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The Next Economy
RIT Joins Group of Universities Furthering Global Understanding of Circular Economy

Rochester Institute of Technology has become a Pioneer University within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)’s Higher Education program, joining a select group of universities worldwide dedicated to accelerating a global transition to a regenerative, circular economy.

RIT joins the program as a result of its pioneering research and teaching on the emerging concept of the circular economy — an industrial economy that is restorative by intention and eliminates waste through thoughtful design. Remanufacturing, the process by which products are restored “as new” after reaching end of life and resold with warranty — and in which RIT’s Golisano Institute of Sustainability (GIS) and Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) have a longtime heritage of industry work and thought leadership — is a fundamental component of the circular economy. Remanufacturing provides both an economic opportunity and an approach for addressing the most serious challenge facing the future of manufacturing: resource scarcity.

EMF staff visited RIT last month to tour GIS and CIMS, and meet with faculty, students and staff to formally complete the membership process.

“We are proud and honored to join the Pioneer University program developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the world’s leading authority on the circular economy,” said Nabil Nasr, associate provost and GIS director. “For RIT, this is tremendous recognition of our expanding global reputation on the circular economy and remanufacturing as well as our world-class facilities.”

As a Pioneer University, RIT also becomes a member of the EMF’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100), a global platform bringing together leading companies, emerging innovators and regions to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. According to the Foundation, only higher-education institutions committed to truly pioneering research and/or teaching programs are eligible for membership. As part of its educational mission, the Foundation works to bring together complementary schools of thought and create a coherent framework to give the concept wide exposure and appeal. Many of these programs will be focused on target disciplines of business education, design and engineering.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rochester Institute of Technology into our select group of globally Pioneering Universities,” said Jules Hayward, Education Program Lead. “We look forward to working with RIT in developing new ideas — both from academic and industrial viewpoints — that will educate engineers and scientists in support of the circular economy.”

RIT joins the University of Bradford, Cranfield University, Delft University of Technology, and University College London as a member of the exclusive group. The Foundation aims to work with a maximum of 10 Pioneer Universities.

The EMF is also working with students at the graduate level through its Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship Programme, designed to develop the skills and innovative thinking required to transition to a circular economy. In March, EMF announced the three winners of its ‘Wild Card’ competition, who have been awarded places on the 2015 Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship programme alongside the 15 students joining them from its Partner University network. Usually offered to one individual, EMF said this year’s entries were “of such a high standard” that three students — Susanne Mira Heinz from Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany; Neil Spencer from the University of Liverpool, UK; and Liudmila Kokoulina of St. Petersburg State University, Russia — were chosen to form part of the 2015 Fellowship cohort.