Sowing circular design seeds in Singapore


Last week Pieter van Os, Program Manager CIRCO International, visited Singapore as part of a larger trip through Asia. Singapore turns out not to be the easiest country to get companies moving for the circular transition. Nevertheless, the CIRCO Hub partner Chemistry is very passionate, and is working hard to get circular design off the ground among companies and designers. Read Pieter's blog on his visit below.

Singapore Climate See Designers

Some great things are already happening in Singapore, but the main purpose of my visit was to accelerate activities with (potential) partners in the ecosystem, and to get input from the local partner and trainers. It was very pleasant to spend time with the local colleagues and a good way to gain more insight into the local ecosystem and circular design developments.

Some nice results came out of the conversations: Designers such as the Design Singapore Council and design education institutes Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Nanyang Polytechnic in particular, have become enthusiastic about both the CIRCO Methodology and the Circular Design Framework and want to apply these. For companies, we will look at whether and how Singapore’s strong service provider sector can also be facilitated with the CIRCO Method, and there is a potentially powerful roll-out of the CIRCO Program with a world player in IT equipment and its supplier base on the role.

Below, I share my observations regarding the various stakeholders in the circular design domain in Singapore.

The trip

During the COVID-19 period, CIRCO has trained over 60 trainers in 9 countries to activate companies and apply the CIRCO Method. These countries are fully digitally and remotely trained. The results are better than expected, but we have felt the lack of personal contact for matters such as personal motivation, uncertainties about participant ‘management’ and the details of the method. That is why it is very welcome that we can travel again and that I got the opportunity to visit the CIRCO Hubs in Singapore and Thailand, and Business of Design Week in Hong Kong in one trip*. This is a short impression of the first stop: Singapore.

The CIRCO Hub partner

The main reason for visiting Singapore is to strengthen the local eco-system and to make people enthusiastic about circular design and CIRCO International. Hub partner Chemistry is working hard on this but has noticed that although there is government policy for a green transition, the focus is mainly on waste management. That creates an extra challenge in a country where government encouragement is important for companies. Fortunately, the hub is perseverant that with more effort next year, circular design is “The next big thing after Design Thinking”.

The trainers

The 7 trainers from Chemistry and NYP have all executed their first Track in the past period and are enthusiastic about the method. They do indicate that it is difficult to guide service companies properly with the method and will therefore see together what they can add to the method to facilitate these companies better.

The designers

Many designers I have met, wanted to design circularly. The Design Singapore Council is a pivot in this and they would like to offer the Class, are very enthusiastic about the Circular Design Framework, and would like to fill it in with a number of sectors. Preferably to be widely publicized at the Singapore Design week in 2023.

Designers from 8 nationalities were present at a meeting of SEA Climate Designers. A super energetic group that has a broader scope than just circular design, but would like to get started with CIRCO. Super nice to meet Stephanie Arrowsmith, regional head of Impact Hub, with whom we will train a regional network in Europe and SEA local driver Natalie Seisser.

The Design Singapore Council

The Design Singapore Council

The companies

The business population in Singapore itself is not ideal for CIRCO. Although there are many regional headquarters, production often takes place outside Singapore. That also gives opportunities. The CIRCO Method will soon be used for a large program for an IT equipment supplier (name to be announced soon) and its suppliers to start circular co-creation. In addition, there are many more service companies than manufacturing companies located in Singapore. The trainers are working on suitable facilitation of the CIRCO Method for service companies.

The educational institutions

There are many private and public educational institutions in Singapore. There is already cooperation with NYP and during the visit I met Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Many of them want to work with both students and companies on circular design. We would like to elaborate on this further, but it still requires further coordination. Due to the great mutual competition, they would like some form of exclusivity in the collaboration, which is not in line with CIRCO’s impact drive and collaboration idea.

Singapore Ngee Ann team

Conversation with the Ngee Ann team

The embassy

Fortunately, the Dutch Embassy in Singapore is very supportive. I was able to check many of the above observations in a nice conversation with Astrid Seegers and they are trying to establish some more relevant contacts. I will talk to Joan Prummel soon to see how we can better connect circular procurement and -design.


 * And indeed, I made a lot of air miles for this trip. However, by doing most of the training digitally, combining the journey, and in the belief and expectation that the CIRCO Hubs significantly contribute to the circular transition, this carbon investment is justifiable for myself.

More about CIRCO Hub Singapore

CIRCO Hub Singapore

CIRCO Method availabe through Singapore's national education programme

CIRCO Method now available through Singapore’s National Education Programme