Multiple participants, including students, recent graduates and many companies and universities have all shown a high degree of commitment to the project.
The Catalyst project had four overarching goals. The first goal was to help Nordic companies transition to a sustainable circular economy more quickly by engaging students and manufacturing companies in a collaborative process. The second goal was to employ the young students as ambassadors to build expertise and experience among young people and as industry champions in existing companies. The third goal was to establish a Nordic network for a circular economy, while the final goal was to establish a partnership based programme within industry and research linking this knowledge to companies’ circular economy development projects.
A series of webinars, workshops and gatherings over the last two years clearly demonstrate that the project has achieved all four goals.
Young people as circular agents of change
One important aim of the project is to teach young people how they can share their knowledge and expertise on the circular economy and thereby help accelerate the transition. To promote new circular change makers, two train-the-trainer workshops were established to teach students about design tools for circular economies and how to pass on this information on to fellow students and young professionals. Students who participated in train-the-trainer courses were certified as Circular Economy Champions.
A Nordic Change Makers community was also established to connect young professionals, students and researchers across the Nordics, to share their knowledge about, and passion for, a circular economy.
The project participants
Jia Johannes Chen from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), explains what he believes the Catalyst project has achieved and what the Nordic cooperation has inspired.
“Collaborating on the Catalyst project has produced multiple benefits. We made great progress at last year’s Nordic Circular Summit, introducing a number of changes and bringing more young professionals and a more youthful perspective to the table. Bridging generations for the first time I am talking about system change and showcasing new tools and new values. A disruptive approach to the existing system and structure. So while I think we have achieved a lot, there is still a lot of work to be done. This is only the beginning. So how can we actually move things forward?” asks Jia Johannes Chen.
We made great progress at last year’s Nordic Circular Summit, introducing a number of changes and bringing more young professionals and a more youthful perspective to the table.Jia Johannes Chen, Technical University of Denmark
From the start, Catalyst has been an ambitious project involving more than 500 students. Emma Johnson from KTH, Royal University of Technology in Stockholm, relates her ambitions for the project.
“The project is not about working in silos. It is about leveraging resources, knowledge and tools and understanding what other countries are doing so we can identify success factors. What are the challenges? How do we build on each country’s knowledge rather than letting each country plough their own furrow?”
When asked if this approach has worked, Emma replies, “I think we need to do even more. This is only the beginning. So yes and no. We still have a lot of work to do."
A wide-ranging project like Catalyst has naturally seen a lot of activity but, at the end of the day, it is results that matter. Sayyed Shoaib Ul Hasan, also from KTH, highlights several results.
“Students at KTH submitted circular economy cases for three Master’s theses, all inspired by Catalyst. Last year, five groups came up with innovative circular ideas during their course on circular production systems."
"There were only 35 students on the course but this year more than 100 students enrolled. We received 14 highly promising circular ideas as course projects, one of which is being realised through a start-up company and is on its way to market. So it’s all very interesting.”
Strong follow-through ability and tangible results
The project, which is designed to train future leaders, inspired major engagement among both the students and young employees and especially among the industrial companies participating in the project. Through collaboration, the young people have learned about companies’ needs and have been able to contribute their knowledge, ideas and solutions. The students have given the companies new perspectives on the challenges they are facing. The project and its participants have also helped bring young people’s perspectives to the fore at events such as the Nordic Circular Summit. The cross-generational collaboration on sustainability is helping secure better solutions for the future.
The project connects students and young people with established companies to help businesses accelerate their transition to a sustainable circular business model. In 2022, the project invited all industry project partners to a dedicated Circular Readiness Assessment Masterclass. In addition, the project launched its CATALY(C)ST Circular Economy Acceleration Toolkit, based on tools developed in the CIRCit and resCoM projects. Various workshops were also held based on these tools. In 2022, the project was once again a youth partner at Nordic Circular Summit, where they participated in various sessions and organised their own session. CATALY(C) ST is also part of the Nordic Circular Arena digital platform and has established a Nordic Youth Change Makers network.