How a Brainport Education institute contributes towards a sustainable transition

Anja Klomps


Fontys Business and Communication University of Applied Sciences

Anja Klomps has been director of the Fontys Business and Communication University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven since January 1, 2019. At Fontys, we educate students who will soon be the leading players in major social issues such as, energy transition, poverty reduction and affordable healthcare. These major issues require new thinking, beyond the boundaries of our own areas of expertise. We prepare students for their role in the new economy so they can make a difference.  

In order to support this development and make more impact around circularity and sustainability, Fontys has set up a center of expertise on Circular Transition. This expertise center is a multidisciplinary collaboration between various Fontys institutes and research groups so that we can make an impact in the field of circular and sustainable transformations from economic, technical and social perspectives. Anja Klomps is the executive director of this expertise center.

What makes Brainport unique in order to become the deep-tech sustainability capital of the world?

With a strong design and innovation high-tech sector, Brainport has everything it takes to become a global leader in the field of the circular economy. The focus still strongly lies in technical innovation. Society, however, demands innovation and offers opportunities for the transition to a circular economy. It is important to approach this not only from a technical perspective, but also from an economic and social perspective. Brainport can take a leading role in this with all the knowledge and expertise available in the region.

How will Brainport benefit from becoming the deep-tech sustainability capital of the world?

More attention for the economic and social embedding of circular or sustainable innovation can lead to new opportunities and markets for the region and, obviously, more future-proofing. Raw materials are becoming scarcer worldwide, and therefore are more difficult to obtain or more expensive. The high-tech sector, in particular, which is strongly represented in Brainport, is highly dependent on the availability of (rare) raw materials. By investing heavily in circular design, this demand can be reduced and the global competitive position can be significantly improved. Young people would also like to contribute to this, making the region a more attractive employer.

How do you experience your role (as an educational/ research institution) in achieving this mission?

Sustainability and circularity are among the main themes within the Fontys for Society strategy. Fontys, therefore, wishes to promote itself prominently in this area in both education and research. Fontys trains students, on the one hand, to become change agents who can help shape these transitions based on their own speciality, as well as, from an interdisciplinary perspective. On the other hand, applied research and the deployment of students can support companies in the testing / design of required innovations.

How is the Centre for Expertise Circular Transition contributing?

The Fontys Center of Expertise Circular Transition (FECT) is the knowledge centre for the circular economy and energy transition. We conduct practical research into the transition from a linear to a circular economy and the energy transition. We work together with (regional) companies, social organisations, knowledge centres, governments and consumers in conducting this research. Our goal is to work together, share and apply knowledge, and to create new partnerships in which circularity can flourish. Our primary focus lies in the South of the Netherlands.

How has collaboration with organisations in the region helped in the steps you have taken in the last year?  

Last year, for example, we worked on various issues with partners in the field, such as Renewi, in the hybrid learning environment for Circular Transition on the Brainport Industries Campus. In the minor Circular Economy, students from various disciplines, work on issues for the professional field. In living labs such as Brainport Smart District, Ecolab Boekel and Midpoint Brabant (textiles), we worked together on long-term research in the field of sustainability. This research was conducted by making use of the SPONG subsidy together with Avans University of Applied Sciences.

As part of the circular entrepreneurship research project, we have developed a tool kit for SMEs, together with the professional field on ‘How we can assist companies in taking steps to become more circular?’ And in a new research project, we are going to work on making industrial estates more sustainable, in which the municipal authorities could play an important role in stimulating and renewing this.

Our goal is always: to conduct education and research together with the professional field.  Because, you can arrive at innovative solutions to social problems through the collaboration between education, research and the professional field. And that is, obviously, awesome for the future!