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Industrial Symbiosis Hub

As described in the EU’s circular economy package, closing material loops is becoming more important in making Europe more resource resilient. To achieve this, more education on closing material loops, industrial symbiosis is necessary. There is dedicated education available, but industrial symbiosis touches more fields, such as chemistry (e.g., exchanging materials), production engineering (e.g., recycling, remanufacturing), business (e.g., new business models). Existing courses should be aligned to industrial symbiosis at more faculties, when applicable, but is currently not the case. There is also no approach to assignments in regular master education or master graduation assignments.

Companies struggle with the new challenges a circular society has. By connecting these companies to universities with their challenges on broad fields of Industrial Symbiosis (business, engineering, chemistry, sociology etc.), they receive the latest information and input on these challenges. Followingly, Universities can shape the challenges of the companies in student assignments, graduation projects and adapt their curriculum to industrial symbiosis.

To organise this, a hub on industrial symbiosis was set up. This Industrial Symbiosis Hub (InSysHub) created a network of lecturers and professors on various fields of industrial symbiosis. In organising education for the students, companies were included in the six different types of events:

  1. Seminars on industrial symbiosis (speakers from universities as well as industries), with a set-up that stimulates discussion and interaction.
  2. Students’ seminars with the focus on entrepreneurial thinking, to stimulate them setting up industrial symbiosis projects.
  3. Open feedback sessions on the assignments of students, via poster presentations. They are open and free structured meetings of students, professors, and industries with poster presentations. The industry professionals give their feedback on the work of students.
  4. Discussion sessions on topics of industrial symbiosis: afternoon workgroup sessions where students and employees of industries (or one industry) discuss questions as an assignment and come up with a first approach how to handle the questions.
  5. Feedback sessions with professor and university teachers to give input to various courses and to discuss the output of the research questions of the industry.
  6. Assignment markets to provide different assignments of the industry to choose

The events hosted by the project attracted a high level of interest, as they were popular not only amongst professionals, but also amongst students, who had an attendance rate three times higher than expected. The number of academic staff and speakers, there was no KPI for these, were respectively 248 and 111.

On a positive note, new contacts were made through the seminars and discussion groups, which later turned into assignments and jointly developed proposals for research projects. The latter is becoming increasingly important for academics, as they need to achieve more and more impact in society with the proposed research projects.

The InSysHub ran as a EIT Raw Materials project in 2020 and 2021, at the LUT (Finland), Ghent University (Belgium), MEERI (Poland) and the Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands). Although it ran in the challenging period when the Covid-19 virus was active, the number of visitors was more than sufficient. Hubs can also be set up in other universities, by copying the InSysHub events and learning from the experience InSysHub. What helps in setting up the events is also inviting other students, academics, and professionals from partner areas. Their input in the events can give the hub a kick-start.

The knowledge for education on industrial symbiosis is available at the partners institutions. However, at the different this education is not given. Industrial symbiosis and circular economy are applicable at more disciplines than current ones where this is taught. Examples are chemical technology, production technology, mechanical engineering, and industrial design. Therefore, it is important not only to give the student activities of InSysHub, but also to integrate industrial symbiosis and circular economy in the curricula and courses. Professionals in most vases did not have education on these topics and therefore join the seminars other events. Professional education, to give professionals a sound knowledge on these topics is advisable.