Covestro LLC and University of Pittsburgh Collaborate to Establish Circular Economy Program

November 18, 2021

5 Min Read
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PITTSBURGH -- The rise of circular economy principles – where materials are kept in continuous use by design – across industries has led to a new collaboration between Covestro LLC and the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) and Swanson School of Engineering will house the new Covestro Circular Economy Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

To learn more about Covestro Circular Economy Program at the University of Pittsburgh, watch this video:

The Covestro Circular Economy Program represents the first graduate-level circular design academic program in the U.S. to specifically address the challenge of global waste and material use. The Covestro Circular Economy Program aims to create opportunities for the research, education, and innovative advancement of circular economy principles that begin with academia and fuel real-world solutions designed to save the planet. 

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The initial funding will help to establish a transdisciplinary academic, research, innovation and cooperative employment initiative to prepare students with circular economy training and expertise to carry into academia, industry, government and NGOs. Pitt and Covestro are also seeking to collaborate with corporations, foundations, and governments to expand the program's reach and potential. 

"The current linear consumption economy of 'Take, Make, Waste' is wholly unsuited for exponential global growth, especially as third-world economies evolve," says Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor and MCSI Director Emeritus and Chief of Innovation and Translation. "Principles of the circular economy, however, improve efficiency and eliminate waste by designing sustainability into a product, from its base materials and construction to packaging, delivery, and life expectancy."

"Circular design involves a paradigm shift in thinking for everyone, from individuals to corporations to societies," says Richard Skorpenske, head of Sustainability and Public Affairs at Covestro LLC. "As a leader in driving toward a circular economy, we see the Covestro Circular Economy Program as an important multiplier to build a robust foundation of circularity-focused thinkers, and we are proud to launch it alongside Pitt as founding partner." 

"I am very excited to apply the fundamental research we've developed in circular economy and expand it to create a holistic program with potential global impact," says Melissa Bilec, William Kepler Whiteford Professor and MCSI co-director. "I believe that, like Covestro, other organizations will see the benefit of engaging in such a program that trains scholar-workers in the many possibilities that circular economy presents. Most especially, the transdisciplinary nature of our program will be its most distinct attribute. As the benefits of the circular economy grow across the globe, the necessity for it to transcend traditional STEM fields will become apparent. This opens our program to anyone with a true passion for sustainability and global impact."  

The Covestro Circular Economy Program is solving for a gap that currently exists within the academic arena. Professional training in the relevant sciences has not included holistic training in circular approaches. While the private sector embeds circular design principles into its innovation approach, academia has yet to integrate design principles in advanced degree programs. By establishing the program, Covestro and the University of Pittsburgh are providing a dedicated academic setting for passionate students and professionals to innovate new approaches to materials, design, and planning.

"Transitioning to a circular economy, while not an easy task, is a societal imperative," says Haakan Jonsson, President and Chairman of Covestro LLC. "At Covestro, our vision is to become fully circular. As a company whose products are traditionally based on fossil fuels, we know that we have a long way to go. While we aim to be a leader in implementing circularity into our business, we also know we cannot achieve this vision alone. Collaboration with forward-thinking organizations like Pitt, and the development of leading-edge programs like the Covestro Circular Economy Program are crucially important in advancing toward a circular economy."

"For decades, industry and higher education have helped to advance innovation, investigation, and the human condition," noted Rob A. Rutenbar, Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at Pitt. "We are honored that Covestro LLC is sponsoring the foundation of this new Circular Economy Program to develop the next generation of cross-disciplinary innovators. Through this distinctive program, we will develop a new framework to make circular economy principles ubiquitous in industry, government, communities, and more, just as recycling and simple sustainable principles have become common in our daily lives. Our future on this planet demands it."

Through the Covestro Circular Economy Program, Covestro and Pitt plan to create new fundamental science that supports the assembly of new tools to aid circular design. The Program will enable graduate students at Pitt to become experts in circular economy principles, informed by Covestro's advances in this area, and ultimately create circular, sustainable products and service solutions. The first cohort of graduate students will be recruited for fall 2022.  

About the University of Pittsburgh:
Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh is an internationally renowned leader in health sciences, learning, and research. A top-10 recipient of NIH funding since 1998, Pitt repeatedly ranks as the best public university in the Northeast, per The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. Pitt consists of a campus in Pittsburgh—home to 16 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools—and four regional campuses located throughout western Pennsylvania. Pitt offers nearly 500 distinct degree programs, serves more than 33,000 students, employs more than 14,000 faculty and staff, and awards 9,000 degrees systemwide. 

About Covestro LLC:
Covestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world's largest polymer companies with 2020 sales of EUR 10.7 billion. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics and healthcare industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 33 production sites worldwide and employed approximately 16,500 people at the end of 2020. 

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