Catalysts for urban circularity: Reasoning by analogy approach

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This chapter examines transitions in chemical and urban systems to develop an analogy-based catalyst approach for sustainability research. Four analogies between chemical catalysis and circular economy transition were conceptually formulated through detailed elaborations. The analogies were then empirically demonstrated by case study research focusing on a district-level urban transition and by analysing policy, technology, and business as key catalysts promoting the circular economy. The studied analogies were as follows: (1) catalysts are selective and complementary, (2) catalysts increase the interaction of a system's entities towards a transition state, (3) catalytic pathways occur in a stepwise manner and overcome energy barriers, and (4) catalytic processes are highly contextual. In the case study, the analogies showed empirical relevance. Together they uncovered mechanisms that made policy, technology, and business catalytic in urban transition. They also generated a novel research view in which synchronisation, stepwise catalytic pathways, and place-dependent mechanisms are crucial dynamic features of an urban system moving towards a circular economy. These results of the first demonstration can inspire the analogy model's further development as a methodological tool for the catalyst approach in sustainability research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Catalysts for a Sustainable Circular Economy
EditorsHanna Lehtimäki, Leena Aarikka-Stenroos, Ari Jokinen, Pekka Jokinen
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-003-26749-2
ISBN (Print)978-1-032-21244-9
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

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