Change is vital
Realising sustainable development, is one of the greatest challenges that we face in the 21st century to guarantee the well-being of the earth, and those living on it. Scarcity of resources will make it increasingly difficult to replenish our supplies of resources and energy. This problem will only be exacerbated in the future, as the world population of six billion in 2000 is expected to grow to approximately nine billion in 2050. Preliminary calculations indicate that this will result in a tripling of the world’s current pattern of consumption.

Towards a circular economy
One method of reinforcing our planet’s economic foundation would be to restructure our linear economy into a circular economy. In other words: returning finite resources back to the source using the ‘reduce, recycle, replace’ principle. Nature itself is the best example of this principle, where once-living material is reused as the building blocks for new life. The development of new technologies for energy systems powered by sources that are continuously available will play a decisive role in achieving this goal.

Leading role
The creation of a circular economy will require better coordination between companies in production chains and clusters at the regional level. In the Netherlands, a growing number of companies are taking the lead by retaining ownership of the product through the production chain, and by ensuring that the product is recycled in order to reduce the amount of material disposed of at the end of its life cycle. A circular economy can only be created with the active participation of consumers, users, and government. Therefore, early coordination with these parties is crucial.

From specialisation to integration
According to current prognoses, by 2050 approximately 75% of the world population will live in and around major metropolitan areas. To meet this challenge, USI is working to combine – and find a balance between – the knowledge and insights present in the business community, the government, social organisations, and citizens. In doing so, we consider the negative effects of specialisation, such as one-dimensional optimisation, to come to a broader understanding of all of the economic, ecological and social aspects involved in the development of sustainable urban regions. In other words, a strong integration of excellent expertise in one’s own field with knowledge of other relevant fields is an immediate priority.