Towards urban symbiosis of critical raw materials: collaborative value creation models in circular ecosystems (UrbanSymbiosis)

Critical materials refer to either materials that are not sufficiently available or materials that are dangerous. It is important to secure the reliable and undisturbed availability of metals and other materials necessary for ICT applications, communications and new environmental and energy technologies. In the circular economy of cities, critical materials are needed for instance, in households, buildings, infrastructures, and high technology products. These critical materials must be reclaimed for recycling and reuse towards the end of the product lifecycle.

Date: January 2022 – December 2025

Aim of the project: UrbanSymbiois project aims to create sustainable pathways for cities to increase the circularity of critical raw materials (CRMs) based on collaborative value adding models. It suggests an urban symbiosis logic as a solution to sustainable resource use and preserving CRMs’ value during their lifecycle. Urban symbiosis builds on urban and regional metabolism and industrial symbiosis, developing and demonstrating an analytical toolkit that can serve to develop strategies to create the more efficient use and circulation of CRMs, in cities, enabled by the integration of different and complex systems .Urban symbiosis starts with understanding the metabolism of CRMs—how CRMs flow through cities and their different systems—and moves beyond an empirical exercise, analysing CRMs flows through cities wealth creating subsystems to develop novel business ecosystems.  Urban symbiosis emphasises the disruptive value adding collaborative models, and resource dependencies between businesses, organisations and consumers within cities.

The project will create theoretical foundations for the urban symbiosis concept, as well as sustainability data and practical decision-making tools, necessitating the need for an inter- and transdisciplinary research approach. To advance the urban symbiosis, the project poses three main research questions:


  • What are the alternative value creation models, their implications for sustainability and security of supply for companies?

  • What are the mechanisms, means and policy intervention points available for cities to increase CRM efficiency and circularity?

  • What are the actions, following an urban symbiosis logic, that can enable cities to accelerate the sustainable and circular governance of CRMs?


Hanken’s research focuses on circular supply chains- how linear industrial supply chains need to change to support more efficient CRM use and circulation. By adopting a ‘circular’ supply chains concept, the project seeks to incorporate notions of closed-loop supply chains and sustainable supply chain management to support the organizational collaborations in urban business ecosystems. The project also studies how the local Urban Symbiosis models and global supply chains interact and how the national actors can influence the global supply chains to increase the circularity of CRMs. Understanding the paradox of interplay and tensions between different levels is crucial as even though Urban Symbiosis is local, the related supply chains are global. Importantly, the project studies also the role of cities in increasing the circularity of Critical raw materials.

Funded by: Academy of Finland’s programme Critical Materials in Circular Economy of Cities (Romulus)

Consortium: Doc. Maria Antikainen, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Ass. Prof. Anna Aminoff (Hanken); Dr. David Lazarevic (SYKE, Finnish Environmental Institure)

Projects members at Hanken: Anna Aminoff (PI), Bruno Garcia de Oliveira

Project Website: Opens in new window