Circular Economy (CE) Grey Literature Database and Knowledge Exchange Platform
Organisation : Wong Barton International (UG) , Germany

CE grey literature is often overlooked and forgotten content that is prone to link rots and likeliness to disappear. There is no database to find CE grey literature and the only way to find is by using conventional search engines which often returns errors, irrelevant search results and sometimes data breach. We want to fix this problem and we pioneer the world’s largest CE grey literature database and knowledge exchange platform.

Agendas addressed
Climate change
Pathways followed
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
search experience (search engines vs. our approach)

Circular Economy (CE) policies are established solely based on scientific literature which is easily accessible on two major databases (WoS, Scopus), but its quality is in question - serve no purpose, advance no agenda, may not be correct, make no sense and outdated. Grey literature on the other hand often comprises more detailed and updated information compared to scientific literature. While policy makers accept the facts and openly plead to include grey literature into future policy making process, we develop a database, find high quality CE grey literature from vetted and hard-to-find sources, uniquely index and preserve them, and make them available on an easy-to-use web platform. 

In Action

This approach is inspired by a recent IPCC report namely “Saving resources and the climate? A systematic review of the circular economy (CE) and its mitigation potential ( abbeb7)”, and validated through Better Together Incubator Program funded by The Senate of Berlin and The EU Social Fund from March to August 2021 - advised by and verified with a team of CE experts from IPCC, UBA, ICLEI, International Resource Panel (IRP), UNEP, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Circular Economy Club.

Our objective: There are many tools to find CE grey literature but they don’t work together, we are thriving to make this content useful - we will find this content from vetted and hard-to-find sources and assign Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and permanent URL to each of them, we then enrich the content with AI and other automated tools to ensure curated and high quality collections which are preserved in our CE grey literature database and made available to all CE practitioners on an easy-to-use and interactive web platform. This approach aims to engage policy makers with the non-scientific community to establish constructive, progressive and enforceable measures which are supportive and effective to businesses, by reference to the expertise and best practices from NGOs, IGOs, think tanks, consultancies, private companies and government agencies. 

We are partnering up with National University of Singapore (NUS) to translate the framework and MVP into the final core product (database and knowledge exchange platform) through a government-industry-NGO-academia partnership from September 2021 to August 2022 or longer. This includes the development of a trust model for the purpose of  quality control (no fake news duplicates, no low quality teaser contents, no green-washed publications), web crawling and harvesting tools, document preservation and precision tools


This project emerged from the above-mentioned IPCC report (attention score in the 88th percentile, top 25% of all research outputs tracked by Altmetric). With the first governmental grant from The Senate of Berlin and The European Social Fund, a MVP is developed during a period of six months (Stage One: March - August 2021) through an incubator program (Better Together) supported by The Impact Hub Berlin (this project is at the top 2.5% of around 200 applications). The project is concurrently supported by European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) through a pre-accelerator program (EIT Jumpstarter) and Global Shapers Munich Hub through a mentoring program (MentorUp). These programs put partnership and funding / investment at the core. Expertise from the following organisations are consulted during the research and development of the MVP (alphabetical order): 

  • Circular Economy Club (CEC)
  • Coherent Digital
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • German Environment Agency (UBA)
  • Impact Hub Berlin 
  • International Resource Panel (IRP)
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI)
  • Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
  • UN Environment Program (UNEP) 

To date (end July), the project is seeking for strategic and financial partnerships for Stage Two (September 2021 - August 2022) to translate the MVP into the market-ready product to secure significant financial deals for the next stage. The Stage Three (September 2022 - August 2023) will then scale up and achieve a meaningful number of commercial transactions and attract commercial investments.

  • There are a lot of existing and new CE initiatives but they don’t work together to accelerate the transition if the knowledge is not documented, retained, shared and updated. In other words, CE is not circular enough if this knowledge gap continues to expand, especially when such knowledge is not included into policy planning, which should be supportive and effective to industries and businesses. Our approach captures, centralises, retains and mobilises such knowledge from NGOs, IGOs, think tanks, consultancies, private companies and government agencies on one single location. 
  • CE grey literature which is currently prone to link rot, concealment, underutilisation and likeliness to disappear will be found, assigned permanent link, preserved and made available to all CE stakeholders.
  • CE grey literature will be centralised on an one-stop location to realise an overview of CE landscape alongside current, hard statistical and factual content (e.g initiatives, researches, debates), and to catalyse collaboration between policy makers, scientific and non-scientific community. 
  • There is no similar solution, and this approach is highly scalable into different geographies, industries, value chains and languages, thus it is a holistic game-changer (also first mover) and will be able to grow rapidly and bring impact at a global scale. 
  • There is an ongoing plan with our strategic partner to write an IPCC report to raise awareness among policy makers.
Challenges and lessons learned

To date, we are still working on a methodology to convince private sector e.g consultancies and private companies to supply their grey literature. We also need a holistic methodology to quality control such grey literature to exclude green-washed publications.

conceptual framework


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