Circular Economy 1.

Innovation, Design and Quality Perspectives


The Circular Economy (CE) is a new vision covering the multiple levels of economies, organizations and individuals (as well as the societies they are embedded in) by addressing several of today's challenges.




Prof. Dr. Erik G. Hansen



Such challenges include resource scarceness (e.g. critical materials), environmental pollution and degradation (e.g. climate change, loss of biodiversity, unhealthy products) and the increasing dependency on ever increasing production quantities (and related resource usage) for safeguarding (national) employment levels. The CE proposes a value creation architecture based on material flows circulating either in biological cycles (e.g. biodegradable products) or technical cycles (e.g. reuse, refurbishing, repairing, recycling of products and materials) ultimately aiming at higher resource efficiency, decreased dependency on external inputs and significant increase of regional job opportunities in the service sector (e.g. repair, refurbishing). Furthermore, product sharing (e.g. carsharing) is considered an additional strategy for using existing resources more intensively. Against this background, this lecture will look at the implications of the CE for product and service development strategies (e.g. design-for-circularity, product take-back strategies), quality design and management (e.g. trade-offs such as lightweight-design vs. reparability; quality criteria for cycled materials and products) and firm's business models (e.g. transformation from product sales to product-service-systems approach).


Part I: Foundations of the Circular Economy

  • Introduction
  • Basic environmental strategies: efficiency, consistency, sufficiency

Part II: Loops in the Circular Economy

  • Biological and technical cycles (cradle-to-cradle)
  • Technical cycles: Reuse, Refurbish, Remanufacture, Recycle (4R)
  • Product sharing as means of increased technology utilization

Part III: Product-service-system design for the CE

  • Circular design I: Life-cycle approach
  • Circular design II: Design strategies using the Eco-design Strategy Wheel
  • Product-Service Systems and new business models
  • Quality and certification systems
  • Summary, Outlook, Evaluation results

Teaching Methods

Each lecture covers an individual component of the CE rooted in scientific publications. This allows students to get an in-depth insight into the current scientific discourse. Manifold practical insights into diverse industries is presented through diverse media (videos, images, anecdotes). A site visit to a local company pioneering the circular economy is a core building block of the course.


Oral Exam

Literature (Selection)
to be announced