Circular economy lab launches in Yorkshire

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 13:51


A Yorkshire Circular Lab has just been launched by the University of Leeds, to help organisations across the region to benefit from circular economy processes.

It aims to help support organisations who have ideas for circular economy projects, by pairing them up with university researchers across Yorkshire.

In its simplest form, circular economy is about making better use of materials and products. This starts with the extraction or growing of resources, turning these resources into products that last and can eventually be recycled until finally, if needed, being returned safely to the natural environment.

Using resources requires a massive amount of energy and, by using a circular economy approach, much of the energy invested in the processing and manufacturing of products can be saved, while creating new business opportunities and jobs. By being smarter with resources and working with people on solutions that work in practice, a circular economy can perform a key role in climate action. 

Enthusiasm for a circular economy

In early 2021, a team from the University of Leeds was awarded funding from Research England to co-produce plans for a living lab on circular economy, bringing a wide variety of partners together from across the region. Extensive consultation with local government plans and strategies, local authorities, combined authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), companies and business representatives, and civic and voluntary sector organisations, produced a very positive response, with many keen to participate in realising a circular economy in Yorkshire.

Feedback showed that stakeholders wanted to see tangible benefits. Awareness and understanding of what a circular economy is and what it can deliver was found to be important, as is alignment with excellent initiatives already underway in the region, such as Circular Yorkshire. 

From this initial work, it was clear that the Yorkshire Circular Lab should be a key contributor to a low-carbon inclusive economy in the region, supporting economic recovery.

Dr Anne Velenturf, Lead of the Yorkshire Circular Lab from the University of Leeds’ School of Civil Engineering, said: “It’s been so exciting to hear the enthusiasm for circular economy across the region. Circular economy offers hope and practical changes to act upon the climate emergency. I look forward to growing the partnership and putting Yorkshire at the forefront of realising a sustainable, low-carbon and circular economy”.

The five key priorities for action going forward are:

  1. Developing a knowledge and tools hub
  2. Bridging research and implementation via research and student projects
  3. Offering advice, raising awareness and co-producing plans to adopt circular practices
  4. Building a circular economy community
  5. Monitoring progress and benefits

The Yorkshire Circular Lab team are building an open and accessible platform that gives creative freedom and equal opportunity to all of their stakeholders in co-creating and sharing best circular practices in the region. They are building case studies on best practice in governance and business support programmes and videos from regional circular businesses. By linking with all of the universities in the region, they aim to help translate the latest academic thinking into practical solutions that can support organisations in implementing a circular economy.

University support for circular projects

The Yorkshire Circular Lab have just launched the ‘Circular Projects Database’, which will collect project ideas from across the region. This will then be shared with universities across Yorkshire so that they can link organisations with all types of university support, including undergraduate dissertations, project placements, secondments, consultancies and in-depth research projects to create real and tangible benefits. 

Mike Howroyd, Deputy Lead of the Yorkshire Circular Lab from the University of Leeds’s Sustainability Service, added: “By linking our world-class research and knowledge with practical application we create a massive ‘win-win’ situation.  Our students and academics learn from real world challenges and organisations benefit from the latest thinking our region can offer, truly embedding our universities into the heart of the community.” 

If you would like to know more about this exciting project or have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with the Yorkshire Circular Lab by visiting their website:  and follow them on Twitter @LabYorkshire.