We have enjoyed a close relationship since 2011 with the foundation which is passionate about promoting the benefits of a circular economy, created by celebrated round the world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Key Facts

    • There are a number of different facets to our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. We are one of six ‘pioneer’ universities globally developing pioneering and innovative circular economy-orientated research or teaching programmes.
    • We are part of the core team of academics collaborating with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to deliver the annual Schmidt MacArthur Fellowship delivered to 14 international universities.
    • We host the winners of the Schmidt MacArthur Fellowship, in its second year in 2014, for a week-long summer school. Dame Ellen visited in 2014 and also spoke about her passion for the circular economy at a Prestige Lecture.
    • We were part of the online Disruptive Innovation Festival in both November 2014 and 2015. This was followed by the Festival’s global Hackathon in March 2016 which saw our students claim three of the top prizes.
  • Funded by Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Impact of our research

After joining forces with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation back in 2011, together with Imperial College London and London Business School, we have jointly developed a global programme for postgraduate students to develop skills and innovative thinking required to map out a more sustainable economy.

The Schmidt MacArthur Fellowship is a year-long international programme on circular economy for postgraduates studying design, engineering and business. It is a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Schmidt Family Foundation which sees us host the winners each year for a week-long summer school. Dame Ellen visited in 2014 and also spoke about her passion for the circular economy at a Prestige Lecture. One of our students, Lijin Chin, has been awarded a Fellowship for 2016.

Our students impressed at the global hackathon (hack_dif) event in March 2016 which was a follow-up to the inaugural online Disruptive Innovation Festival in November 2015. We were competing against MIT and India’s National Institute of Design (NID) in a design challenge focused on consumer products, connectivity and the circular economy. Our teams won the prestigious global award – and the opportunity to present their innovation to a global audience as part of the second online Disruptive Innovation Festival in November 2016 – with other students also winning opportunities to visit the Cisco flagship facility and Philips’ digital accelerator hub.

Why the research was commissioned

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, formed in 2010, is the brainchild of Dame Ellen MacArthur. She first hit the headlines in 2001 when she raced single-handedly non-stop around the world when aged only 24. Then in 2004, she sailed more than 26,000 miles to become the fastest person to circumnavigate the globe single handed. She was knighted by the Queen the following year and then received the Legion d'Honneur from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

We, in collaboration with the Foundation, are promoting the circular economy as an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose). A circular economy sees resources kept in use for as long as possible and the maximum value extracted from them, with products and materials recovered and regenerated at the end of each service life. It is widely regarded as the most dominant trend for environmentally responsible and innovative businesses.

Why Cranfield?

We have been leading thinking in the circular economy in the last few years through our research on sustainable design and corporate responsibility. For instance, our new MSc course will see students benefit from contributions by leading businesses that are collaborating on circular economy innovation.