Students and company employees will be trained to be catalysts for the transition to sustainability in the Cataly(c)st project.

Students to speed up sustainability and circular economy

Tuesday 23 Feb 21


Marianne Thellersen
Senior Vice President - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
+45 40 51 44 10


Linda Weiss
Projekt coordinator
DTU Skylab
+45 93 51 09 95


Tim C. McAloone
Professor, PhD
DTU Construct
+45 45 25 62 70

Cataly(c)st - Youth Change makers

Read more about the Cataly(c)st project, created in a partnership between the following technical universities in the Nordic countries: NTNU in Norway, KTH in Sweden, Aalto in Finland, EFLA Consulting in Iceland, and DTU in Denmark.


Read more about the project Matche—Making the Transition to Circular Economy.
Read more about the Circit project and methods that can take the circular economy one step further towards sustainability.
Technical universities in the Nordic region join forces to help students and company employees speed up sustainability and the transition to a circular economy.

Students and company employees will be trained to be catalysts for the transition to sustainability and a circular economy. This is the idea behind a new partnership between the technical universities in the Nordic region, which will offer courses, workshops, and a wide range of collaborative projects to promote a circular economy. The project, named Cataly(c)st, is coordinated by DTU and supported by a grant of DKK 1,6 million from Nordic Innovation.

“The Nordic countries have the potential to be the frontrunners in promoting a circular economy. The challenge is to speed up this transition. Here, students can play a crucial role in preparing specific proposals for companies that want to be involved in collaborations to promote a circular economy. This will bring DTU’s research and innovation into play and help tackle the global challenges described in the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Marianne Thellersen, DTU’s Director for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Senior Vice President.

The Cataly(c)st project will run over the next two years and is based at DTU Skylab, where a number of the project’s activities take place. The first phase focuses on establishing 25 industrial partnerships and expanding the cooperation with other technical universities in the Nordic region. After that, up to 300 students and company representatives will collaborate on development projects, while other projects involving up to 200 companies will engage students in initiatives to uncover the potential for transitioning to a circular economy.

"The Nordic countries have the potential to be the frontrunners in promoting a circular economy. The challenge is to speed up this transition."
Marianne Thellersen

DTU Skylab will help design qualifying courses for students and employees in the companies. In addition, the project will offer workshops and lunch talks and build a network of change agents with skills in accelerating sustainability and a circular economy.
“DTU Skylab is a fantastic setting for developing the Cataly(c)st project, because DTU’s innovation ecosystem has the best contacts with companies and the whole start-up environment. At the same time, the project will allow students to use their education in specific projects with companies. It’s a synergy with great potential,” says Tim McAloone from DTU Mechanical Engineering, who is taking part in the project. 

Circular economy toolbox

The methods and tools that will be used by students and industry representatives in Cataly(c)st have already been developed. This was done partly in a Nordic project called ‘Circit—Circular Economy Integration in Nordic Industry’, where DTU Mechanical Engineering has developed new tools for the companies’ work on innovation, development, use, and reuse of technical products and systems. 

In the Circit project, DTU and the other technical universities have also built up a collection of 101 cases showing how large and small companies in the Nordic region have changed their business models and other workflows to avoid wasting resources. In addition, in cooperation with 70 Nordic companies, a series of six short handbooks have been produced that provide examples and methods for how companies can identify and use opportunities for more circular production.

App to assess adaptability

In another project, ‘Matche—Making the Transition to Circular Economy’, researchers at DTU Mechanical Engineering have developed a app where, by answering 30 simple questions, companies can assess which areas of their business, organization, or product development can be improved to facilitate the transition to a circular economy. 

The Matche project describes eight aspects of adaptability, ranging from the company’s organization to its rethinking of business models, products, and services. By using the method, companies can, for example, work systematically to reduce their consumption of raw materials, their waste, and their carbon footprint, while at the same improving their global competitiveness.
Nordic Innovation supports Cataly(c)st in line with the Nordic Prime Ministers’ 2019 vision to ensure that the Nordic countries will be the world’s most sustainable region by 2030. In Nordic Innovation’s assessment, the Nordic countries have the necessary strengths to be a driving force in the move towards a circular economy, although there are challenges in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular no. 12 (sustainable production and consumption) and number 13 (climate change).


Circular economy

A circular economy is a value chain where, as far as possible, previously used materials or components are reused for production. The concept of recycling materials and assets is built into the design from the start, and the business model allows for the product to be reused for new purposes. 
Circular economy is contrasted to conventional economy, which is linear: you extract raw materials to produce a product, consume it, and throw it away when it is no longer needed or useable.

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