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Industry and academia join forces for Transformation Day 2023 at KTH

Photo: Magnus Glans
Published Oct 23, 2023

KTH welcomed senior figures from some of Sweden’s largest international companies, professors and other interested parties, to discuss how industry can transform towards the Circular Economy at the Transformation Day, 2023.

In front of a packed audience at KTH on October 19, high-profile representatives from corporations including Volvo, Sandvik Coromant, Electrolux, Scania, Ericsson and others presented some of the ways in which they are addressing the subject of circularity, and discussed with KTH professors their plans for the future and how academia can help. 

“It’s not always easy when you want to break into a new field, so today’s event was about showing what is already being done but also how we can develop things further, gauge wider interest, and encourage more research,” said moderator Martin Edin Grimheden.

The day-long event, organised by the KTH Industrial Transformation Platform, was split into four sessions, each concluding with a round table discussion. The recurring theme throughout the day centred on the size and breadth of the challenges industries face and how institutions like KTH can, and must, work more closely together with them. 

A systematic view of circular economy first out

At the first morning session, “A Systematic View of Circular Economy,” moderator Martin Edin Grimheden introduced Michael Lieder from Scania CV, Barry Waddilove at the Electrolux Group, and KTH researchers Amir Rashid and Maryna Henrysson. 

“The problem with linear models is that we’re producing and consuming more and more. But at the same time, while circularity is a key pathway, circulating mindlessly doesn’t mean we will be sustainable. We have to close the loops by taking all circular economy principles in consideration,” said Amir Rashid, touching on a topic that would recur throughout the day.

Michael Lieder outlined Scania’s new iReGear project, that looks at the feasibility of integrating remanufactured gearboxes into new production, while Electrolux Group’s Barry Waddilove introduced the company’s refurbished products subscription-based service AtEase. The tone of the day was set – Circular Economy is top of mind in our major firms today, but there still remains far to go.

Circular innovations session with Volvo and Stora Enso

The second session saw Katarina Colliander from Volvo Group Circular and Stora Enso’s Mikael Hannus discuss “Circular Innovations,” with KTH researchers Sofia Ritzén and Andreas Feldman.

After a lunch based on the “One Planet Plate,” the auditorium hosted the first afternoon session. “Enabling Technology for Circular Economy” featured Ericsson’s Roman Chirikov, Martin Helgoson and Amari Enzi, from Sandvik Coromant, along with KTH researchers Farazee Mohammad Abdullah and Martin Törngren. 

Looking forward in the final session

The discussion topic for the fourth and final session of the day was “What happens now? Where do we go from here?” KTH Vice President for Research Annika Borgenstam introduced the various ways the university is already working alongside industry and its further plans for the future. Joining her onstage was Jennie Grute from the Swedish Association for Responsible Consumption. 

Jennie Grute outlined the many ways we need to rethink our lives on a daily basis and stressed the benefits of becoming a “cirkulent.” This is someone who thinks long term, buys less, and modifies their behaviour to consider other ways to help the planet, such as reusing things, repairing, borrowing, swapping, renting and buying second hand items.

The success of the Transformation Day 2023 event was in its highlighting not only of the size of the challenges faced by industry, but also the need for more partnerships with academia in the form of places such as KTH, and the potential benefits for both sides and society in general. 

Text: Geoff Mortimore