require a systems approach. He established that a whole systems approach combines reflection and action, and outlined the three key systems that those developing the circular economy are part of: socia-ecological earth system, socio-technical innovation system, and political economy of provision.

Frank went on to talk about a perspective for action in terms of system transitions, arguing that transition is not just about introducing new ideas and systems but also phasing out old ones. He emphasized that policies need to support this transition through socio-economic policies, jobs retraining, compensation, and removing subsidies.

    Boons CE seminar whole systems innovation

    The third key topic in Frank’s talk was circular economy and industrial symbiosis, with Frank posing the question: Are we actually challenging linear economy, and how do we make sure that this happens? This topic was followed by an exploration of principles for systems-based action towards circular economy, in which Frank outlined four key principles of a sustainable circular economy transition, and argued that to move towards a circular economy, we need a well-integrated combination of dataresponsible innovation, and reduced consumption.

    After giving his talk, Frank answered questions from the attendees on a range of topics from how to define system boundaries, whether you need a consensus on system boundaries, system dependency, and opportunity for change in times of disruption.

    This event attracted over 90 attendees across the globe from a range of backgrounds and sectors, with attendees sharing their thoughts, ideas, and resources with each other.

    Frank's presentation slides are also availalbe to view online: