Radical innovation relevant for the circular industrial economy comes as components to upgrade existing systems, and jumps in technology, which lead to such systems changes as vehicles with electric motors instead of combustion engines. Policymakers with a holistic vision, such as zero-waste or a low-carbon economy, can exercise an important pull function through focused research programmes and public procurement specifications in this sense.
Innovative components can be integrated into existing stocks through a technologic or fashion upgrade of objects (era of ‘R’). Jumps in technology will lead to a gradual replacement of stocks and away grading of objects for reuse, dismantling to recover components (era of ‘R’) or the recovery of molecules (era of ‘D’).
Many such innovations may exist but lack applications in today’s market because industry fears jeopardizing its present investments in production equipment and R&D (stranded capital). Government agencies can force the market introduction of new technologies through public procurement. A case in point are the Norwegian express ferries using hydrogen fuel cells for propulsion. If new technologies have to be developed, for instance to recover molecules at a purity-as-new, jumps in technologies will need investments in upfront science and R&D.