Circular economy (in some regions referred to as 3R: reuse, reduce, recycle) has the ambition to realise maximum resource productivity. That should be achieved by minimising material usage per unit of functionality and by managing materials to reduce waste and avoid pollution. The shift towards a circular economy creates a strong need however for new technologies and business concepts.
From a consumer and business perspective, the change in ownership and material management concepts triggers a need for new business models such as Products as a Service (PaaS), sharing platforms, peer-to-peer interactions, industrial symbiosis, etc. Many of these are based on the availability of efficient ICT tools including apps, websites, online user platforms, and databases.
From an industrial viewpoint, the circular economy generates needs for advanced sorting and recycling solutions, efficient materials processing solutions and production methods that support design for circularity. These needs are covered by technologies like robotics, connected sensors, human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.
All these technologies are typically labeled as ‘Industry 4.0’, an aggregate of smart manufacturing technologies enabled by cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and cloud computing. By focusing on the role of Industry 4.0 as a technological driver for the circular economy, this thematic cluster aims to explore and clarify the complementarities between both frameworks and how development can be diversified over different regions in the world.