Challenges & opportunities
Digital circular economy as a cornerstone of a sustainable society
Circular economy is a crucial contributor to sustainable development and the achievement of the climate goals. The transition in our consumption and production patterns that is needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, is enabled by digital technologies. The technologies to do that exist but they are insufficiently integrated into current business practices.
Digital transformation is driven by continuous technological innovation. This includes functional electronics in particular, which are at the interface of nano-electronics, flexible and printed electronics and smart systems. Functional electronics encompass the capability to integrate key digital technologies with cognitive functions, shifting from purely physical integration to functional integration.
Technology providers face a lot of innovation challenges to enable such a digital transformation. But it is also crucial for them to understand their precise role in the transition towards a circular economy. In addition, they need to understand and mitigate the environmental and societal risks related to the implementation of a digital circular economy.
Circular Economy sessions
Thematic opening session
Digital technologies for circular value chains
Digital technologies enable new circular value chains. Hence, digital solutions provide an opportunity for capitalising on existing circular economy solutions and capturing additional value. That creates a need for new circular business models such as Products as a Service (PaaS), sharing platforms and peer-to-peer interactions. Although there is a general awareness about the need for a digital circular economy, too little connections exist between the digital and circular economy communities. Debate and interaction between both communities is therefore essential to start building bridges and creating a solid basis for a common vocabulary.
Deep dive sessions
Building a digital circular economy
Digital technologies and novel data sources
Circular business models have a stronger need for data compared to linear ones. Digital technologies, on the other hand, enable access to a broad range of novel data sources and provide transparent insights into the value chain. That creates opportunities for new business approaches and circular management of materials and products. We need to think beyond current needs, however, exploring options enabled by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, and earth observation.
Digital twins of biological cycles
Digital technologies are being applied already in farming and biological material cycles. Examples of such applications need to be explored and discussed in more detail to understand how they could be transferred to the technological cycle of materials. In many cases, discussions about circular economy focus on the technological cycle while forgetting about the biological cycle. That needs to be reversed, exploring how digitalisation can link the two wings of the butterfly diagram.
Connecting digital and circular strategies
As functional electronics integrate digital technologies with cognitive functions, they enable a shift from purely physical to functional integration. Applications include tracking and tracing of products and information collection on the use and wear of materials. That provides the technological basis for new circular business models. Meanwhile, we also need to consider the impact of functional electronics on product chains, in terms of energy and resource needs, recyclability, and dispersion of materials.
Thematic closing session
Smart connections between the Green Deal and the Industrial Strategy
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that digital technologies will play a central role in the future of our society. In this closing session, we will discuss how digitalisation will enable a circular economy and a more sustainable society. We look in particular at the connections between the European Green Deal and the European Industrial Strategy. Both key policy documents for the post-corona period are driven by the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Digital Europe Programme. Key players from the industry and the European Commission will enter into debate and present their insights.