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Students are guided to re-think the design of products and services from the circular economy point of view

Sitra and five universities are developing a multidisciplinary study programme in circular economy.
The Circular Economy Design Forum banner

The Circular Economy Design Forum (CEDF) is an EIT RawMaterials funded course coordinated by Aalto University. During the course multidisciplinary teams aim to identify circular economy related challenges in a product or service and develop solutions combining technical and business point of view. This is well in line with Aalto University’s educational strategy, as it brings design, innovation, technology and business together in a project-based course. The CEDF course is running successfully for two years now and its potential is noticed by The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra – the leading driver of the circular economy.

Sitra is supporting the course development as part of a new project, where five Finnish universities develop a multidisciplinary study program in circular economy. Project partners are Aalto University, University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland, Lappeenranta University of Technology and University of Oulu. The course development will focus on digital and blended learning to give students from other universities opportunities take circular economy related courses online.

Hands on experience on recycling process of mobile devices

As part of the course, CEDF arranged in spring 2018 Circular Economy Days together with Aalto Ventures Programme. The event offered a deeper understanding on the challenges and importance of circular economy mind-set during product design. During the two days open event students with various backgrounds – science, art, business – got hands on experience on the complexity of the recycling process of mobile devices.

On day one, participants dismantled mobile devices (mobile phones and tablets) under the supervision of recycling experts from Kuusakoski Group Oy. The students together with the teachers of the CEDF course and the experts from Kuusakoski discussed and identified the bottleneck of the recycling process.

On day two, Prof. Markus Reuter shared his experience on recyclable products and product processes design as part of his Circular Economy – Challenges, Opportunities and Limits presentation. Two start-up companies, Fairphone and Swappie, with the identical aim of decreasing mobile phones generated waste were also introduced. Fairphone aims to increase the recyclability of mobile phones by developing more recyclable mobile phone designs while the Swappie, established by former Aalto students, is tackling the recycling issue by extending the lifetime of mobile phones.

In the future, by being able to take the the CEDF and other circular economy related courses face-to-face, online or in blended form, the courses will hopefully attract students with very wide variety of backgrounds – as multidisciplinarity together with entrepreneurial mindset and collaboration with industry is needed to solve the problems of circular economy.

Further information:
Emmi Ollila, [email protected]
University Teacher, Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering

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