Towards a shared vision for waste and resource management (1): Effective government – academic collaboration

The Resource Recovery from Waste (RRfW) programme coordinates a co-creation process to formulate a shared vision and approach to realise it for sustainable waste and resource management in the UK. In this way we contribute to the necessary transition towards a circular economy that is mindful of environmental and social boundaries.

This blog is the first of a series of three posts presenting preliminary results from our government engagement, inviting your further insights to take on board before publishing the final outcomes.

Overview RRfW co-creation process

The co-creation process consists of four steps (please see figure on the right). The first step has been completed. To gather insights from government, we interviewed RRfW partners in Defra, Zero Waste Scotland, BEIS, EA, and SEPA prior to a round table discussion with all participants. Conversations revolved around four questions:

  1. For which organisation(s) are you working & what is your role in waste and resource management?
  2. What would the resource and waste management landscape ideally look like by 2020, 2030 and 2050?
  3. If we would like waste management to be driven by environmental and social benefits in addition to economic benefits, what would be the key policy and regulatory approaches?
  4. How could RRfW best engage governmental organisations to translate knowledge into practice?


Results from government engagement will be submitted for publication in spring. Before finalising the article, we would like to invite further insights from government. In the next weeks we will present preliminary results in this blogpost series; We would appreciate if you could have a read and please let us know if we missed anything important. This week we discuss how RRfW could best engage governmental organisations to translate our technologies and approaches into practice.

Effective collaboration between government and academia

In what ways could RRfW academics best collaborate with government partners? Preliminary results covered recommendations from governmental partners for academics on potential engagement methods, organisations, government processes, and positioning and generation of research outcomes.

In what ways should academics engage government partners?

  • Engage governmental organisation from the start and follow-up regularly throughout the research project.
  • Communicate with partners at multiple government levels, which is crucial in the transition towards more sustainable waste and resource management. Radical changes are needed at all levels of government, and throughout society, hence to bring about such systemic change “taking everyone with us” is important.

Who should participate in academic research on resource recovery from waste?

  • Politicians such as MPs
  • Technical officers and policy makers in DEFRA, BEIS, Treasury and DCLG
  • Parliamentary groups and committees such as APSRG and the Environmental Audit Committee

Through which processes should academics engage government partners?

Aside from regular meetings with key contacts in the organisations mentioned above, academics can engage through the following processes:

  • Contribute to consultations such as for the industrial strategy, bioeconomy strategy and approaches to support the circular economy
  • Become member of relevant parliamentary groups and committees
  • Contribute to standards such as BREFs and the recycling protocol for demolition and construction waste
  • Make results more accessible through POST notes, the Raw Materials Information System, and existing or newly launched online databases for waste and resource management
  • Organise events in Westminster to engage politicians and other government actors

How should research outcomes be best positioned for government uptake?

Two, interlinked, approaches to position research outcomes were brought forward:

  1. Academia can play a key role in maintaining the bigger picture of whole systems. However, targeted interventions are required and academia should formulate practical recommendations for specific sectors or materials. In other words, academics should present whole system approaches but with more practical recommendations.
  2. Another key approach in presenting research outcomes revolves around integration. Building on the observation above that actors throughout society need to change, at all levels of government as well as industry and general public; academic work should integrate the diverse stakeholder perspectives, including:
  • Practical advice to support an integrated cross-government approach for waste and resource management
  • Integrate strategies for the circular economy with the wider agenda for economic development and protection of the environment
  • Recommend new metrics to integrate into economic development models, for example circular economy metrics or sets of metrics that include environmental and social indicators of progress in addition to economic metrics.
  • Join up the elements of the circular economy. While government interventions tend to focus on sectors and materials, academia should clarify how resources can circulate through the economy through interconnected sectors. In other words, academics should identify where joined up interventions for two or more sectors are necessary to support the emerging circular economy.

Which research activities should RRfW prioritise to support collaboration with government?

  • Identify policies and regulations linked to each RRfW research project
  • Carry out a situational analysis to understand if, and in what way, new approaches and technologies could be realised within the policy and regulatory context
  • Connect solutions and recommendations explicitly to policies and regulations in a specific region

We value your feedback!

Did we miss anything important in the outlined preliminary results? Are there any other and/or better ways for academics to collaborate effectively with government partners in this subject area? Please leave a comment or contact us.

We will finalise and submit the results for publication from the middle of February. Please share your views before 17. February 2017 to be included in the article – we will acknowledge all relevant contributions.

NB Should you wish to use the presented results above, please reference as: Anne P.M. Velenturf et al. (Forthcoming) Co-producing a Vision and Approach for the Transition towards a Circular Economy: Perspectives from Government Partners.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 23rd January 2017.