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Product Circularity through Modular Design - Strategies for Long-Lasting Smartphones (MoDeSt)


A precondition for sustainable consumption of mobile devices are solutions for challenges, such as the use of rare or conflict minerals, relatively short initial use phases, limited repairability, and the associated increasing amounts of electronic waste. However, many of these challenges are not purely technical in nature, but are also manifested in social structures (e.g. industry prevents a functioning repair industry by insisting on linear models). Emerging solutions in practice and science are based on the concept of the circular economy, e.g. the modular Fairphone and local repair cafés.




Project Manager

Dr. Ferdinand Revellio, MSc


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Deutschland)

Modular smartphones have the potential to both reflect technical progress through upgrades and to meet changing consumer needs. This enables extended product lifetimes, which reduces the demand for new devices and the associated environmental impact. On the business side, however, they require new value creation opportunities and accordingly new business models. It also requires specific user competencies - such as knowledge about repair options.

The MoDeSt project investigates the technical, social and entrepreneurial prerequisites for modular product design concepts and develops solutions for circular and socio-ecologically sound modular ICT.

In the “Innovation Network aiming at Sustainable Smartphones” (INaS), actors from business, science, and society jointly develop sustainable business models for circular electronics. The INaS was founded in 2016 and has currently approx. 25 member firms. In a pre-competitive environment, at the neutral location of a university, actors from industry meet regularly (every 6 months) in workshop settings. Via this setting, member firms can step out of their operational activities to give their creativity free space in order to identify and develop economically viable solutions for modular product designs. In our second funding phase (2019-2022), the INaS focuses on modular product designs for smartphones. The value chain spanning cooperation for modular design, reparability, and upgrade services are therefore a special focus of future work.

As a concept and solution approach, the INaS builds on current research on the circular economy, which includes both slowing loops, such as maintenance, repair, second use phases as well as closing loops through recycling. Thus, both consistency and sufficiency approaches are considered. To sensitize member firms to the fact that the Circular Economy is more than just recycling of materials, is an important part of the INaS. Hence, the INaS aims to enable entrepreneurs to break out of linear patterns of thinking and to design circular products and services from scratch. This requires a rethink in product and service design as well as adjustments on the business models level.


The project is located at the Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM) at the Leuphana University Lüneburg under the academic direction of Prof. Dr. Stefan Schaltegger (Centre for Sustainability Management) and Prof. Dr. Erik G. Hansen.

Further partners in the MoDeSt project are the Fraunhofer IZM, TU Berlin, Shift GmbH, and AfB gGmbH.

Role of the IQD:

The IQD is associated partner in the MoDeSt project and contributes its circular economy specific expertise to the Innovation Network aiming at Sustainable Smartphones (INaS) (lead Leuphana University Lüneburg, opens an external URL in a new window).