New Academy Programme on critical materials in the circular economy of cities

4 Dec 2020

The Academy of Finland is launching a new research programme that will explore critical materials in the circular economy of cities. The Academy Programme is aimed at producing new scientific information, steering research towards areas of application that are relevant to circular economy in cities, and increasing high-level research with a view to facilitating the development of circular economy in cities.

Critical materials refer to either materials that are not sufficiently available or materials that are dangerous. In the circular economy of cities, critical materials are the materials that are needed. Critical materials are needed not only in households, buildings and infrastructures, but also in high technology products. Equally important is that these critical materials are reclaimed for recycling and reuse towards the end of the product lifecycle.

The programme also aims to create opportunities for wide-ranging utilisation of research-based solutions. It aims to steer research towards the goals of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. Another aim is to set up multidisciplinary research teams and national and international networks of research collaboration and promote the networking and mobility of doctoral candidates and researchers. The Academy Programme will strengthen the cooperation and international competitiveness of academia and industry to enhance urban vitality as well as promote open science and research.

“In order to reduce the consumption of non-renewable natural resources and to lower CO2 emissions caused by increasing mining operations and the manufacture of metals, it’s necessary to take positive action to develop the recycling of materials, starting from the collection of electronic waste through to the recovery and reuse of critical raw materials. The development of recycling processes will also enable the recovery of several metals that are currently not recycled at all. There’s particularly large untapped potential in the area of battery recycling. The research conducted in the programme will provide a foundation for future reuse and waste recycling solutions and create new industrial and commercial opportunities. Circular economy offers a genuine competitive advantage for Finland in key priority areas such as the manufacture of metals,” says Professor Reko Leino, the chair of the programme’s Steering Committee.

The Academy Programme comprises four thematic areas:

  1. Flows of critical materials in circular economy
  2. High technology products and services in circular economy
  3. Cooperation and governance of circular economy actors
  4. Circular economy and urbanisation.

Learn more about themes in the programme memorandum.

Applications to the programme are particularly encouraged from projects that combine natural sciences, engineering and social sciences research. Applicants are also recommended to take special note of the systemic nature of circular economy in cities. Projects may apply natural science and engineering methods to study both the structures and processes of urban circular economy and critical materials. The programme especially encourages interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary teams that will be able to examine circular economy in cities both from the point of view of recyclable critical metals, entrepreneurship and organisation and from the point of view of legislation, culture, policymaking and public governance.

The Academy Board has set the programme’s funding budget at 8 million euros. Funding will be provided to individual projects and consortium projects for a maximum of four years. The funding period starts on 1 January 2022 and ends on 31 December 2025. The call for applications will open in April 2021, and the call text will published in March 2021.

Read more about critical materials in Programme Manager Saila Seppo’s blog post.

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