The Role of Data Sharing in Extending Material and Product Life Cycles in Circular Economy

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School of Business | Bachelor's thesis
Degree programme
Tieto- ja palvelujohtaminen
There is a need for systemic change towards circular economy. Consequently, the twin transition drives the digital and green transition in the European Union. In addition, interoperable data and wide network of stakeholders sharing data have been identified as keys for data-driven, circular innovation. However, there is currently no research that explicitly combines circular economy and data sharing. Thus, this thesis investigates the role of data sharing in material and product life cycles and how the life cycles can be extended through data sharing. The research questions are answered by conducting a literature review. It was found that multiple types of material and product data can be shared across value chains. The data can include, for instance, the origin, manufacturing, and end-of-life handling of the materials and products. Additionally, the characteristics, such as the location, condition, and changes made during the life cycles can be described in the data. Customer and consumer data are also highlighted in the reviewed literature. Along with customers and consumers, the reviewed literature reveals multiple stakeholders that can be involved in the data sharing. The stakeholders include policymakers, manufacturers, designers, repairers, and waste management companies. In this thesis, multiple tools were identified as enablers to share material and product data. Digital technologies such as, digital product passports, Internet of Things, digital twins, and blockchain offer interesting data sharing opportunities. Furthermore, ontologies and agents address the challenges in sharing diverse, complex, and confidential data between companies. The identified tools further enable extending of life cycles through data sharing. These approaches include, for instance, tracking life cycles, predictive maintenance, designing durable and recyclable products, remanufacturing, and material banks. However, the data sharing is not straightforward as current research shows challenges in sharing material and product data. The data sharing can be hampered by diverse regulation, definitions, and technology as well as reluctancy in sharing sensitive and confidential information. In addition, competitive practices and awareness of shared benefits can affect the willingness of companies to share data. Also, along with maturing technology, there is still a need for addressing data accessibility and ownership.
Thesis advisor
Bragge, Johanna
circular economy, life cycle, data sharing, twin transition, blockchain
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