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Eco-Innovation Diversity in a Circular Economy: Towards Circular Innovation Studies


  • Ana de Jesus

    (Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research, NOVA School of Science and Technology, NOVA University Lisbon, 2825-149 Caparica, Portugal)

  • Minna Lammi

    (Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK)

  • Teresa Domenech

    (Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London, Gower St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6BT, UK)

  • Fedra Vanhuyse

    (Head of the Societal Transitions Unit and Senior Research Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute, 115 23 Stockholm, Sweden)

  • Sandro Mendonça

    (Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL), Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), 1649-026 Lisbon, Portugal
    Research Unit on Complexity and Economics (UECE), ISEG—Lisbon School of Economics and Management, 1249-078 Lisbon, Portugal
    SPRU—Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RH, UK)


Transition to a Circular Economy (CE) is about structural change and is predicated on the introduction of transformative eco-innovation (EI). Research on the CE–EI nexus has recently attracted attention both from an analytical and regulatory perspective. However, in-depth research exploring EI dynamics within the CE is still marginal, especially concerning the trends and dynamics of the pro-CE innovation policy and strategy. This paper addresses this gap by taking advantage of the burgeoning research on CE of the last 20 years and offers a new working synthesis. By implementing a “(systematic) review of (systematic) reviews”, this paper provides a new comprehensive framework for understanding pro-circular innovation strategies and, as a complement, argues the need to advance “circular innovation studies” as an agenda in its own right. Innovations related to recycling and recovery CE strategies along with business-model innovations and systemic/transformative innovations are found to be a major current trend in the research, connecting supply and demand side innovations and also driving other forms of innovation linked to design, product manufacturing, logistics and reverse logistics and end-of-life management and recovery. Additionally, of note is that the conceptual understanding of EI dynamics within a CE is still mainly implicit (rather than explicitly discussed) limiting the possibilities to advance knowledge in the area of innovation for CE: this is why we propose a “circular innovation studies” agenda.

Suggested Citation

  • Ana de Jesus & Minna Lammi & Teresa Domenech & Fedra Vanhuyse & Sandro Mendonça, 2021. "Eco-Innovation Diversity in a Circular Economy: Towards Circular Innovation Studies," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(19), pages 1-22, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:13:y:2021:i:19:p:10974-:d:649156

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