Eco-innovation pathways to a circular economy: Envisioning priorities through a Delphi approach

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The present research seeks insights on potential “transformative” eco-innovation pathways towards a “Circular Economy”. By taking a neo-Schumpeterian perspective on sustainability transition and adopting a bottom-up foresight methodology, namely a (3-stage)policy-learning Delphi approach drawing on a (29-strong)panel of experts belonging to a variety of institutional sectors (public, business, academic actors, as well as NGOs)from diverse geographical backgrounds (11 countries across 3 continents), the study explores Circular Economy's key characteristics and appraises the fundamental strategies and trade-offs that must be understood and managed for transition. The evidence gathered through the participatory exercise, contrasted with prior knowledge from systematic literature reviews, suggests that Circular Economy is both a holistic concept and an operational tool. Results strongly suggest systemic eco-innovation, powered by multidimensional policies, as the key to unlock deep transition. In particular, over the next 20 years Circular Economy development is more than technological and economic puzzle-solving; it will be contingent on the ability to creatively overcome real political trade-offs and broader societal challenges needing to include in their action more social and behavioural considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1494-1513
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2019


  • Circular economy
  • Delphi
  • Eco-innovation
  • Policy
  • Sustainability
  • Transition


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