This report presents the findings of the Circular Economy (CE) Lab project, supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It identifies key outputs from past SEI projects, includes a concrete list of knowledge gaps which future SEI proposals could explore further, and explores how SEI can support future directions for establishing an impactful and actionable CE research agenda.

The main findings are:

  • SEI carried out 57 projects related to CE within the last decade, which mainly address three key areas of expertise: circular bioeconomy, circular solid waste management, and circular water management.
  • There is a broad range of knowledge gaps related to 1) the understanding of the impacts of CE strategies, and the links between the CE and just transition fields; 2) the implementation of CE strategies, such as developing new business models, technological advancements, and including consumer perspectives; and 3) bridging policy gaps to facilitate better financial and regulatory frameworks.
  • This has led to recommendations of future research themes that SEI proposals can explore, such as developing holistic assessment frameworks to appraise CE strategies; tapping into SEI´s expertise on sustainable consumption to better understand the links between CE and behavioral aspects; and analysing supply chains to support private enterprises in developing circular business models.
  • Lastly, the authors suggest that future SEI research on CE should incorporate participatory multi-stakeholder collaborations across sectors, regions, disciplines, and stakeholder groups; engage in capacity building and activities that raise awareness among various stakeholder groups; and provide support to decision-makers to align regulatory and economic incentives to CE goals and targets.