Circular Economy Business and Enterprise
This interdisciplinary module explores business and enterprise opportunities when “digital meets business models meets design” of goods, services and systems. It is set within the general notion of a “circular economy”. Digital gave us insights into complex systems, full of feedback and pattern and it changed the relationship between people, resources, production, use and exchange. A linear, take-make-and-dispose mindset was ignoring feedback and leaving untapped value while exporting costs to society and the environment. This module will explore an emerging feedback rich framework for thinking and its application to business while setting its economic, environmental and philosophical context.
Full module specification
|Module title:||Circular Economy Business and Enterprise|
|Duration of module:||
Duration (weeks) - term 2: |
The module aims to set current circular economy business and enterprise opportunities in three main contexts and illustrate two main approaches. The intellectual context is a shift from largely mechanistic and atomistic worldview to systemic and networked in line with contemporary science of systems.
The economic and business context is changing emphasis from production throughput to asset management and adding value in an extended era of low growth, stagnant wages and materials and resources constraints.
A circular economy is often introduced as an approach to the question “how do we produce?” It is cognisant of the foregoing contexts and the changing balance of opportunities and barriers to change which result. The two main approaches illustrated relate to different aspect of the economy as a flow network: the first is the shift from selling goods to selling services or the access to assets over the ownership of them. It includes related efforts which emphasise efficiency and scale. The second is to the idea of enterprise networks, cascading materials and energy and adding value through economies of scope or diversity, emphasising that vital aspect as part of the functioning of all effective systems.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. describe and synthesise the key concepts, principles, characteristics and strategies of a circular economy;
- 2. explain and critically explore the terms complexity and effective systems as they apply to circular economy.
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 3. demonstrate effectiveness and competency through a circular economy business simulation exercise;
- 4. critically compare and contrast examples of how to produce in a circular economy versus a linear economy.
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 5. participate in group and forum activities and demonstrate effective approaches to communication, self management and communication;
- 6. present findings and arguments about circular economy in a clear, coherent and understandable way.
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity||10||Lectures|
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity||5||Simulation: Circular economy group activity|
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity||10||Seminars: Group based discussions|
|Guided Independent Study||40||Pre and post session reading|
|Guided Independent Study||85||Assessment preparation|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Group reflections||5 slide PPT and audio commentary||5,6||Oral|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Group work: Team Simulation||30||Undertaking a team based simulation exercise and writing up experience (2000 words)||1-6||Written|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Team Simulation (30%)||Individual reflection on simulation (30%) (2000 words)||1-6||Referral/Deferral Period|
|Essay/Critique||Written essay (70%) (3000 words)||1-6||Referral/Deferral Period|
Part 1) Understanding how digital revealed the workings of non-linear systems and the acceptance that most real-world systems are nonlinear and complex and exist in a dynamic equilibrium. Basic commonalities in non-linear systems as a guide to changed perspectives.
Part 2) Products, components and materials and the need to shift from linear to a perspective based on systems and circularity. Where shall we draw the boundaries? And look for solutions? In the technosphere, the durable products arena, a comprehensive approach to shifting from products to services, enabled by digital and suited to scale. Products to services, and extended product life as a key strategy mix.
Platforms and networks, more efficiency and scale opportunities to lower costs of access and ownership.
Part 3) Biosphere, products of consumption. Is the bio economy the same as the circular economy? Issues of scale and regeneration (e.g. soil health)
Adding value with what we have. Enterprise networks and economies of scope, not scale. The role of open-source materials, software, maker labs, temporary materials stores, circulating income locally and regionally.
Enterprise networks in the developing world. Amplifying the ‘exchange’ function with redesigned infrastructure, access to tools, places, digital, markets. Case study based.
Part 4) The circular economy includes monetary stocks, flows and feedback. What sort of economic system conditions might bring the insights about living systems, materials products and component flows into line?
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Stahel, W. (2010) Performance Economy. London: Palgrave-MacMillan*
Braungart, M. McDonough, W. (2002). Cradle to Cradle. New York, NY: Farrar, Staus and Giroux
Pauli, G. A. (2010) The Blue Economy. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publications
Meadows, D. H. (2008) Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Jct., VT: Chelsea Green *
Hawken, B. Lovins A. B. Lovins, H. (1999). Natural Capitalism. New York: Little, Brown and Company*
Webster, K. (2017) The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows. Cowes, Isle of Wight: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
(*links to author authorised online versions/summaries are available)
Module has an active ELE page?
Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources
Web based and electronic resources: The key element is the lecture series and this will be consolidated and enhanced as a resource through appropriate lecture- capture software, to include searchable slides, full transcript. Live lecture includes polling and questions. Some lectures as webcasts streamed from abroad.
Indicative learning resources - Other resources
Other resources: Access to the circular economy online team business simulation ‘blue connection’ as a focus for practical application of learning.
Last revision date