Industry5.0 – The Imperative of Sustainability in Manufacturing

Not just an ethical considerations but a value for success. Sustainable production as an opportunity for producers to differentiate themselves in the current market.


Manufacturing Group, School of Management


Nowadays, the manufacturing industry stands at a critical crossroads where environmental sustainability is no longer just a buzzword but a must have. The imperative for sustainable practices in manufacturing goes beyond ethical considerations; it directly impacts financial viability, brand image, and regulatory compliance. As global awareness of environmental issues intensifies, stakeholders across the manufacturing sector are recognizing that sustainable practices are not just optional but essential for long-term success.

The financial case for environmental sustainability was initially perceived as a cost burden, instead, the sustainable practices, are now recognized as drivers of cost savings and operational efficiency. By reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste generation, and optimizing resource utilization, manufacturers can significantly lower their operating expenses. Investments in renewable energy sources, energy-efficient technologies, and waste reduction initiatives often lead to substantial long-term cost savings, enhancing profitability and competitiveness.

Moreover, sustainable manufacturing practices, like the adoption of circular economy strategies, mitigate financial risks associated with volatile resource prices and regulatory uncertainty. As the costs of raw materials and energy continue to fluctuate, companies that embrace sustainability are better positioned to weather market fluctuations and maintain stable production costs. Additionally, forward-thinking investors are increasingly factoring environmental performance into their decision-making processes, making sustainability initiatives attractive for capital investment and fostering sustainable growth.

In today’s socially conscious marketplace, brand image plays a key role in consumer perceptions and purchasing decisions. Companies that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability not only attract environmentally conscious consumers but also enhance brand loyalty and reputation. Adopting sustainable manufacturing practices not only mitigates environmental impact but also shields companies from reputational damage and potential boycotts. By aligning their brand with values of corporate responsibility, manufacturers can differentiate themselves in the market and cultivate a positive brand image for both consumers and stakeholders. Indeed, companies that prioritize sustainability not only reap financial rewards through cost savings and operational efficiency but also enhance brand loyalty, mitigate reputational risks, and stay ahead of regulatory requirements.

Governments around the world are enacting increasingly stringent environmental regulations to address climate change, pollution, and resource depletion. From emissions standards to waste management regulations, manufacturers are facing a complex web of environmental mandates that necessitate proactive compliance measures. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in costly fines, legal liabilities, and operational disruptions.

However, regulatory compliance is not just about avoiding penalties; it presents an opportunity for manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve and gain a competitive advantage. Furthermore, staying abreast of evolving regulations enables manufacturers to anticipate future compliance challenges and adapt their operations accordingly, ensuring long-term viability and resilience in an increasingly regulated environment.

As the manufacturing industry continues to evolve in response to global environmental challenges, embracing sustainability is not just a matter of responsibility; it is a strategic imperative for long-term success and resilience, it can position companies as industry leaders and let them gain preferential treatment from regulators, customers, and investors.

A sustainable-driven engine is especially relevant for the Italian manufacturing domain characterized by medium and small realities facing different challenges in pursuing such a transition due to limited financial capital, lack of skills, and lack of adequate infrastructure. Being aware about this challenging context, the Manufacturing Group of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano aims at boosting the sustainable and circular transition of manufacturing companies by transferring the scientific knowledge generated in both national and international research projects into the industrial domain. To provide a complete support by covering the several aspects characterizing the transition, different but specific assessment methodologies have been developed.

Manufacturing companies can be supported in identifying the circular practices to be established internally to the company and externally by collaborating with external entities based on their strategic goals and current operations. Moreover, they could easily identify the set of data needed to establish such circular practices and chose the proper suppliers evaluating their sustainable oriented performances. Among all, considering the lack of skills perceived, the research group support companies in measuring this perception by mapping the skills and job profiles available internally to the company to identify proper training paths focused on circularity of sustainability dimensions.


Innovation and Value Creation Research Seminar 2023 (IVC2023)

Politecnico di Milano School of Management has recently hosted Professor Ralf Reichwald’s wide research community for this annual event that for the first time has taken place in Italy.


The Innovation and Value Creation Research Seminar 2023 (IVC2023) took place from May 4th to May 6th at the School of Management at Politecnico di Milano. Over 45 professors and PhD researchers from Germany, Austria and Italy joined the seminar to present and discuss their recent research results. IVC2023 joined intellect, curiosity, and openness, resulting in an intensive exchange of ideas between participants. With ten sessions spanning various domains, the seminar delved into digitalization and business models, open innovation, and innovation ecosystems, servitization and smart manufacturing, as well as sustainable transformation and circular economy.

The seminar started with a pre-conference dinner on May 4th where the researchers had the possibility to come together and have initial discussions before the beginning of the seminar sessions. Over the course of 1,5 days, this event provided an engaging platform for PhD candidates from Germany and Italy to present their research findings in the realms of innovation and value creation. So far, the research seminar with all its previous editions has taken place only in German and Austrian universities. The 18th edition of this year’s seminar is the first time the seminar is organized in Italy.

The PhD researchers highlighted the transformative power of digital technologies in shaping and disrupting traditional industries, emphasizing the need for organizations to adapt and innovate continuously and to accommodate new ways of doing business such as servitization models. The discussions centered around the strategies, frameworks, and new forms of leadership that drive successful digitalization efforts, with the objective of illuminating the path for companies seeking to harness the full potential of digital technologies.

Open innovation and innovation ecosystems illustrate the power of collaboration and co-creation in fostering innovation. The seminar participants explored the importance of creating conducive environments that encourage knowledge sharing, facilitate partnerships, and promote innovation by leveraging tools such as living labs and product service system demonstrators. The emerging models and best practices discussed during the sessions underscored the need for organizations to embrace a more inclusive and collaborative approach to innovation, while emphasizing the role of boundary spanning objects and investigating the exploitation-exploration dilemma that emerge in innovation projects.

In the area of sustainable transformation and circular economy, many interesting contributions have been provided, in particular regarding the emerging area of regenerative business models and bio-based materials, a growing field that promises less pollution and CO2-emissions. The participants showcased their research on business models and use cases to achieve sustainability, emphasizing the role of circular economy principles in promoting resource efficiency and reducing waste. The discussions touched upon various aspects, including sustainable business models, eco-design, and the importance of stakeholder engagement in achieving a circular and regenerative economy.

The research seminar was not only an opportunity for PhD candidates to present their research, but also a platform for networking and fostering interdisciplinary collaborations. The engaging Q&A sessions and the intense discussions during the breaks provided valuable insights and generated thought-provoking ideas for future research endeavors. The exchange of experiences, methodologies, and perspectives among the participants fostered a stimulating intellectual environment, nurturing innovation and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. In the words of Prof. Dr. Kathrin Möslein, Friedrich-Alexander-UniversitaetErlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), Germany, the research seminar was a real innovation booster.

The research seminar was also an opportunity for the guests from Germany and Austria to get to know better the Italian culture. In addition to the pre-conference and conference dinners on May 4th and 5th organized in authentic Italian restaurants where the partcipants could enjoy the richness of the Italian cuisine, the research seminar’s program also offered a guided tour on May 5th in the city of Milan, starting from Corso di Porta Ticinese, 35 in front of Basilica di San Lorenzo and ended up at the conference dinner restaurant.

In conclusion, IVC2023 benefited from the passion and dedication of all participants in the fields of innovation and value creation. The presented studies provided a solid foundation for future advancements, in the areas of digitalization, open innovation, and sustainable practices as catalysts for economic growth and societal well-being. At the end of the event, the next seminar’s location has been announced. The IVC2024 will be organized at the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt by Prof. Dr. Sabine Brunner and her team. We look forward to the next edition of this research seminar.

RITESSERE: silk by-product reborn into new materials

Recovering sericin to produce high-tech materials, in a circular economy perspective


The RITESSERE (Silk Sericin materials from textile industry by-products) project has kicked off, and it aims to use the by-product from the treatment of raw silk, sericin, for the production of new materials and devices in the field of life sciences.

RITESSERE will evaluate new technologies which, starting from the sericin obtained from raw material of Italian origin with traceability certification (cocoon or raw silk), will lead to the obtainment of both two-dimensional electrospun matrices composed only of sericin, and new materials based on specifically modified sericin. These products will be characterized from a chemical-physical and morphological point of view, and the impact of their introduction on the textile industry market and on other high-tech sectors will be analysed.

In particular, the advantages of the circular approach will be demonstrated through three actions:

  • sericin-based facial masks for the cosmetic industry
  • three-dimensional scaffolds of sericin for cell culture
  • modified sericin-based film for the packaging industry.

RITESSERE aims to demonstrate how sericin can be systematically recovered and used to produce high-tech materials. Starting from silk of Italian origin, RITESSERE will define and optimize a technological process aimed at giving nobility to this waste product, proposing a new sustainable and circular method for the silk production cycle.

The results of the project will also be conveyed and made available through continuous interaction with the Advisory Board, made up of players with a driving role in the silk industry, in the definition of new circular economy practices and in the involvement of civil society (Associazione Costruttori Italiani di Macchinario per l’Industria Tessile, Donne in Campo, Ufficio Italiano Seta, MADE-Competence Center Industria 4.0, Rigano Laboratories, Associazione per il Museo della Seta di Como).

The three-year project RITESSERE is a project funded by Fondazione Cariplo with the Economia Circolare – Promuovere ricerca per un futuro sostenibile program, and is led by professors Paolo Rosa and Sergio Terzi of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering and by Professor Simone Vesentini of the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering of the Politecnico di Milano.

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, will deal with the economic analyzes of the sericin market, the silk sector and the current circular strategies adopted in the textile sector.

Partners in the project, coordinated by our university, are Università degli Studi Milano Bicocca and Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria (Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economics Analysis).

Circular Economy: the CIRC-UITS project kicks off

Digital solutions for the end-of-life reuse of electrical components in the automotive and domestic appliances sectors


The three-year project CIRC-UITS (Circular Integration of independent Reverse supply Chains for the smart reUse of IndusTrially relevant Semiconductors), co-financed by the European Commission under its Horizon Europe programme, and coordinated by professors Paolo Rosa and Sergio Terzi from the Politecnico di Milano’s Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, kicks off.

CIRC-UITS intends to develop new technologies for designing, producing, disassembling and efficiently and sustainably reusing disused electronic components inside new products, but it also intends to define new business models to improve data sharing and standardisation among the industrial leaders involved in the supply chains.

In particular, the advantages of the digital circular economy will be demonstrated through 4 pilot projects:

  • Development of environmentally friendly electronic panels to be incorporated into inverters and battery management systems in electric cars
  • Development of new-generation tyre sensors
  • Development of environmentally friendly flexible processing boards
  • Classification and storage of obsolete printed circuits of various pieces of electrical and electronic equipment

In this way, CIRC-UITS will provide material support to businesses in the automotive and mass-produced electronics sector, demonstrating the benefits that can be obtained from the application of the circular economy paradigm both from the perspective of both the business and supply chain and from the technological and sustainability perspective, through the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies in the processes through which disused electronic components are managed and in the design of new products.

For more information:

A project on circular transition funded by T.I.M.E. Association

Two research projects of the Politecnico di Milano have won a grant of 10,000 euros each as T.I.M.E. projects, one of which is coordinated by the Department of Management Economic and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management with Dr. Alessandra Neri as principal investigator.

“The role of digitalization in supporting the industrial circular transition” is the project that aims at investigating the relationship between the adoption of digital technologies and the implementation of circular economy practices within the industrial sector. The goal is to understand the supporting role offered by the digital technologies, passing from the enhancement and generation of dynamic capabilities. This would be done by conducting an international survey, providing empirical-based insights.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden) and Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) are partners of the project and members of the T.I.M.E. Association. The University of the West of England (UK) and Aston University (UK) take part in the project as external members.

The T.I.M.E. Association (Top International Managers in Engineering), founded in 1989, is a network of leading technical universities and engineering schools in Europe and all over the world, with a strong international dimension in teaching, research and industrial relations. The association currently consists of 57 members in 25 countries, and the Politecnico di Milano is a member of the Advisory Committee.

Besides double degree activities, T.I.M.E. promotes a series of other initiatives, including the T.I.M.E. projects, through which the association co-finances new or existing initiatives between member universities, in which T.I.M.E. can represent an added value.

For more information:



Linear to circular: when waste becomes a resource

What is the circular economy and how can it become part of our daily lives? We asked Simone Franzò, Director of the International Master in Environmental Sustainability & Circular Economy at MIP.

When we talk about a circular economy, what are we referring to?

A circular economy is an “emerging” economic model that contrasts with the traditional “linear” model (summarised with the terms take – make – dispose) and aims to maximise the efficient use of resources. Reuse and maintenance of products, extension of their life cycle, recovery and recycling of materials are just a few of the practices on which a circular economy is based. It is a model that brings benefits not only to the environment, but that also generates new business opportunities. This is why we study the managerial implications that this model can have in companies that intend to apply it.

McKinsey actually predicts that, in Europe alone, the move to a circular economy could generate €1.8 trillion in profits by 2030. Are companies ready to seize these opportunities?

First of all, I would like to make a premise: the topic of the circular economy is part of a broader context, which is that of sustainability. This is subdivided into three different perspectives, namely environmental, economic and social, which must be considered jointly to enable so-called sustainable development.
That said, from my point of view, companies are increasingly sensitive and aware of the impact that their activities have, not only for themselves, but also for the “context” within which companies operate. However, translating this growing awareness into concrete initiatives aimed at pursuing the goals of sustainability and the circular economy is a very important challenge in many respects, primarily at a cultural level. In fact, it is a question of moving from a “purely economic” orientation, aimed at maximising the value that the company creates for shareholders, to a broader perspective, which provides for the creation of value for all stakeholders as well as, of course, for the shareholders.

A qualitative leap from the cultural point of view, however, is not enough; a change is also needed on the managerial side. Adopting the principles of the circular economy, in fact, requires the company to make significant changes in terms of strategy – that is, to shift from traditional business models, linked to a linear economy, to new, circular models. This obviously has important repercussions from an operational point of view as well. It is no longer enough to think in terms of the company, but we need to move to a broader perspective, that of the supply chain, involving for example suppliers and customers. This is a significant challenge from a managerial point of view.

This is an interesting perspective, but how does it translate into career opportunities – both present and future? Why should a young person entering the job market choose this sector?

There are many careers that can be undertaken in this area. The potential consequences associated with the spread of the circular economy – as shown by the numbers cited above – are enormous. However, it is appropriate to reflect on the new skills required of companies, primarily from a managerial point of view, in order to enable the transition to the circular economy, which opens up important windows of opportunity for young people (and others) looking for a job. Consider, for example, the need for a company to redesign its range of products and services, as well as the business model through which they are offered. In fact, designing new products, services, or business models based on the principles of the circular economy requires specific skills, which are different from those traditionally relied upon to design linear-economy services and business models.

In addition to the impact on innovation processes, all the other business functions must be imbued with the principles of the circular economy: think, for example, of logistics – which in some cases play a crucial role in the implementation of circular business models – and purchasing to marketing, to make customers aware of the characteristics of the “circularity” of the products and services offered by a company.

MIP offers five different Masters dedicated to the topic of sustainability and one is dedicated to the circular economy. Why is this?

As I said, the issue of sustainability is quite broad and encompasses three perspectives: environmental, economic and social. The theme of the circular economy definitely plays a central role in the broad focus of sustainability, to the extent that implementing circular economy business models can enable the achievement of sustainability goals.
May I say that, in this context, our Business School is an ideal place to study and analyse these phenomena. In the first place, because of the coherence between this topic and the purpose of our School, which aspires to make a positive impact on society by inspiring and collaborating with the innovators of today and tomorrow. What we can also offer our students is a particular focus on the study and analysis of strategic issues related to the management of a business. This is an important element for those who want to guide companies towards circular business models, given that change must also be addressed from a strategic-managerial point of view. Moreover, we take a “data-driven” approach to problem solving, in line with the engineering imprint that characterises our Business school and, more generally, the Politecnico di Milano.
A final element that distinguishes our range of courses is our strong collaboration with companies. For the International Master in Environmental Sustainability & Circular Economy we have already involved about 15 companies as sponsors. This provides a number of opportunities for our students, from company testimonials during the training course – which give the theoretical sessions an experiential configuration – to the possibilities of internships or carrying out the project work at the end of the Master at companies, in order to be able to apply what you have learned during the Master in the field.

Announcing the start of the TREASURE project

New testing opportunities for new technologies to make the automotive sector more circular


1 June 2021 marked the start of the TREASURE project (leading the TRansion of the European Automotive SUpply chain towards a circulaR futurE), coordinated by Sergio Terzi and Paolo Rosa from the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management.
Co-funded by the European Commission with the H2020 programme, TREASURE is a Research and Innovation Action (RIA) that aims to offer new testing opportunities for new technologies to make the automotive sector more circular.

Its main objectives are:

  1. to guarantee sustainable use of raw materials in the automotive sector reducing the risks linked to supplies;
  2. to apply the circular economy paradigm to the automotive sector, acting as examples for the manufacturing macrosector;
  3. to deliver better economic, environmental and social performance for vehicles for all users;
  4. to create new supply chains around end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), focusing on the circular use of raw materials.

In this way, TREASURE will deliver tangible support for companies in the automotive sector, providing a practical demonstration of the benefits obtainable from the application of the circular economy paradigm, from the point of view of both business and supply chains and also of technology and sustainability, through the adoption of industry 4.0 technologies in the management processes of ELVs and their parts.

The primary results expected include:

  1. the development of an AI-based tool for analysis and comparison of possible circular supply chains in the automotive sector;
  2. the realisation of a series of successful cases for key players in the management of ELVs, such as car wreckers, scrap metal shredding plants, raw material recycling plants and vehicle manufacturers;
  3. the integration of key enabling technologies for the design, dismantling and efficient sustainable recycling of electronic auto parts.

Partners in the project, coordinated by the Politecnico di Milano, are the Dutch research centre TNO, Zaragoza University in Spain, the professional school at the Università della Svizzera Italiana, the Università degli Studi dell’Aquila, the Dutch consultancy agency Material Recycling and Sustainability B.V., the Estonian company for social studies Edgeryders OU, the Lithuanian LCD screen manufacturer EUROLCDS SIA, the Spanish auto parts manufacturer Walter Pack SL, the vehicle demolition company Pollini Lorenzo e Figli Srl, the leading Spanish car manufacturer SEAT SA, the software developers TXT E-Solutions Spa, the Spanish scrap metal recycling company Industrias Lopez Soriano SA, the Italian National Unification Body, and the French automotive cluster NEXTMOVE.

New life for electronic waste thanks to the circular economy

This virtuous example of circular economy is the result of the Horizon2020 FENIX project in which the Politecnico di Milano is a partner.


Like a phoenix rising out of its own ashes, the FENIX project has achieved its aim of giving new life to electronic waste, turning it into raw materials for eco-compatible products such as new metal filament for 3D printing, eco-friendly metal powders for additive manufacturing and sustainable 3D-printed jewellery.

The Horizon 2020 FENIX Project, in which the Politecnico di Milano is a partner, has drawn to a close after 40 months of work and achievement of its objective to develop new business models and industrial strategies with a view to a circular economy.

The Industry 4.0 Laboratory of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano has in fact implemented an automated station for the disassembly of mobile phone circuit boards by collaborative-robots (cobots), one of the most advanced automation solutions in robotics technology, as they guarantee operational flexibility while permitting interaction with their surroundings and with the operators who share their tasks.

Thanks to a semiautomatic process, the cobot manages to unsolder the electronic components of the circuit board while preserving their chemical characteristics: it uses a jet of hot air to melt the solder holding together the components so that these can then be detached and processed separately from the board.

Thanks to the circular supply chain set up by the consortium participating in the project, the circuit boards disassembled by the Politecnico di Milano are processed by the University of Aquila, which recovers pure materials (such as copper, tin, gold, silver and platinum) from the boards and their electronic components. Copper and tin are then transformed into metal powders (by MBN Nanomaterialia SpA in Treviso) and filaments suitable for 3D printing (jointly by MBN Nanomaterialia SpA and I3DU and 3DHUB in Athens, Greece), both then tested at the Fundació CIM in Barcelona, Spain. Whereas the precious metals are used by I3DU and 3DHUB in Athens, Greece to create eco-compatible jewellery. Produced and sold through the consortium, these jewels can also be personalised with a 3D scanner service and given the shape of objects or people’s faces.

The hope is that when the project ends, the business models conceived and tested by FENIX will be replicable by other external parties, with a view to promoting the setting up of new circular supply chains.

Also worthy of note is that two of the results developed by the Politecnico di Milano team involved in the FENIX project have been cited by the EU Innovation radar and that an article written by the team received recognition from the publishers Taylor & Francis and appears on the website of the International Journal of Production Research as top cited article. Click here to read the article.


For more info about the project:
Link to the Youtube video:

The challenge of circularity in extended supply chains

Awareness around the environmental impact of products and processes and moving towards the sustainable use of natural resources is increasing in Europe. As such, the circular economy paradigm is obtaining even more success.

Based on this, the H2020 FENIX project, of which the Politecnico di Milano is a partner, aims to develop a new set of business models and industrial strategies with a view to facilitating circular products and services.

Three pilot plants will be established thanks to the development of sustainable processes for the combined treatment of different types of e-waste (e.g. printed circuit boards):

1) A modular, multi-material, reconfigurable pilot plant producing metallic powders for additive manufacturing processes
2) A modular, multi-material, reconfigurable pilot plant producing 3D printed gems
3) A modular, multi-material, reconfigurable pilot plant producing advanced filaments for 3D printing processes

The three pilot plants will be designed in such a way as to exploit Industry 4.0 solutions (e.g. smart sensors) which are able to send online data in real time through dedicated websites developed by FENIX.

The result of this is that production capacity will be shareable amongst the different actors involved in very different supply chains, by encouraging the involvement of end users (both private users and companies) in industrial processes and offering new services to companies for monitoring and controlling industrial plants.

The scientific role of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering takes many forms. Firstly, the identification of new circular business models able to make use of pilot plants developed in FENIX. Secondly, the assessment of how Industry 4.0 technologies could support circular processes, specifically those related to the disassembly of Printed Circuit Boards (PCB). Finally, the Department is responsible for the dissemination and communication of the FENIX project and the management of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) strategies.

One of the initiatives promoted by the Department related with FENIX involves collecting obsolete mobiles/smartphones. The mobile phones will be disassembled by the Industry 4.0 Lab in order to facilitate the recovery of valuable materials from electronic components through eco-friendly chemical processes. These materials, once transformed into metal powders, will be reused in additive manufacturing processes.

FENIX is also promoting a set of success stories related to the adoption of circular practices in different industrial sectors. The goal is to use real-world examples to demonstrate that the adoption of circular economy principles will allow for the creation of more sustainable supply chains by improving quality, market value and the alternative exploitation of secondary materials.

Finally, FENIX aims to integrate Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) for the efficient recovery of secondary resources within the same industrial plant. FENIX will consider three types of KETs:
1) Advanced production systems: a wide number of sensors will be embedded in each module that makes up the FENIX pilot plant.
2) Industrial bio-technologies: since the initial stages, FENIX has taken into account the use of biometallurgy for the sustainable recovery of materials from different types of waste.
3) Nanotechnologies: this type of materials technology allows for an improvement ofmaterials’ mechanical properties, thermal and electrical conductivity and overall functional properties.

FENIX (Future business models for the Efficient recovery of Natural and Industrial secondary resources in eXtended supply chain contexts)