KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

Circular Economy

Circular Knowledge Institutes

The following overview includes a selection of Universities and research centers with expertise and research related to the circular economy. For a similar overview of Universities of Applied Sciences, please see the Lectorenplatform Circulaire Economy (in Dutch only).


Wageningen University & Research

General – Within the research theme ‘Circular & Biobased Economy’, Wageningen University & Research is working on developing solutions to make the circular and biobased economy reality. Wageningen University also has its own test and experimental space in Lelystad, called Acrres (Application Center for Renewable Resources). Research in this lab focuses on sustainable energy and reuse of materials.

Research programs – Research within ‘Circular & Biobased Economy’ are divided into six themes: 1) Waste as raw material, 2) Policies, chains and society, 3) Biobased products & markets, 4) Biorefinery, 5) Soil and 6) Renewable and raw materials.

People responsible – This differs for each research topic and can be found on the website.

MOOCs – The university has its own MOOC, with the name: WUR-MOOC Circular Economy. This MOOC consists of six parts where you learn what it takes to shape a circular economy, including a sustainable goods chain.

More information on the website of Wageningen University & Research


Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Center for Sustainability

General – The Leiden-Delft Erasmus Center for Sustainability is a multidisciplinary research and education center in which three Dutch Universities join forces: Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam. Within this center, scientists (from students to professors) collaborate with public and private organizations to formulate societal challenges and to develop science-based and innovative solutions for the transition to a circular economy. It is currently one of the largest centers in the field of circular economy in the Netherlands.

Research programs – The knowledge institute divides its research and teaching activities into three major hubs: 1) The Inclusive City Hub: focused on an inclusive society, 2) The Resilient City Hub: focused on sustainable urban development and 3) The Greenport Hub: focused on feeding a growing population.

People responsible – The chairman of the steering committee is Prof. Dr. Geert de Snoo (Dean of the Faculty of Science, Leiden University), the other members of the committee are Prof. dr. Erik Fischer (Dean of the Faculty Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology) and Prof. Dr. Steef van de Velde (Dean of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam).

MOOCs – The center offers two different MOOCS: Circular Economy: an Introduction and Waste Management and Critical Raw Materials

More information on the website of the LDE Center of Sustainability


TU Delft: CE Delft

General – CE Delft is an independent research and consultancy firm and is affiliated with TU Delft. The agency exists for over 40 years and contributes to a sustainable society with independent research and advice. The institute is leader in the field of energy, transport and raw materials. The institute focuses on five main expertises: 1) Fuel & Cities, 2) Energy, 3) Economy, 4) Chain analysis and 5) Traffic & Transport.

Research programs – CE Delft conducts research on 17 themes, related to sustainability. Think of research in the field of biomass, raw materials and sustainable procurement. The studies are very practical in nature, as the institute collaborates with various partners in the field.

People responsible – Chairman of the board of CE Delft is Annemarie van Rest and the director of the management team is ir. Frans Rooijers. Per research theme, a manager has been appointed.

MOOCs – CE Delft does not offer MOOCs.

More information on the website of CE Delft


TU Delft: Circular Delft

General – Circular Delft is a platform within TU Delft, with the ambition to make the university a Dutch hotspot for the Circular Economy. The platform consists of a group of professors, (PhD) students and other partners. The research within Circular Delft focuses on the field of product design, where the aim is to stimulate circular thinking in architecture. Within Circular Delft, methods and tools are developed that contribute to this.

Circular Delft is connected to three faculties that all focus on a different research area related to the circular economy: 1) Design Engineering (DE), 2) Industrial Design (ID) and 3) Product Innovation Management (PIM).

Research programs – Within the three connected faculties, research is conducted on eight different themes, including 3D printing and recycling. Several studies are under way, such as the European Refurbishment Network study: a two-year study on European activities related to the ​​reuse of materials.

People responsible – The board chairman of Circular Delft is prof. Ruud Balkenende.

MOOCs – Within the faculties affiliated with Circular Delft, the MOOC offered Engineering design for a circular economy is offered. This MOOC focuses on product design where value and value development of the supply chain is central.

More information on the website of Circular Delft


Erasmus University: DRIFT

General – Drift is affiliated with Erasmus University Rotterdam and is a leading institute for research related to sustainability transitions. In particular, the institute focuses on mobilizing social resources, which involves understanding and facilitating new ways of thinking, doing and organizing contemporary transitions.

Research programs – Major social themes within DRIFT are agency, power and honesty. A well-known example where DRIFT investigates this is at the Port of Rotterdam, where they experiment with innovation for a more sustainable port.

People responsible – Chairman of the Board is Rick Bosman.

MOOCs – DRIFT does not offer MOOCs.

More information on the website of DRIFT

Leiden University: Center for Environmental Sciences (CML)

General – The Center for Environmental Sciences (CML) is affiliated with Leiden University. This 40-year-old institute aspires to be the center of excellence for strategic and quantitative research and education on sustainable use and governance of natural resources and biodiversity.

The CML focuses specifically on two research areas: 1) Environmental Biology (CML-CB) – understanding the impact of human behavior on biodiversity and natural resources that contribute to optimal conservation and 2) Industrial Ecology (CML-IE) – the development of tools for policy making for sustainable production and consumption.

Research programs – The Environmental Biology research field has 23 active or completed research programs. This concerns, for example, the monitoring and detection of nano-materials in biological media. Industrial ecology has one research program: nanowire based tandem solar cells.

MOOCs – Rene Kleijn, professor at the institute, co-developed a MOOC that focuses on the reuse of metals: Wheels of Metals: Urban Mining for a Circular Economy.

People responsible – The institute is headed by Prof. dr. Dr. A. Tukker from Leiden University. The organisation further consists of (international) PhD students and professors.

More information on the website of the CML


Utrecht University: Copernicus Institute

General – The Copernicus Institute is affiliated with Utrecht University. Research at the institute contributes to a sustainable society by offering high-quality knowledge in political and private decision-making. The focus of the institute is on the sustainable development goals of the United Nations (SDGs, 2015). The research within the Copernicus covers four areas of expertise, namely: 1) Energy and Resource, 2) Environmental Science, 3) Environmental Governance and 4) Innovation Studies.

Research programs – The four areas of expertise are sub-divided into eight different research themes. This includes, for example, ‘Good Health and Well-being’, with the emphasis on stimulating a good lifestyle and ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, which involves good governance around clean and available drinking water.

People responsible – Head of the institute is Prof. Dr. Marco Hekkert. Head of the research group is Prof. Ernst Worrell.

MOOCs – The institute does not offer MOOCs.

More information on the website of the Copernicus Institute


University of Groningen (RUG)

General – The research profile of the University of Groningen (RUG) is defined by the faculties and the three social themes of the university: Healthy Aging, Energy and Sustainable Society. These themes are closely linked and distinguish each other. In this way, the RUG actively contributes to resolving major issues in society.

Research programs – The research within the theme Sustainable society is broad and focused on various topics, energy, democracy, governance and sustainable landscape changes.

Responsible – The Scientific Director of Sustainable Society is Kees van Veen.

MOOCs – The RUG does not offer MOOCs related to CE

More information about the website of the University of Groningen


Maastricht University: School of Business and Economics

General – The research within the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University focuses on stimulating interdisciplinary work that looks beyond the current boundaries, creating space for joint solutions. There are seven research themes, one of which focuses on sustainability.

Research programs  – Within the sustainability theme, two studies have been carried out on Circular Economy. Research is focused on impactful investments in which sustainable thinking is encouraged, contributing tot he public interest. Within the research ‘Circular Economy policy in China and Europe’, focus lies on the extent to which people invest in sustainable solutions and what the effect of this is on society. The researchers within the university involved in CE are R. Kemp and S. Turkeli.

People responsible – The Vice-President of Maastricht University is Nick Bos and the coordinator of the sustainability department is Anja Bogaert.

MOOCs – Maastricht University does not offer MOOC in the field of CE.

More information on the website of the School of Business and Economics


Radboud University and Radboud University Medical Center (UMC)

Radboud University and Radboud UMC do not have a specific department that conducts research related to CE. Radboud University’s Faculty of Management Sciences does, however, focus strongly on the development of sustainable business models, in close collaboration with the business community. There is also an ambitious sustainability agenda that runs until 2020. The objective is to get both the university and the medical center as sustainable as possible. In order to achieve this, they cooperate with various partners. In 2018, the following four focal areas were defined: 1) Medication in waste water, 2) Circular Purchasing, 3) Sustainable employability (among others focusing patients) and 4) from waste to raw material.

More information on the website of the Radboud UMC



General – Deltares is an independent institute for applied research in the field of water and subsurface.The institute works on innovations, solutions and applications for people, the environment and society, in close collaboration with governments, companies, knowledge institutes and universities at home and abroad. With regard to Circular Economy, Deltares focuses on the mutual relationship between raw materials, energy and water cycles. There is also interest within the institute in the development of ‘nature-based solutions’.

Research programs – Research on the Circular Economy at Deltares mainly falls within the theme ‘Ecosystems and environmental quality’. Examples are the circular use of raw materials and research on the so-called ‘adaptive cities’.

People responsible – The board of Deltares consists of Maarten Smits (General Director), Erik Janse (Director) and Ron Thiemann (Director).

MOOCs – The institute does not offer MOOCs related to CE.

More information on the website of Deltares



General – The Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research (TNO) is an independent research organization, connecting people and knowledge in order to create innovations  that sustainably strengthen the competitiveness of companies and the well-being of society. The research areas of TNO are very diverse, yet they have a special branch that focuses on Circular Economy & Environment. TNO helps their clients to achieve the objectives of the raw material agreement. The emphasis is on acceleration and especially on accelerating and giving direction to sustainability. By doing so, TNO wants to contribute to strengthening the gross national product while at the same time developing a healthy, safe and sustainable living environment.

Research programs – The TNO has seven pillars within the domain of CE. These focus for example on air, noise and area development. These seven pillars are spread over two expertise groups: 1) Climate, air and sustainability and 2) Environmental modeling, chain analyses and quality management.

People responsible – The board of the TNO consists of Wim Nagtegaal (COO), Jos Keurentjes (CSO), Cis Marring (CFO) and Paul de Krom (CEO). The managing director of the unit Circular Economy and Environment is Ir. Marinke Wijngaard.

MOOCs – TNO does not offer MOOCs.

More information on the website of TNO


Van Hoff Institute for Molecular Science (HIMS)

General – The Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is a research institute, affiliated with the University of Amsterdam. The mission of the institute is to push the boundaries of chemistry by doing internationally recognized scientific research that is both curiousity and application-oriented. The research focuses on the challenges for society and industry. In order to do so, the institute looks for cooperation with other institutes. A great collaboration is for example with CASA, part of the Free University (Chairman: Prof. Garry Corthals).

Research programs – The research within the institute, focused on chemistry, has four different pillars: 1) Analytical chemistry, 2) Computational chemistry, 3) Molecular photonics and 4) Sustainable chemistry, including organic synthesis and all aspects of catalysis, including homogeneous catalysis, heterogeneous catalysis, biocatalysis, organocatalysis and catalysis engineering.

People responsible – The management group consists of prof. Ir. Peter Schoenmakers, drs. Marcel Bartels and Steffanie Igel. Furthermore, there are different research groups per theme with their own theme manager.

MOOCs – The institute does not offer MOOCs.

More information on the website of the HIMS


Center of Expertise Biobased Economy (CoE BbE)

General – The Center for Biobased Economy (CoE BbE) is a collaboration between Avans University of Applied Sciences and HZ University of Applied Sciences. Here, entrepreneurs work together with scientists, teachers and students to promote the knowledge of education about – and research into – the biobased economy. The ambition is to renew the higher vocational education and to carry out applied research on this theme.

Research programs – Within the expertise center, applied research is spread over four focus areas: 1) Biobased Building, 2) Biobased Products, 3) Biobased Energy and 4) Marine Biobased Specialties.

An example of ongoing research is the investigation into the materialisation of façade panels based on circular residual materials such as roadside grass or textiles. In addition to research, many other activities are taking place to promote a biobased economy. Think of the ‘Biobased Battle’, a competition between Dutch and Brazilian students who come up with innovative ideas within a defined time frame.

People responsible – Management of the expertise center is in the hands of Ralph Simons, also director of Hogeschool Zeeland and Avans University of Applied Sciences.

MOOCs – The expertise center organized the MOOC Biobased Economy Introduction in previous years. This MOOC has already taken place six times.

More information on the website of Center of Expertise Biobased Economy



This overview has been created in cooperation with Holland Circular Hotspot