Research Unit


The Circular Transitions Research Unit investigates how the process of transformation towards a circular economy can be shaped, managed and accelerated in collaboration with active participants in the transition.

The circular economy is widely regarded as a great beacon of hope in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, it is being extensively promoted in political and regulatory framework processes such as the European Union's Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) and Germany's National Circular Economy Strategy (NKWS).

To achieve a successful transformation towards a circular economy that reduces resource consumption, the various perspectives of all stakeholders must be linked together and the circular economy must be integrated into economic, political and social actions as well as into the everyday lives of individuals. For example, products and materials should be disposed of correctly, recycled and, above all, used for as long as possible – for example, by sharing, repairing or repurposing them. When it comes to service life and reparability, products and services need to be reimagined with the circular economy in mind from the outset. Business models and value creation systems need to be adapted or completely transformed and a change brought about in user behaviour. This is where the Circular Transitions Research Unit comes in.

The team


The researchers aim to use their research and knowledge transfer activities to help stimulate the transformation to a circular economy and thereby play an active role in the circular transition. With this goal in mind, they develop, trial and evaluate new solutions, strategies and tools for the circular economy in cooperation with stakeholders at all levels of society. This approach shall trigger a momentum at multiple levels of the system and among various stakeholders that leads to political, economic and social parameters of the circular economy reinforcing one another and initiating the circular transition on a far-reaching and sustainable basis.

What this means specifically is that the researchers want to understand individual and organisational stakeholders and their patterns of behaviour in order to develop targeted interventions and the structures required to support circular practices. They also want to analyse the systemic interaction between individuals and organisations and the opportunities for collaboration in the circular economy, as well as trialling and evaluating new approaches aimed at encouraging the scaling up of this cooperation. They then translate their research findings into concrete measures and recommended actions to be implemented by political actors and governance structures at municipal, regional, national and even international level. The goal is to advance target, systems and transformation knowledge, thereby contributing to transformation research and transformative sustainability research in the context of the circular economy.

Through their work, the researchers want to understand and explore the interactions between individual, organisational and systemic transformation processes in order to deliver targeted stimuli for a transformation towards a circular economy that offers certainty in terms of its future direction.

Key topics

The researchers at the Circular Transitions Research Unit are especially focussing on exploring how the process of transformation towards a circular economy can be shaped, managed and accelerated.

Above all, this question arises in light of the fact that, despite promising political, economic and social dynamism, the circular economy is still only in its infancy and has not yet established itself as the primary value creation paradigm. In the context of the circular transition, stakeholders encounter resistance of all kinds, ranging from entrenched systemic structures, established processes and patterns of behaviour to individual habits and constraints on conduct. New behaviours, such as repairing products instead of buying new ones or cooperation between competing companies, have to be learned from scratch. Far-reaching structural changes to economic, social and political systems are required before these changes can have an effect on the stakeholders' innermost processes and behavioural structures. As this is a major challenge for all stakeholders and cannot happen on its own, it requires targeted and well-coordinated measures and interventions, experimental spaces, stakeholder participation formats and adapted governance structures.

Within the Circular Economy Division, the work of the Circular Transitions Research Unit complements that of the Circular Systems Research Unit, which focuses on recording, analysing and modelling circular value creation systems, and the Digital Transformation Research Unit, which explores the potential applications of digitalisation.


Here you can find projects of the Research Unit:

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