How can a circular economy be established?

The circular economy aims to maintain the value of products, materials and resources in the economy as long as possible and at the same time increase material efficiency, reduce the pollution to the environment and obtain climate neutrality. The transition to a circular economy means transforming entire added value chains and encompasses design, production and consumption phases and closing the circle after use.

Fraunhofer ISI investigates the realization conditions and perspectives of a circular economy under different aspects. These include Germany's technological performance with underlying technologies (among others by patent analyses), the changing roles and strategies of actors in the value-added chain, new practices (for example regarding property) and forms of governance.

Another important aspect of research at Fraunhofer ISI is the impact assessment of different circular economy scenarios – also (macro) economic and regarding their contribution to managing large societal challenges and the attainment of the SDGs.


Model Germany Circular Economy

With the “Model Germany Circular Economy”, WWF Germany, Öko-Institut, Fraunhofer ISI and FU Berlin have developed a comprehensive picture for circular economy and circular consumption in Germany.


Circularity3 aims to deliver recommendations for a successful implementation of environmentally beneficial circular economy measures. To ensure the usefulness and applicability of results, the research process is accompanied by a continuous exchange with relevant stakeholders covering the two application cases, the three economic levels and the participating countries. Furthermore, the stakeholders will receive results in the form of practical recommendations on how to advance the circular economy in their specific field of action as well as methods to measure progress and quantify environmental benefits.

Environmental Protection as an Economic Factor: Analysis of the Economic Significance of Environmental Protection by Up-dating Important Indicators

It is very important to have reliable and up-to-date information concerning the economic importance of environmental protection and innovation activities in order to design environmental policy measures in an innovation-friendly way and ease their implementation. Indicators on employment effects, production, foreign trade, environmental research and patents are regularly compiled within the project family “Environmental protection as an economic factor“.

Innovative models of circular economy in the textile industry (Wear2Share)

Innovative models of circular economy in the clothing industry no longer offer clothes to buy but to rent for a certain length of time. Because particularly clothes for small children or fashionable ladies' clothes are often not worn for very long. Wear2Share investigates whether and how such business models lead to more sustainable consumption and whether they are suitable for mass consumption in the long term. Also the project is to drive the development of more sustainable clothing for such rental models.

Scientific accompaniment of two pilot projects in order to increase the collection quota of electric and electronic cold devices in Baden-Württemberg (SEEK)

The project scientifically accompanies two model projects in recycling centers and classifies how effective the applied measures are in order to increase the collection quota of old electric and electronic appliances. Based on the data of these model projects as well as on scientific data from the research literature practical and generalizable recommendations for action for public waste disposers in Baden-Württemberg are given. In addition, alternative disposal methods for large old electrical appliances are investigated in order to better estimate collection quantities.

Conserving resources in the health sector

So far, there has only been a rudimentary examination of where the health sector intersects with the topic of conserving resources. This research project’s objective is to exploit synergies and potentials between the policy fields of resource conservation and health. The project is commissioned by the German Environment Agency and develops strategic fields of activity and options.

Quantification Methodology for, and Analysis of, the Decarbonisation Benefits of Sectoral Circular Economy Actions

The project developed a generic approach to allocate GHG emissions savings to various circular actions and lifecycle stages for a sector. This approach has been applied to quantify the decarbonisation benefits of circular economy actions within the construction industry and the buildings sector.

Political scenarios ProgRess

The aim of the research project is to identify promising measures and fields of action with a high potential to increase resource efficiency. Based on the identified fields of action systematic political instruments to implement the measures are worked out as well as their efficiency mode of action analyzed. The focus here is on classic economic instruments.

Coordinating scientifically the funding priority “Sustainable management: Synthesis and transfer economy” (NaWiKo)

Within the project NaWiKo a team of the Ecologic Institute coordinates together with Fraunhofer ISI and the Research Center for Environmental Politics at the Free University of Berlin a total of 30 projects with a focus on sustainable management funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The multitude of topics of the 30 funded projects creates a large potential of thematic and methodological synergies, which have to be explored. That is the purpose of the project NaWiKo.

Developing the scientific foundations for a German eco innovation plan (ECO-AP)

The “Europe 2020” strategy postulated a transformation to a resource efficient and environmentally friendly economy. In this context the EU introduced the “Eco innovation action plan” (ECO-AP) in 2011 which was to address the obstacles of eco innovations but also the associated opportunities. The German federal government decided to reinforce the European eco action plan by a German eco innovation plan. Fraunhofer ISI elaborated the scientific foundations and thematized the necessity of a new ecological innovation policy.