What can the circular economy do for the defence sector?

A European project looking to bring the circular economy into the defence sector has been launched this month.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) project, led by the Circular Economy Research Initiative based at Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS), will assess the constraints and opportunities that could be encountered through applying circular economy principles to the defence sector.

What can the circular economy do for the defence sector?
The circular economy is the concept of taking the current linear route for resources (‘take, make, dispose’) and turning it into an ongoing cycle where innovative business models enable resources to be remanufactured, repaired or recycled back to the beginning of a supply chain.

Following their research, teams from the CJBS and the EDA are aiming to establish a roadmap proposing follow-up actions and alternatives for areas that might not be suitable for completely circular practice.

The EDA says that an assessment of the transposition of the circular economy concept, particularly at an early stage of the research and technology phase, could produce ‘systematic and structural’ benefits, which could be highly beneficial for member states.

The initial assessment, the agency hopes, will shed light on those benefits, as well as identifying topics, opportunities and areas for further assessment and analysis. The study is expected to be published in October this year, and will establish follow-on actions for the EDA to enable a ‘smooth and beneficial’ transition to a circular economy.

Security of supplies vital to defence industries

The EDA was created in 2004 to support EU member states in improving their defence capabilities and crisis management, with an emphasis on creating an internationally competitive European defence equipment market. In November, the European Commission released a European Defence Action Plan to enable, among other things, more efficient spending in joint defence capabilities.

What can the circular economy do for the defence sector?In an opinion piece for the EDA’s European Defence Matters magazine, European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen wrote: ‘Strengthening Europe's security capabilities is a challenge that requires strategic planning and an efficient use of resources. Existing projects or initiatives taken by the EDA already prove how the implementation of the circular economy principles in the field of defence can help achieve this objective. Yet, increasing transfers of knowledge between the civilian and the military sectors and integrating a longer-term perspective in the production process could bring even further benefits…

‘Resource efficiency [and] security of supplies are as much, if not more, important to defence industries than to the civilian sector. The transposition of the circular economy principles in the defence sector can benefit the European industry and economy in many ways.

‘Optimising the use of existing resources, encouraging developing new materials, and promoting the use of secondary raw materials will create new incentives to innovate. And we are not talking only about big manufactories here – defence supply chain includes plenty of SMEs and midcaps. This will in turn contribute to preserving and creating new jobs. In an environment of reduced government public spending, the focus on waste reduction will also help the industry reduce its costs, and improve its competitiveness and efficiency targets.’

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