CIRCONOMY® Hubs bring circular economy into practice

Closing material loops in the construction sector and in carbon technologies

Press release / 16. May 2023

© Fraunhofer UMSICHT
CIRCONOMY® Hubs bring circular economy into practice.

In order to implement sustainable production, sustainable consumption and circular economy in practice, both systemic and technical solutions are required. According to an idea of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, these solutions are to be created in so-called CIRCONOMY® Hubs. These are Germany-wide networks that bring together partners from science, industry, associations and society to focus on a specific area. Two of these networks have already started their work: the hubs "Material Cycles in the Construction Sector" and "Circular Carbon Technologies CCT".

"In Germany, there is currently no overarching infrastructure, institution or body that coordinates change projects toward circular economy," says project manager Dr. Hartmut Pflaum from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT, explaining the background of the CIRCONOMY® initiative. "Instead, many initiatives exist, some of them small, that are dedicated to the Circular Economy. They are all good in their own right, but there is little to no networking among them. As a result, many of them are starting from scratch and cannot learn from each other. We want to compensate for this deficit with the CIRCONOMY® hubs," emphasizes the Fraunhofer scientist.

Ideally, each hub is dedicated to one main topic and advances circular economy in this area. And it does so by bringing together suitable partners from science, business, associations and society in a targeted and coordinated way. The framework for these transfer-oriented collaborations is the CIRCONOMY® brand. Under this brand, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft bundles solutions, capacities and competencies for circular economy. "The brand stands for shared values, strategies, target images and, above all, innovation projects that put the great mission of transformation to circular economy into practice," says Hartmut Pflaum.

CIRCONOMY® Hub "Material Cycles in the Construction Sector"

Initiated by the Fraunhofer Institutes for Building Physics IBP in Holzkirchen and International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW in Leipzig, the CIRCONOMY® Hub "Material Cycles in the Construction Sector" is dedicated to the coordination of physical development centers and the establishment of an implementation network that addresses and solves the fields of action of the construction industry regarding the circular management of building products. The goal is the joint development of tools and methods to transfer construction demolition into equivalent or higher-value recycling processes.

"We are doing science-based research and work to establish a strong CIRCONOMY® Hub for the circular construction industry. This strengthens sustainability in the construction industry through technological and socio-economic research, connects stakeholders and promotes knowledge transfer," says Rafael Gramm of Fraunhofer IBP, outlining the network's objectives.

"The CIRCONOMY® Hub closes material cycles within the construction industry and creates the basis for cross-innovation through cooperation, cross-industry collaboration and professional exchange," adds Josephine Schöffel from Fraunhofer IMW.

CIRCONOMY® Hub "Circular Carbon Technologies CCT"

The other CIRCONOMY® Hub is entitled "Circular Carbon Technologies CCT" and was launched by the Fraunhofer Institutes UMSICHT in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, IGB in Straubing and IWKS in Alzenau. The focus here is on the coupling of energy and raw material processes - for example, for the development of non-fossil carbon sources, for the recycling and bonding of carbon in products, and for the integration of these technologies into energy/economic cycles.

The Hub for "Circular Carbon Technologies" has received start-up funding of €500,000 from the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs for the conception phase and two preliminary scientific projects. Bavaria's Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Roland Weigert said in Sulzbach-Rosenberg: "To counteract climate change, decarbonization of energy production and defossilization of the raw materials sector are necessary. Both can only succeed through the transformation of the economy and society toward circular value creation systems and with the help of innovative technologies. Therefore, we support the forward-looking research initiative of the Fraunhofer UMSICHT, IWKS and IGB institutes. Our support is a first step to enable the project partners to collaborate more intensively."

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Franke from Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Sulzbach-Rosenberg branch of the institute, adds: "In the CIRCONOMY® Hub, we want to bring climate and carbon management technologies into application together with industry. Bavarian companies can use these themselves to meet their climate targets, but also to secure their supply of raw materials. Most importantly, they can become global technology providers. The market will grow significantly in the coming years."