Earlier this week, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) launched its Circular Economy Core Laboratory, a virtual collaboration platform aimed at bringing university contacts and competencies together with researchers, organizations, companies and startups in the search for sustainable solutions to the energy and commodity crisis.
The core lab will be headed by Allan Niidu, professor of applied chemistry at TalTech, the university said in a press release.
The need for a single communication and coordination center emerged in recent years as more and more projects related to the circular economy continued to pop up at the school.
"The idea came from the Institute of Geology, where several circular economy projects have been completed in cooperation with the EIT RawMaterials network," Niidu recalled. "We realized that if we create a space for cooperation and collaboration, our people could do much more to endorse circular economy solutions."
Similar cooperation platforms are already in use in other parts of Europe, he noted.
"We recently got acquainted with the work of the circular economy center established at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, so it was high time for us to act," the TalTech professor continued. "Who else should promote a new economic model and a more economical way of production than Estonia's only technical university?"
Speaking at the opening Monday, TalTech Rector Tiit Land said that in addition to teaching and research, universities also have an obligation to serve society, and it is clear that everyone is facing severe and complex problems. "Both in Estonia and worldwide, the question is how to develop green technologies and adopt more economical and sustainable production methods," he said.
The launch of the Circular Economy Core Laboratory was prefaced by extensive prep work on the university's part, he continued. "We mapped out all TalTech research groups that have potential and are currently working on green technologies," he explained.
The rector added that the strength of the new circular economy platform will be its umbrella effect. "Today's teaching and research work are interdisciplinary and problem-based, meaning that disciplines must cooperate to achieve a result," he said. "The Circular Economy Core Laboratory will work on the same principle."
'We want companies to turn to us'
According to Niidu, the new core lab will lead cooperation of circular economy disciplines within TalTech and offer its research competence outside the school.
"We aim to attract companies, especially industries with large volumes," he said. "Now that we've witnessed the energy and raw materials crisis firsthand, we must more consistently look for ways to keep raw materials, once extracted from the ground, in circulation for as long as possible."
According to Niidu, the university can also initiate collaboration and seek users for its ideas.
"However, we still want to develop a different approach, so that companies that want to reduce their footprint, reprocess materials or waste and look for opportunities for a circular economy in the production chain will turn to the core laboratory," he explained. "We can propose different models of cooperation, such as open workshops where both company and university teams sit down at the same table together and researchers try to solve the problem set out by the company. At the same time, we can help look for funding opportunities, because the university has a broad international cooperation network."
One of the first initiatives of the core lab will be a monthly seminar where company representatives and other interested parties can discuss issues related to the circular economy together.
"We would also like to include internationally known speakers to share their experiences from other parts of the world," Niidu added.
The core lab's first seminar will be held in February.
Editor: Aili Vahtla