Breadcrumbs

Major funding boost for circular economy research programme

6 October 2020

Kim Pickering
Professor Kim Pickering

Engineering Professor Kim Pickering has been awarded $10.9m in Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Endeavour funding to explore a circular economy concept created for the Aotearoa New Zealand context, shaped by the philosophies and values of both founding cultures, Māori and European.

The five-year Āmiomio Aotearoa - a circular economy for the wellbeing of New Zealand programme aims to deliver a transformative multidisciplinary platform that integrates the many essential bodies of knowledge, research communities, novel insights and practical actions that can contribute to circular economy success in New Zealand. To achieve this, Professor Pickering has brought together a team of investigators with expertise in materials science, engineering/design, energy, economics, Kaupapa Māori, business, law and regulation, social science and public policy. This includes Associate Professor Tom Roa and Professors Trevor Drage, Barry Barton, Les Oxley and Associate Professor Eva Collins.

But what is a circular economy? Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, a circular economy aims to reduce waste and the continual use of resources by seeking a sustainable model of production and consumption of goods and services in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which follows a ‘take, make, dispose’ model as resources are only used once.

The circular economy model is cyclical in nature, whilst being regenerative by design, seeking to maintain products, components and materials at their highest value as long as possible. A shift to a circular economy in New Zealand would play a significant role in meeting the aims of key Government policies related to sustainable development and wellbeing. It presents a major opportunity to improve the country’s long-term competitiveness, to create value across the economy, and to simultaneously provide regenerative environmental benefits and enable a sustainable, low-emission, climate-resilient future.

Recognised with a Fellowship from Engineering New Zealand, Professor Pickering is no stranger to accolades. In 2017 she became the first woman to win the Scott Medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand for her work developing sustainable composite materials out of fibres such as hemp, wood or flax. Professor Pickering’s research aims to reduce the burden of plastics on the environment by giving value to used plastic so it doesn’t become waste. “Plastic itself is not the enemy, but what humans do with it can be,” she says. “I enjoy getting to the bottom of material behaviour and I’m committed to finding alternatives to lessen environmental impact”.

Despite the transformative potential of the circular economy concept, it has yet to achieve significant uptake by business and other key societal factors because, while the concept is intuitively appealing and widely supported, the underpinning research and knowledge required to realise it in practice are scattered across multiple disciplines, and are collectively inadequate. Professor Pickering says the MBIE-funded research programme will help to address these gaps thanks to her team’s strong track record of transforming research into applied outcomes. “Built on a combination of Mātauranga Māori and science, this novel project will bring together a cross-section of disciplines, working in partnership with Māori and in close collaboration with Government, industry/business and the wider community,” she says.

Professor Pickering says she's very proud of her team securing $10.9m of Endeavour funding. “Winning this funding further validates the positive society-wide benefits and growing importance of the concept of the circular economy as a way to attain sustainable development,” she says. “This programme feeds into our commitment to providing solutions to the problems and challenges that exist in our environment and the economy."

The Āmiomio Aotearoa programme will get underway in October 2020, and the team includes:

  • Lead, Professor Kim Pickering, University of Waikato
  • Professor Trevor Drage, University of Waikato
  • Professor Les Oxley, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato
  • Associate Professor Tom Roa, University of Waikato
  • Associate Professor Sandy Morrison, University of Waikato
  • Dr Robert Joseph, University of Waikato
  • Professor Barry Barton, University of Waikato
  • Associate Professor Eva Collins, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato
  • Professor Conan Fee, University of Canterbury
  • Dr Dawn Smith, Scion
  • Professor Richard Haverkamp, Massey University

This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Responsible Consumption and Production

Latest stories

Related stories

University of Waikato partners with local iwi to build leadership support in schools

Dr Rachel McNae's award-winning expertise placed her in perfect stead to win a national grant…

Shipping containers

Modelling international trade regulations reveals hidden impacts

New Zealand recently signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an historic trade agreement between…

Hon Grant Robertson

Tumultuous Times: National economics forum to ask the big questions

The University of Waikato is set to host a national economics conference on 3 and…

Dr Aydin Berenjian

Waikato researcher working on miracle vitamin that could lower Covid mortality

A University of Waikato researcher is working on a type of Vitamin K that could…

Earth’s magnetic field broke down 42,000 years ago and caused massive sudden climate change

The world experienced a few centuries of apocalyptic conditions 42,000 years ago, triggered by a…

Waikato marine scientists uncovering secrets to healthy estuaries

University of Waikato PhD students are carrying out important research into New Zealand estuaries in…

Waikato research identifies crucial role of education in supporting refugee and immigrant children

In 2016, UNICEF warned of the growing global crisis for refugee and immigrant children. Today,…

James Brott

Waikato engineering student lends technical skills to help restore historic wharf in Tokomaru Bay

The restoration of the semi-derelict Tokomaru Bay Wharf north of Gisborne has gained strong support…

Using robotics to discover smart solutions for 3D metal printing

Engineering doctorate student Ben Jackson relishes his role at Tauranga based metals research company TiDA…

Newly promoted academics

New Professorial Appointments for Waikato

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley has announced academic promotions for one new Professor…

Sarah Bahr

Applying machine learning knowledge on campus to reduce carbon emissions

Sara Bahr started her Summer Research project not knowing anything about industrial steam boilers. Now…

Why nice people commit fraud

Could kind, well-liked leaders be putting their company at greater risk of financial fraud than…