UCL Circularity Hub


Research Projects

Research Labs


Doctoral Research

Circular Economy

Focussed on the creation of circular economic systems and circular business models


Cities of Making (CoM)

Cities of Making (CoM) explores the future of urban based manufacturing in European cities in terms of technology, resources, place and application. Following years of decline and offshoring, European cities are being confronted by a range of issues simultaneously: firstly, manufacturing jobs have shifted quickly to services and have created large gaps in the employment market, concepts such as circular economy are being taken seriously by cities and finally new technology is emerging allowing industry to be quieter and more discrete.  This may offer a raft of potential benefits, including jobs for sociodemographic groups most affected by unemployment, innovation, more efficient use of materials and urban resilience. Urban centres play an important role in nurturing new forms of green urban manufacturing, based on a clean, knowledge- and labour-intensive manufacturing sector.

Cities of Making has used a combination of strategic and action research resulting in concrete projects. Our ambition was to identify what works in supporting a resilient and innovative industrial base and to test those solutions in a real-world setting. The biggest questions we’ve touched include:

  • What technology/resources are suitable for 21st century urban industry?
  • Where can it be located in the city in terms of planning and spatial constraints?
  • How can we leverage the change?

We’ve learnt from experiences in London, Rotterdam and Brussels – each with a distinct industrial heritage. Through this project we have developed typologies, practices and policies focusing on public and private stakeholders to breathe new life into their manufacturing communities.

Key people


The RECREATE project supports the development of the European Union’s new research funding program Horizon 2020 with a specific focus on Climate Action, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials.

Research output:

  • a scoreboard that compares, measures and benchmarks research-based innovation efforts in the European Research Area (ERA) along the three dimensions of raw materials, resource efficiency, climate action, and their interactions.
  • contribution to the development of indicators and methodologies for analysing technology, policy and market trends relevant for sustainability.
  • condense strategically important information for research policy-makers.
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    The Sino-European Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (SINCERE) project will develop new economic modelling tools to understand the resource use patterns of China and the EU. 

    The project will also address indicators and metrics, institutions and policies, and it will examine historical patterns between resource indicators, trade and macro-economic performance. An overall aim is to strengthen collaboration between European and Chinese researchers.

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      INNOPATHS is a four year EU funded research project that aims to work with key economic and societal actors to generate new, state-of-the-art low-carbon pathways for the European Union.

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        Circular Built Environment

        Focussed on circular construction, adaptive infrastructure, circular water and energy systems.


        Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA)

        Focusing on London, CAMELLIA will bring together environmental, engineering, urban planning, socio-economic and organisational experts with institutional and industry stakeholders and citizens to co-develop a systems approach to urban water management, which will provide integrated solutions to enable required housing growth in London whilst sustainably managing water and environment in the city. The research is part of Natural Environment Research Council’s Regional Impact from Science of the Environment (RISE) initiative.

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          Global Zero Carbon Capacity Index

          The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have commissioned the Global Zero Carbon Capacity Index (or ZC2 Index) since 2009. This is a new index covering over 35 countries which seeks to capture the capacity at a national level for delivering zero carbon built environments.The index is rerun each year with trend emerging in national performance. The indicators included in the index cover energy consumption in key sectors, renewable energy generation and the policy coverage of topics relevant to decarbonisation of the built environment.

          Key people

            Scaling waste to energy technology: from local to global community engagement

            This research project will combine expertise in renewable energy, artistic and community engagement, and digital pedagogy to prototype renewable technologies and co-design an innovative online learning experience aimed at changemakers around the world. We aim to identify feasible technological solutions that address SDGs 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, and 13, and design first steps of an interactive, collaborative MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). We will use this method to help people understand the potentials of renewable energy, develop practical skills to create their own solutions, and learn how to support their community move towards sustainability and renewable energy. A bioelectric system will be scaled up from lab tests and optimized to convert organic waste into electricity. This will be on display and tested for a 3-month period at The Calthorpe Project community garden. Workshops, activities and discussions will introduce the research to the public and potential collaborators. These activities will be integrated into a sustainable energy MOOC project on community based sustainable engineering solutions.

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              Cities, Decoupling and Urban Infrastructures

              Through a short desk study, the DPU is contributing to the development of a flagship report of the International Resource Panel (IRP) commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The study is concern with providing an in-depth interdisciplinary understanding of the resource flows through cities and the infrastructures that have been configured to conduct these flows. This is a highly relevant task, insofar as insufficient attention within the sustainable cities literature has been given to the fact that the design, construction and operation of infrastructures create a socio-technical environment that plays an important role in shaping the “way of life” of a city’s denizens and how resources are procured, used and disposed by the city.

              Key people


              Circular & Regenerative Cities

              Focussed on the design, planning and governance of ecologically regenerative, adaptive cities in which resources are reused, recycled and recovered.


              Going circular: unlocking the potential of regions and cities to drive the circular economy transition – RSA Expo

              This research is a joint collaboration between TU delft and UCL . It aims to understand how a circular transition will impact on regions and cities.  It seeks to determine the spatial, geopolitical and social implications of circular transitions in regions and cities. It investigates  the governance and policy challenges created by a circular transition. It seeks to develop a more regenerative understanding of circularity to understand how circular city-regions might emerge. It also assesses how progress towards such a transition might be measured. 

              Watch the workshop

              Key people

                The Dynamic and Evolving Linkages and Processes that Characterise the Governance and Planning of Urban Circularity in Shrinking Cities

                With the abundance of vacant land, shrinking cities provide a fertile ground for the development of urban circularity. Meanwhile, urban circular activities can be an important, yet unexplored asset in tackling shrinkage. However, in shrinking cities, a wide spectrum of coalitions and the actual interplay of power, normative settings, and different actors’ interests generate specific traditions and cultures which lead to a hegemony of certain narratives about the nature of urban problems, their causes, and possible solutions. The central issue of transitioning to urban circularity in shrinking contexts, therefore, concerns the efforts to involve a huge variety of stakeholders and to align their expectations and ambitions. Consequently, the question of how different actors come together and work to deliver the transformation of an urban ecosystem of a shrinking city needs to be put under further scrutiny. On that account, this research aims to examine the dynamic and evolving linkages and processes that characterise the governance and planning of urban circularity in shrinking cities.

                Watch the 3-minute thesis

                Key people

                Going Circular – Addressing the climate change emergency 

                The research aims to determine the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from transitioning to a circular development pathway in cities .  The circular development pathway integrates resource looping (e.g. grey-water and infrastructure recycling, energy recovery); urban adaptation (flexible infrastructure, spaces, self-organising communities); and ecological regeneration (the restoration of urban ecosystem services), to enable the city-region to co-evolve with societal needs, whilst reducing its ecological footprint and GHG emissions (through sequestration, energy recovery, localising resource flows, reducing waste going to landfill, etc).  It will produce methodologies and tools which can be used by cities to calculate the emissions savings they can make from adopting this approach.

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                Building Back Better: Towards Circular Development Post-COVID

                This research explores two questions:

                • How the impacts of COVID-19 on our cities might be addressed by adopting a circular development pathway. 
                • How the Circular Experiments have survived or failed during the pandemic and why. 
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                  A Comparison of Circular Strategies Across European Cities

                  This research examines the different strategies for delivering circular development, drawing on examples from four European cities: Amsterdam, London, Paris and Stockholm. It explores these different development pathways and levers for transformation. Finally, it focuses on the challenges to implementation faced by urban actors.

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                    Circular Transitions: London Circular Experiments 

                    This study sought to:

                    • Map a range of circular experiments across London. 
                    • Identify the mechanisms and  levers for scaling-up these experiments.
                    • Explore the circular transformation in a placed-based circular living lab in London.
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                    Circular cities: strategies, challenges and knowledge gaps 

                    This project seeks to define a circular city. It investigates the strategies for delivery and how these complement or conflict with one another. It identifies the challenges – cultural, economic, political, regulatory, institutional, physical and informational – facing the implementation of circular strategies. Finally it explores the knowledge gaps and begins to develop a future research agenda.

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                    Adaptable Suburbs: a study of the relationship between networks of human activity and the changing form of urban and suburban centres through time

                    This project is a study of how small-scale centres of social and economic activity are shaped by the way in which physical and social networks change their form through time. Due to their frequently being below the policy radar, there is a clear gap in knowledge about how smaller centres form part of the large-scale spatial/social network. Our collective expertise allows us test a novel proposition about how centres of socio-economic activity emerge through time, for which existing theoretical models of centre-periphery or fringe-belt do not seem adequate. We will address the question of how local self-organisation, design interventions and functional changes have an impact on large-scale network of connections. Our research will provide the evidence for targeted funding in the UK suburbs that "are required for preventative action to halt further decline in the suburbs and to avoid the need for major expenditure in the future". At a time of great social and economic flux characterised by new communications technologies and radically changing patterns of work, living and consumption, suburban centres are critical to an urgently needed re-evaluation of how to plan for the future growth of our older cities. EPSRC reference: EP/I001212/1

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                    Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH)

                    Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH) is a five-year Wellcome Trust funded project that will deliver key global research on the systems that connect urban development and population health.

                    Starting in 2018, CUSSH is working with thirteen partner organisations across four continents to help cities develop in ways which improve population health and environmental sustainability. In each of six cities London (UK), Rennes (France), Kisumu and Nairobi (Kenya), and Beijing and Ningbo (China) its work will focus both on local priorities and city-scale actions aligned with planetary health.

                    Through our close partnerships with local organisations, CUSSH will learn how policy decisions to achieve health and sustainability goals can be improved and accelerated.

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                    Food for Urban Lives and Locality (FULL)

                    Food for Urban Lives and Localities (FULL) focuses on the role of digital technology and social adaptation in assuring food security and how community initiatives, and municipalities have responded. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed large cities worldwide to unprecedented challenges. It has also strained access to food among vulnerable urban groups such as older people, people with disabilities or underlying health conditions, single parents, low-income households, ethnic minorities, and migrants. Hence, FULL aims to comparatively analyse urban community responses to prepare Sweden and other countries better for similar events that challenge local access to food. This research looks at five cities: Stockholm, Seoul, Sydney, London, and Wuhan, taking account of various levels of COVID-19 responses and urban form typologies. The international research team, including leading scholars from social policy and urban studies, will collect data through conventional means and tap into a range of online data sources using combined analytical methods.

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                    Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities

                    LO-ACT is looking at the 'ordinary actions' taken by citizens to improve everyday life whilst tackling climate change. The project examines specific examples of climate change actions and policies to find out how ideas, materials, technologies, and expertise can be transferred across urban contexts.

                    The objectives are to:

                    1. Understand the local actions in a global context and how they shape the ordinary cities;

                    2. Explain the transferability potential of social, technological and institutional innovations; 3. Study the impact of local actions on citizens;

                    4. Create a research toolbox to engage with the messy, the unusual and the change in-the-making. Reimagine the theories on climate change politics.

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                    Adaptation to climate change in cities: Looking at Dhaka from the built environment perspective 

                    This research seeks, firstly, to understand how the impacts of climate change in Bangladesh are going to affect the urban poor in Dhaka and secondly, to address plans for adaptation at the local (neighbourhood level) that will address vulnerability. The research looks at impacts from a vulnerability perspective; understanding who and what is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and climate vulnerability as well as what can be done to address these vulnerabilities. The emphasis is on physical environment and the aspects contributing to adaptation in built environment.

                    Key people