TURAS expert contact:
Patrick Van Den Abeele
WP6 leader "Short-circuit E...



The transition challenge

For the last decades the "take-make-dispose" paradigm has shaped the urban economies outlook. This so-called "linear economy" characterised by "volume-based" business strategies created massive amounts of pollution and accelerated other global environmental problems including the depletion of natural resources, climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem destruction.
To address this problem, cities have a high leverage in a world in which half of the human population and an even higher proportion of resource needs are concentrated in urban agglomerations, but urban systems are very complex in terms of energy and material flows. Cities require effective tools and viable processes to manage the transition towards a more circular urban metabolism.

The TURAS integrated approach

Local authorities are in a unique position to bridge between different policy competences related to material and energy flows like transport, building regulations, waste regulations, waste treatments, urban infrastructures, etc. Often they are the only actor to address this complexity: The transition process starts with an assessment phase in which the urban metabolism is mapped in a participative, integrated and systemic way. This systemic assessment is translated into a vision of how a more circular urban metabolism could look like in a particular city. The next step in the transition involves designing a strategy for the transition. For this we bring together a variety of stakeholders from the economy and the environment in order to set up strategic alliances for transition. Finally, the implementation of the strategy is supported by generating and testing new business models for an up-coming circular economy environment.
Applying circular economy principles can not only provide resources, it also generates business opportunities and employment and can improve the quality of life by fostering health, education and welfare through a redesign of the urban metabolism.


sustainable urban structures economic opportunities adaptive governance structures CO2 neutral metabolism

Creating systemic Knowledge

In this integrated project, tools are provided to deal with the high complexity of urban waste and energy flows. These tools allow breaking this complexity into manageable parts, for instance by defining different types of flows. Since the knowledge that is necessary to fully understand the current system (the baseline waste management system) is typically scattered across a large number of stakeholders, the tools aim to engage a large variety of stakeholders in the system analysis activities.

  • ...developing an understanding of entrepreneurship as one part in a wider set of systemic interactions that include the community of users. The toolkit offers specific steps for testing this new ideas by confronting their most critical/sensitive aspects in realistic simulations reflecting the system in which they would operate in the real world. This allows to ‘debug’ the proposed PSS, assess their viability, highlight the opportunities and weaknesses it represents, etc.

  • ...connecting scattered knowledge on complex systems into meaningful narratives and breaking down complexity into different themes (e.g. artefacts and infrastructures, governance, economic models, etc) and bring them back together in plenary sessions

  • ...helping to understand the urban metabolism by providing a forum for knowledge exchange between different actors of the system

  • ...assessing the current waste flows in a systemic and integrated way and offering offers a flexible framework that is applicable to different context and dynamics (such as an increase of population or in the waste volume, etc.). Finally, the tool bridges the gap between local authorities and local business by identifying common areas of interest (in waste collection, waste recycling, etc.)

Developing shared visions

In addition, tools are provided to bring together different stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of challenges and opportunities, and to generate feedback from the public to help define a vision with broad societal support.

  • ...bringing together stakeholders that include not only incumbent actors of the dominant regime, but also niche players with innovative or disruptive ideas

  • ...providing input on the weaknesses of the current system and identifying priority areas that need improvements or present high leverage

  • ...going through several iterations between specific themes and the overall system

  • ...providing information at the micro-level of how innovative business models tailored to meet the needs of communities and places could look like

Developing integrated strategies

A strategy for the transition process is formulated based on an systemic understanding of the urban metabolism and a vision of a more sustainable configuration

  • ...setting up an innovative type of multistakeholder alliances in which the transitions of specific sectors of economic activity can be discussed and negotiated

  • ...connecting local authorities, entrepreneurs and representative members of the community for co-designing and pre-testing possible business opportunities in form of PSS

  • ...setting up the organisational framework of transitions by building alliances and capacities by mobilising stakeholders and establishing working groups on particular aspects of the urban metabolism

Implementing transition activities

In order to ensure that the system analysis, vision and strategy are effectively implemented, a number of tools are used.

  • ...looking for business opportunities based on the symbiosis between different sectors (those providing wastes, those transforming them into SRM, those consuming them, etc.)

  • ...inspiring and testing potential business opportunities in simulation with knowledgeable partners


Please get in touch with our expert contact for additional material.