Technological approaches for resource efficiency
Mapping international experiences and cases
Technological innovations including information and communication technologies, bio- and nanotechnologies can offer surprising solutions to a number of problems and are discussed as a possible key to achieve global sustainability goals. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that technological innovations do not automatically contribute to sustainable development. A number of questions arise: How can the contribution of technological innovations to sustainability be assessed in the light of limited data availability and uncertainties of future developments and lack of application scenarios? How can information on promising innovations be identified and integrated within decision-making processes? How can more efficient products and technologies be mainstreamed in future markets? The paper addresses these questions and focuses on resource efficient technologies as strategy to promote more sustainable development. Based on the theoretical concept of the industrial metabolism and material flow accounting, an input oriented approach to resource management and sustainability is suggested. A methodological framework for identifying technological innovations with resource efficiency potential is presented. Then, the presentation will highlight results from interdisciplinary research on resource efficiency cross-cutting different technological fields, from the project called "Resource Efficiency Atlas". This project has been conducted at the Wuppertal Institute in cooperation with Trifolium, the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. An overview of identified cases of resource efficient technological solutions, strengths and weaknesses of technology development as well as recommendations for improved mainstreaming of innovative resource efficient technologies and products will be presented. The results are based on an international survey of good practice examples and an intensive expert discourse. In the paper, the authors reflect their experiences of applied sustainability research on technological innovations and resource efficiency.