Future research avenues at the nexus of circular economy and digitalization
The authors posit that one of the key enablers of the circular economy will be the digital transformation – in other words, “digitalization.” In this study, the authors examine and visualize the interaction of the circular economy and digitalization by using scientific publications. They explore possible synergies and future research avenues at this junction.
The authors first apply bibliometrics to explore and visualize the relationships between the circular economy and digitalization in the academic literature. Following the clustering of topics, they define key emerging factors for each cluster. Based on this analysis, they suggest future research avenues.
The authors find that there are four main clusters at the junction of circular economy and digitalization, including (1) sharing economy, (2) additive manufacturing, (3) business models and (4) industrial ecology and remanufacturing. They then dig deeper into these topics to better understand what factors would shape the future of the clusters. They conclude that sharing economy perspective and additive manufacturing may be enhanced by regulation-based and behavioral change-based approaches. Circular business models should be developed to maintain circularity in industry. Finally, digital manufacturing should be implemented within the framework of industrial ecology and remanufacturing principles to increase efficiency, productivity and traceability in the circular economy.
Digitalization offers significant potentials toward breakthrough sustainability by creating a circular economy. Hence, understanding the relationship between circular economy and digitalization is important to achieve sustainable development goals.