To outline the state of the art of the regenerative economy across participating countries, the re:gen-u consortium performed an extensive review of the literature on regenerative economy in each partner country. We followed this with a qualitative study on the regenerative economy from different European countries. In total, we conducted 85 interviews with regenerative economy experts both from within academia and outside and collected 64 good practice case studies showcasing good practices in regenerative economy practices and entrepreneurial initiatives/interventions.

Let’s first dive into the barriers.

 

Barriers to adopting a regenerative economy

Despite its promise, the transition to a regenerative economy presents many challenges:

  • Overcoming the deeply ingrained growth-oriented mindset and fostering openness to alternative ideas is a significant challenge.
  • There is a crisis of imagination and a lack of clear vision for a regenerative economy, making it difficult to challenge the status quo.
  • Public support is needed. Governments are often hesitant to act without widespread public support.
  • A lack of awareness about regenerative products and approaches is a barrier to their adoption.
  • Government and educational structures often work in silos, making it challenging to create meaningful collaborations and enact comprehensive changes.
  • Economic education often takes a classical perspective and fails to address the concept of planetary boundaries.

 

Support Mechanisms

Mechanisms that aid or support the development of a regenerative economy include:

  • Educating and raising awareness of the benefits of a regenerative economy and the opportunities for businesses and individuals to get involved.
  • Investing in research and development of new technologies and practices that can help to create a more regenerative economy.
  • Collaboration is required in a regenerative economy between different stakeholders, including businesses, governments, civil society, organisations, and individuals.
  • Public-private partnerships can be used to bring together the resources and expertise of the public and private sectors to develop and implement regenerative economy projects.
  • Incentives to encourage businesses and individuals to adopt regenerative practices.

 

What can universities do?

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) represent a key intervention point in the transition to a regenerative economy as they have direct access to talent and the ability to shape their future.

The role of HEIs is to function as amplifiers of knowledge creation, transfer, and accessibility so that the diffusion of key concepts and exchange of ideas in society at large can be accelerated. They are behind all our policymakers, product designers, bankers, economists etc.

Universities can take several actions to support the transition to a regenerative economy:

  • Revise entrepreneurship education to focus on regenerative entrepreneurship, emphasizing sustainability & social responsibility.
  • Promote interdisciplinary teaching methods to address the complexities of sustainable development.
  • Integrate courses on pluralistic perspectives and non-mainstream economic theories such as doughnut economics and degrowth.
  • Challenge the traditional publish-or-perish culture in academia and create teaching and engagement career pathways.
  • Act as amplifiers of knowledge creation, transfer, and accessibility, accelerating the spread of key concepts and ideas in society.
  • Encourage collaborations between universities and external partners.

 

Conclusions

Our interviews revealed a common theme: the regenerative economy places life at the centre of socio-economic activities, focusing on qualitative growth in ecosystems, communities, and individuals. This transition faces several challenges, including the deeply ingrained growth-oriented mindset, awareness gaps, and siloed government structures. However, education and awareness-raising, research and development and collaboration can all support this transition.

HEIs play a pivotal role in this transition, as they can directly influence talent and shape the future. They therefore must place emphasis on regenerative entrepreneurship, promote interdisciplinary teaching, integrate pluralistic perspectives and act as amplifiers of knowledge. By addressing the identified challenges and leveraging enabling mechanisms, HEIs can help usher in a regenerative and sustainable future in collaboration with governments, businesses, and civil society.

 

You can find out more about our research in our State of the Art Report on the Regenerative Economy.

Author: Tasha Day, UIIN