The virtual collaboration platform will provide TalTech contacts and competencies to search for sustainable solutions to the energy and commodity crisis in cooperation with researchers, organizations, companies, and start-ups.
The head of the circular economy core laboratory, TalTech professor of applied chemistry Allan Niidu stated that the need for a single communication and coordination center emerged in recent years when more and more projects related to the circular economy popped up at the university. "The idea came from the Institute of Geology, where several circular economy projects have completed in cooperation with the EIT Raw Materials network. We realized that if we create a space for cooperation and collaboration, our people could do much more to endorse circular economy solutions. Similar cooperation platforms already operate in other parts of Europe. Recently, we got to know the work of the circular economy center established at the Royal Swedish University of Technology. So it was high time for us to act - who else should promote a new economic model and a more economical way of production than Estonia's only technical university," said Niidu.
TalTech Rector Tiit Land said at the opening of the core laboratory that, in addition to teaching and research, universities also are obliged to serve society, and it is clear that we all are facing severe complex problems. "Both in Estonia and the whole world, the question is how to develop green technologies and adopt more economical and sustainable production methods. Before opening the circular economy core laboratory, we did a long preparatory work - we mapped all TalTech research groups that have potential and are currently working on green technologies," the rector said. Tiit Land added that the strength of the new circular economy platform is its umbrella effect. "Today's teaching and research work are interdisciplinary and problem-based, meaning that disciplines must cooperate to achieve a result. The circular economy core laboratory will also work on the same principle."
Maive Rute, Deputy Director General of the European Commission's Internal Market, Industry and Entrepreneurship (DG GROW), Madis Tilga, Advisor of the Estonian Representation of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Sille Kraam, Deputy Secretary General for Economic Development at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications for Estonia, and representatives of the companies Fibenol and Trisector spoke at the opening in Mektory. Helen Sooväli-Sepping, the vice-rector of TalTech's green turn, led the opening event.
According to Allan Niidu, the core laboratory will lead the cooperation of the circular economy disciplines within the university and offer its research competence to the outside. "We aim to attract companies, especially industries with large volumes. Now that we have witnessed the energy and raw materials crisis firsthand, we must more consistently look for ways to keep the raw materials once taken from the ground in circulation for as long as possible."
According to Niidu, the university can also initiate collaboration and search for an user for its idea. "However, we still want to develop a different approach - so that companies that want to reduce their footprint, reprocess materials or waste, and look for opportunities for a circular economy in the production chain will turn to the core laboratory. We can propose different models of cooperation - for example, open workshops where both company and university teams are together at the same table and researchers try to solve the problem set by the company. At the same time, we can help to look for funding opportunities because the university has a wide international cooperation network."
One of the first initiatives of the circular economy core laboratory is a monthly seminar where company representatives and all other interested parties can discuss issues related to the circular economy together. "We would also like to include internationally known speakers who share their experience from other parts of the world" said Niidu. The first seminar will take place in February 2023.