Thinking Creative Industries

Circular Product Design For Tomorrow’s World

In this article

Faced with the current climate crisis, businesses are increasingly under pressure to demonstrate how they can adapt to a circular economy model.

Faced with the current climate crisis, businesses are increasingly under pressure to demonstrate how they can adapt to a circular economy model. To shift from ‘take, make and dispose’, to optimise the use of resources, take responsibility for their lifecycle, reinvigorate the environment, and operate sustainably. From changing the materials used and the services provided, products and businesses can be designed to operate in a way that prioritises environmental and social as well as financial growth.

Servicing the circular economy

In 2021, Dr Lynn Wilson, who is currently a Creative Entrepreneur within the Creative Informatics Programme, at the University of Edinburgh, set up Circular Design Scotland, a purpose-driven training and consultancy service that supports businesses, particularly design-led enterprises, to implement a circular economy business model. Their approach is driven by professional experience and rigorous academic research in circular economy design, policy, and user behaviour.

The first major breakthrough for the team was in 2022 when they were successful in obtaining a Creative Entrepreneur Residency grant and robust support package from Creative Informatics (CI).

This enabled them to research and develop the bedrock of their business – the Circular Material Repository (CMR). The CMR is a large database of materials and case studies of circular product and system examples, to provide a research and training resource for designers.

Funding from CI to develop the CMR has enabled me to employ freelance researchers, to undertake market research, identify an international map of circular material online and physical libraries, and begin our own collection of over 500 material digital profile examples and over 100 samples. From this research, we have been able to analyse and develop our business model, which we are currently developing as a tiered subscription service model for businesses and individual designers, called Circular Material Lens.

Dr Lynn Wilson

Support at every stage

The CI team have been on hand to offer advice and collaborate on funding applications to accelerate the CMR as a subscription service model and to further research. This has been an invaluable support and has given Dr Wilson confidence that her business concept is a worthwhile investment to offer the design community.

Participation in Creative Informatics panel events and symposiums with leading design practitioners, researchers, and other entrepreneurs, has been a great opportunity for the company, as Dr Wilson says: “not least because it gives us additional credibility being associated with the University of Edinburgh”.

The next steps for the company are to develop a new software product for circular supply chain modelling. They have applied for UKRI Innovation funding to achieve this. Dr Wilson was grateful to Creative Informatics for their support:

The wider CI team were immediately on hand to work collaboratively on the application within a very tight timeframe”

Dr Lynn Wilson

You may be interested to know that Dr Wilson is speaking at an event on 29 March 2023 2-3pm, organised by the Edinburgh Futures Institute – For the Love of Fashion.

Image of hand picking on wool

Dr Lynn Wilson is one of the leading circular economy practitioners in the UK. She has worked with/for Zero Waste Scotland, been involved in circular economy business strategies at a policy level since 2012, and gained a PhD in management from the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow in 2022, combined with her experience at Zero Waste Scotland, Dr Wilson is a non-executive board member of Architecture and Design Scotland and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Commerce and Manufacture (FRSA). She has been a member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Product Lifetime Extension Working Group, since 2020, and is an advocate for United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12 (UNSDG12).

Related links

Creative Informatics

Circular Design Scotland

For the Love of Fashion 

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