Circular Economy Center: Creating a General Concept for Circular Economy Constitutions
Circular Economy Center
A concept for sustainable innovative constitutions
Paper presented at the ISPIM Innovation Conference 2019
Doctoral student Jarmo Uusikartano
The unit of Industrial Engineering and Management
Tampere University, Finland
Motivation of the study
• Our societies are facing a sustainability challenge. This calls for new ways
to pursue the sustainable development, namely circular economy (CE)
• Thus far, there happens not to be uniform and established theory for the
CE constitutions (Fischer & Pascucci 2017). Therefore, a jumble of
overlapping terms for the constitutions is emerging.
• Harmonizing the terms would provide a structured and argued way to
approach the CE constitutions phenomenon and the underlying
possibilities they are having.
• This study aims to cover the research gap of scattered CE constitution
terminology by discovering how different innovative CE constitutions can
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Theoretical positioning and key concepts
• Within business, environmental,
engineering and management studies
terms such as
• eco-industrial park
• green industrial park
• industrial recycling networks
• and eco-center
(Patala et al. 2014; Wang et al. 2017; Herczeg
et al. 2018) are used tangled.
• However, they all seem to share very
similar implicit theoretical set-up.
• The essence of a CE constitution occurs in the
form of a network and an actor coordinating it.
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Purpose & research question
• To discover and capture the common essence of different
constitutions emerging within the scattered CE field at the
How can the shared essence of different innovative CE
constitutions be conceptualized?
• The aim is to create a general conceptualization for the
constitutions by elaborating the different viewpoints offered in the
• As a response, circular economy center is offered as a general
concept for CE constitutions.
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Research strategy & design
• A literature review was conducted.
• Search terms: “circular economy AND hub / park / industrial symbiosis /
eco-industrial parks / supply chain / industrial ecology / center / cleaner
production / lead organization / anchor tenant”
• Themes for the selection: organization, coordination, ecosystems, multi-
player network, central actor, nod, hub, co-operation models, interaction,
industrial symbiosis, eco-industrial park, industrial ecology, lead
organization, anchor tenant
• The publication research resulted in 29 articles.
• Qualitative content analysis was chosen as a method for
analyzing the themes found in the review.
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Results: the definition for CE center
The most common
themes occurring in
the review were
used as building
blocks for the final
CE center definition.
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Results: the definition for CE center
Circular economy center is a multiple actor system consisting of a physical core of collocated
actors and a broader network whose business is at least partly based on the 3R’s principles
(reduce, reuse, recycle) of CE. The center is a platform for collaboration-based sustainable
actions that most often emerge as industrial symbiosis interactions such as by-product
exchanges. The center is founded either organically bottom-up by companies or intentionally
top-down by single entity such as public authority. The existence of the center is justified by the
environment-related business advantage it offers (e.g. green image, side streams) to its
members and which the members cannot achieve if working only independently. For this
purpose, the center has usually an operator whose mission is to enhance the CE actions and
possibilities for the center members. The operator concentrates on providing, preserving and
fostering qualifications for industrial symbiosis with different means. The center itself does
not do business, although for outsiders it represents one entity formed by independent units
collaborating with each other. Moreover, the center has a strategy based on sustainability
ideology, upon which its coordination and business enhancing actions are based on. The center
affects substantially the actors belonging to its orbit e.g. by non-traditional value chains. In
addition, the actions of the center may have societal impacts like creating new jobs or the
maintenance of municipal utilities together with the local city as well. The size of the center and
the role of the operator may vary significantly in different contexts (e.g. between China and
Europe), but the system structures remain still the same.
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Conclusion & implications
• The study structures the field of CE constitutions and suggests new concept to aggregate
the dispersed research streams.
• Innovation and technology developers: relevant center dimensions for CE-based
business, critical factors for success
• Policy makers: an overview to the inner mechanisms of CE constitutions
• Citizens: a way to structure the fractured CE field through a simple, practical term
• Researchers: different perspectives combined and therefore a structured way to start
constructing CE constitution research field
• Through further case studies the explanatory power of the concept could be tested and
possible clusters or typology examined.
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Tampere University – Human Potential Unlimited