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Institutional and political conditions for a sustainable circular industrial system : Application to the Li-Ion batteries case.

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The research project CIRCULAR is offering PhD thesis on :
- Institutional and political conditions for a sustainable circular industrial system : Application to the Li-Ion batteries case at Grenoble Alpes University, PACTE Laboratory

This thesis is part of the Work Package 3 titled ’Circularity conditions and Value chain’ of the CDP CIRCULAR (https://www.communaute-univ-grenoble-alpes.fr/circular-732721.htm) and wondered about the obstacles the circular economy encounters in the industrial field. Based on the existing literature on the socio-technical transitions (Geels and Schot 2007), we would like to understand why the circular offers are currently penalized in competition with existing offerings, despite the social, environmental or technical benefits they provide. Existing industrial strategies are often trapped in irreversible trajectories or benefits related to past learning and opportunities of the globalization of the value chains (Franco 2017). Strategies to increase the lifecycle of products and the improvement of their reparability are also inhibited by limited capacity of consumers to take it into consideration life cycle assessment in their buying practices. Finally, many standards, technical regulations and intellectual property rights are disadvantaging recycling or re-use strategies (Fischer and Pascucci 2017).
The circular economy is becoming a new frame of public action in the industrial and agricultural sectors. It borrows some arguments from the Transition Management Paradigm (Voss, Smith, and Grin 2009), successful in the energy sector, justifying important public interventions in favor of renewable energies and notwithstanding the enforcement of the European rules of competition in the energy sector (Lauber and Schenner 2011).

This thesis focuses on the conditions for the emergence of a public policy in favor of the circular economy, through changes in norms, regulation, taxes and subsidies. It will identify claims defending the shortening for the circulation of products and economic and political arguments that try to justify ’exceptions’ to the existing institutional framework that today favor free circulation of goods. Arguments would come from economical critic of the existing markets, involving notions as “markets failures” (lack of integration of environmental externalities, technological dependence, asymmetry of information on the durability of the products, social and fiscal dumping) or from more political notion such as proximity and solidarity.
Empirically, the thesis will be based on the analysis of domains where the circular economy model has received support of public action. It will attempt to identify emerging dynamics of mobilization of NGO’s, political representatives or local authorities, but also proactive strategies of companies. Then it will be focused on the specific case of the electric car batteries recovery and repurposing. Batteries represent a key element of the carbon-free economy with increasing electricity storage needs for transportation and for the management of intermittent renewable energy. Environmental progress in the energy sector will be influenced by the circularity of batteries economy. The thesis will involve the economic actors in questioning how public action, regulatory or economic instruments, European, national or local actions, could participate in the development of practices for products repurposing and remanufacturing.

For further information please download the thesis file :

Institutional and political conditions for a sustainable circular industrial system : Application to the Li-Ion batteries case.