Working Sustainably in the Circular Economy Regional Competence Centre for Work Design to be established at TU Braunschweig
Production, supply and value chains of the future must become climate-neutral and sustainable. Turning away from a linear throwaway economy and moving towards the circular approach of the circular economy is a societal challenge that the regional competence centre KREIS will address in the coming years. In addition to the technical challenges of production, recycling and supply chains, 42 partners from science and industry under the leadership of Technische Universität Braunschweig (network coordinator: Prof. Dr. Simone Kauffeld) are researching how work must change to enable the circular economy. Because a more sustainable, circular economy requires cooperation between all disciplines involved as well as the strengthening of competencies and willingness to change and more humane working conditions for skilled workers. The Federal Ministry of Research and Culture (BMBF) is funding the establishment of the competence centre with a total of around 10 million euros.
KREIS pursues the goal of not only seeing the circular economy as a technical challenge, but of organically thinking technology and work together and thus laying the foundation for more sustainable and humane value chains. A major challenge here is that individual phases of a product’s life cycle have so far usually been considered separately. In this way, there is a lack of overarching knowledge and experience, which is, however, crucial for the success of circularity. KREIS addresses this problem and develops strategies and concepts with which the life cycle of products can be holistically understood, designed and communicated. The scientific findings and tested practical and transfer formats achieved in KREIS are intended to address the global task of creating sustainable value chains regionally and supraregionally and to play a decisive role in their development and establishment.
KREIS combines the expertise of its members from science, practice and social partners at various locations in the region in a forward-looking interdisciplinary cooperation. Cooperation between different disciplines is an important prerequisite for achieving the sustainable development goals, to which the circular economy makes a significant contribution. In KREIS, experts on the mobility of the future, sustainable development of PV panels and recycling of electrical appliances sit around the table with experts on humane work design, sustainable business models and efficient supply chains to transform the region of South-East Lower Saxony for a sustainable future.
Scientists from TU Braunschweig, the TU Clausthal, the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences and the Social Science Research Institute (SOFI) in Göttingen are investigating in the competence centre KREIS how the circular economy can be promoted as a central building block for achieving the sustainability goals. Among other things, the following questions about work design play a central role: What skills are needed as employees in the circular economy? How can the willingness to change, motivation for further training and acceptance of technology be stimulated? How can data be better obtained and help to create a better basis for decision support? Which tools are suitable for analysing and evaluating cooperation in the circular economy?
With the help of the interdisciplinary cooperation set up in KREIS, a holistic picture of work in the circular economy with a focus on applications in mobility is to be gained and shaped for a sustainable future. KREIS acts as an expertise hub regionally, nationally and internationally and pursues the following overarching goals:
- develop and establish holistic labour research in the circular economy,
- design the working environment in the circular economy in a way that promotes health and skills,
- enable cooperation, participation and social partnership in the circular economy,
- enable and consolidate knowledge of work design in the circular economy and transfer findings.
About the project
KREIS is funded by the Federal Ministry of Research and Culture (BMBF) from July 2023 to June 2028 with a total of around 10 million euros and aims to establish a regional centre of excellence. Prof. Dr. Simone Kauffeld at the Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen (NFF) is responsible for the central coordination of the network. Through cooperation between science (TU Braunschweig, TU Clausthal, Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences and the Sociological Research Institute Göttingen), industry and social partners (German Trade Union Federation, IG Metall, etc.), demonstrators to promote the circular economy will be put into practice.
The KREIS competence centre thus complements other regional projects for sustainable transformation such as “ReTraSON – Regionales Transformationsnetzwerk SüdOstNiedersachsen“ (Regional Transformation Network South-East Lower Saxony), the further education networks ReShape Automotive “ko:nect – Netz für Weiterbildung“ (Network for Further Education). In close cooperation with other central actors of the “Circular Science Region” such as the Open Hybrid Lab Factory (OHLF) and the recycling cluster REWIMET, KREIS supports and accompanies the transformation in the region, especially with regard to sustainable supply and value chains in the sense of the Circular Economy.