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Circular economy potential for rural development


Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Construction (BMWSB)



The assignment

In order to smooth the transition to a local economy that conserves resources and to generate development potential, the circular economy is a relevant approach as a contribution to sustainable spatial and regional development. So far, however, there are only a few projects in Germany and Europe that have examined the application of the circular economy from a spatial perspective and developed potential for rural development.

The interactions of circular economy in an urban environment has already been the subject of many research projects. But can circular economy pave the way to a more sustainable local economy and contribute to equal living conditions in the countryside? This is yet to be investigated in any depth. Since 2021, Prognos has been analysing the potential of circular economy for rural development in Germany and Europe on behalf of the the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Construction (BMWSB).

Our approach

Prognos conducts policy field analyses, literature research, interviews, and workshops. Firstly the term "systemic circular economy in rural areas" is defined. On this basis, in a next step, Prognos analyses the drivers of and barriers to the systemic circular economy. It is a question of which spatial factors are decisive for establishing a systemic circular economy in rural areas. In a third step, the findings are validated on the basis of twelve case studies – five of which are in Germany and seven in other EU Member States.

Core results

With the definition of the systemic circular economy in rural areas, the research project laid the basis for further analysis. The original understanding of waste management which is often still predominantly used especially in Germany were broadened into a more systemic and regional approach of circular economy and tailored to the rural development context.

Within the framework of a policy field analysis, it was investigated which political levels in Germany and Europe address circular economy, aspects of spatial development, and their relationship to each other. The analysis showed that the various strategies and action plans for regional development rarely include the potential of a systemic circular economy. The opposite is also true: Until now, the systemic circular economy has rarely taken into account regional development opportunities. Exceptions include the EU's Territorial Agenda 2030 or the Federal Government's High-Tech Strategy.

Over the duration of the project, findings were collected from other European countries and their transferability to rural regions in Germany was tested. This has shown that Finland, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Portugal in particular, are pioneers in the spatial integration of a systemic circular economy.

Links and downloads

The results on the following topics can be found on the website (in German):

Understanding the definition of the systemic circular economy in rural areas

General conditions in Germany and Europe

Case studies and next steps

More about our work in this project

Project team: Katharina Wilkskamp, Romy Kölmel, Hanne Hagedorn, Lukas Eiserbeck, Robert Norpoth


Last update: 21 April 2022

Neuigkeiten aus dem Projekt

Wissensforum Region gestalten

| Event

Katharina Wilkskamp spricht im Fachforum Regionaler Strukturwandel zu Potenzialen der Kreislaufwirtschaft.

Online-Konferenz: Potenziale der Kreislaufwirtschaft für die ländliche Entwicklung

| Event

Hanne Hagedorn moderiert die Konferenz zum Forschungsvorhaben „Region gestalten“. Katharina Wilkskamp und Daniel Gehrt sind mit mehreren Vorträgen im Programm vertreten.

Do you have questions?

Your contact at Prognos

Katharina Wilkskamp

Project Manager

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About us

Prognos – Providing Orientation.

Prognos is one of the oldest economic research centres in Europe. Founded at the University of Basel, Prognos experts have been conducting research for a wide range of clients from the public and private sectors since 1959 – politically independent, scientifically sound.

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