The University of Exeter will be a major player in the first-ever UN-backed center for research on the circular economy.

A new center supported by the United Nations that will accelerate the shift to a circular economy of the future includes the University of Exeter as a partner.

Resources Minister Robbie Moore today announced the establishment of the International Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Resource Management in the Circular Economy. This center will provide innovative methods for the circular economy in sectors such vital minerals, metals, and construction.

Established in the UK in acknowledgment of the world-class knowledge in circular economy at UK universities like the University of Exeter, it is the first center of its kind in the world.

Instead of being taken from the earth, used once, and then disposed of in a landfill, resources are kept in use for as long as possible in a circular economy, where products and materials are preserved, reused, and remanufactured wherever feasible.

The University of Exeter and University College London (UCL), Brunel University, Swansea University, and the British Geological Survey collaborated to build the new center, which is scheduled to formally open in April 2024. These institutions collectively provided £1.85 million to support the center’s technical operations.

In order to facilitate carbon reduction and the shift to a greener future, it will create new strategies for the circular economy and resource efficiency. Additionally, it will make sure that the UK can assist nations worldwide in maximizing the environmental benefits economic opportunities the circular economy offers.

The consortium of academic partners will use their experience to investigate circularity in fields like metals, building, and critical minerals in order to create useful reusable data, technological innovation, financial models, and policy. The consortium will be led by a government-funded UNECE research manager situated in Geneva.

“This is a true recognition of the UK’s global leadership in sustainable resource management and testament to Britain’s world-leading academic expertise,” stated Resources Minister Robbie Moore. We are excited to host this center, which will allow our cutting-edge UK scholars to produce the knowledge and resources needed to help nations everywhere take advantage of the circular economy and pave the path for a more environmentally friendly future.

The chief scientist of the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs established the £30 million, four-year National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research (NICER) research and development program in 2019 as part of the UK Government’s Strategic Priorities Fund. Exeter and other partner institutions have found success with this program, which will be a major source of inspiration for the center.

Through its Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre for Technology Metals (Met4Tech) and its role as coordinator of the National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research Hub (NICER CE-Hub), the University of Exeter contributes to the NICER initiative.

“The new Center of Excellence will allow the coalition of partners to build on the past four years of the NICER program to amplify Exeter’s program of work on CE roadmaps, knowledge exchange, policy tools, business model innovation, and executive education and training,” stated Professor Fiona Charnley, Co-Director of the University of Exeter’s NICER CE-hub.

“Real-time, forward-looking, and reusable data systems aligned to policy and industry needs are necessary to accelerate the transition to a circular economy,” stated Professor Peter Hopkinson, Co-Director of the NICER CE-hub at the University of Exeter. The basis for such an approach is Exeter’s NICER CE-data observatory, which we can now scale and apply globally to impact real-world decisions across diverse resource flows.

Professor Frances Wall, who teaches applied mineralogy at the University of Exeter’s Camborne School of Mines, stated: “We have been collaborating with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe for some time, writing a formal case study of the UNRMS applied to Cornwall and supporting other Circular Economy initiatives. With partners from around the world, the International Centre of Excellence is an exciting project that will allow us to expand on this by doing research and providing training on how to use our natural resources effectively for the benefit of everybody.

“Moving towards a circular economy and making our resource use more sustainable are fundamental to sustainable development and climate action,” UNECE Executive Secretary Tatiana Molcean continued.International expertise-mobilizing partnerships are crucial to UN collaboration in the development and exchange of best practices. With its emphasis on building, essential raw materials, and the circularity of metals, I applaud the creation of this new center of excellence.