Transition to a circular economy is about structural change and is predicated on the introduction of transformative eco-innovation. Research on the circular economy–eco-innovation nexus has recently attracted attention both from an analytical and regulatory perspective. However, in-depth research exploring eco-innovation dynamics within a circular economy is still marginal, especially concerning the trends and dynamics of the pro-circular-economy innovation policy and strategy.
This paper addresses this gap by taking advantage of the burgeoning research on circular economy of the last 20 years and offers a new working synthesis. By implementing a “(systematic) review of (systematic) reviews”, this paper provides a new comprehensive framework for understanding pro-circular innovation strategies and, as a complement, argues the need to advance “circular innovation studies” as an agenda in its own right.
Innovations related to recycling and recovery circular economy strategies along with business-model innovations and systemic/transformative innovations are found to be a major current trend in the research. These connect supply- and demand-side innovations and also drive other forms of innovation linked to design, product manufacturing, logistics and reverse logistics, and end-of-life management and recovery.
Additionally, of note is that the conceptual understanding of eco-innovation dynamics within a circular economy is still mainly implicit (rather than explicitly discussed) limiting the possibilities to advance knowledge in the area of circular economy innovation: this is why the authors propose a “circular innovation studies” agenda.