After the largest ever gathering of circular economy thought leaders at the CE100 Summit & Schmidt-MacArthur Lecture, Thursday gave students a chance for reflection on their own outlooks towards circularity and an opportunity to prepare for their presentations on Friday. Students had been set the challenge earlier in the week to work in interdisciplinary groups and address the challenge, ‘Digital Manufacturing meets the circular economy…Discuss’. Meanwhile, mentors explored the current and future educational approaches to teaching the circular economy in higher education.
Ellen MacArthur led this session, providing an opportunity to answer the questions and listen to the thoughts of the students and mentors so far. Ellen spoke openly about how the Foundation has approached their work in the circular economy, touching on topics such as how to spread the idea, understanding where you can create impact, the role of the consumer, and finding the levers for circular economy dissemination and its practical applications.
All the participants were then given the opportunity to stand on the soapbox and share their thoughts, challenges and current understanding of the framework with the whole group. This was particularly useful for the students to unpick some of the concepts they had found most challenging. Questions were raised such as:
“Banks aren’t willing to realise the long-term implications of our economy…to really do something we need to challenge the financial systems. How do we do that?”
“You don’t want to ship empty vessels, how can these containers work in the ‘taking back’ journey? Those flows are really important”
“With processes such as digital manufacturing, surely the customisation of products will increase attachment. Won’t being attached to objects change people’s expectations and willingness to lease or return?”
Clare Brass of the Royal College of Art chaired an afternoon meeting in the Senior Common Room of the RCA for a progression status of where the circular economy is held in academia. The discussion, which was a closed session for mentors only, allowed the participating academics to take stock of how we can progress the thinking, research and teaching of the circular economy within their home universities and higher education more widely.
To close the day, mentors were given a guided tour of the RCA final projects. With some students taking inspiration from the circular economy, it was clear that circular economy thinking is beginning to be adopted as an increasingly relevant design brief.
“I had never heard of a fellowship that involved both students and mentors in my entire academic career – and I thought it was brilliant. With the mentor staying on at the university it maintains a connection with the ideas. It is also a wonderful bonding experience for the students and mentors to have. This fellowship has created a cross-generational network that we can benefit from for years to come.”
- Galen Cranz, University of California, Berkeley