While Mistra REES Phase 1 spent substantial effort on developing and applying design methods and supports (e.g., models, frameworks, procedures, and tools), Mistra REES Phase 2 aims to design supports at a company level to advance the knowledge about design for REES. This implies an emphasis on evaluating design supports in terms of users’ learning outcomes and organizational exploitability at Swedish manufacturing companies, on top of the performance of the supports as such. In addition, a significant focus lies in the integration of design supports for products/services and business models.

However, what to design, first of all? The design object to be addressed involves several elements from a holistic perspective but in an integrated manner – not only the product or service but also the business model. This integration is critical because it has the potential to improve many practices in industry in terms of resource efficiency and effectiveness. Just to name a couple of examples, car sharing (e.g., Sunfleet, Zip car, Blabla Car) and car subscription schemes (e.g., Care by Volvo) represent business models that have the potential to contribute to sustainability, but the cars as such are designed in a virtually identical manner as for traditional sales models. If the design of the cars would be adjusted to the particular business models by which they are provided, e.g., designed for intense use, reuse, and remanufacturing, then the sustainability performance can be enhanced and negative externalities reduced.

Practitioners in industry often lack the appropriate mindsets and miss such opportunities, being limited not only by structural and market barriers but also internal factors such as company strategy, organizational structure, limited strategic vision, and lack of internal capacities, or, simply, a lack of knowledge to design products/services and configure the business model for sustainability. An integrated insight with a more holistic perspective is also missing in the scientific literature. Developing and providing industry with integrated design supports facilitating designers is urgently needed to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy beyond piecemeal marginal improvements.

We will integrate existing design supports (e.g., models, frameworks, procedures, and tools) and partly those supports based on emerging new technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence), and evaluate the design supports through their application to the partner companies in terms of users’ learning outcomes enhanced and organizational changes introduced. Importantly, the supports cannot merely be passed from academia to industry.

The integration of the supports needs to be carried out together with companies in order to adapt to specific needs and build internal capacities accordingly. Only then can design supports be institutionalised within organisations so that they are less susceptible to the individuals, and the potential of REES solutions can be fully exploited and sustained in the long run within organisations. Therefore, action research is adopted so that the researchers and practitioners can work together in a more committed manner.

The major areas of knowledge utilized lie in engineering design, management, and business; however, this research is conducted as trans-disciplinary research to create knowledge beyond existing disciplines and together with industry. We will focus on a certain type of company, i.e., large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from different sectors based in Sweden, aiming to create synergies between case companies and to increase the productivity within the program. The researchers participating in this research are from Linköping University (the manager) and Lund University.

Development of a design support for REES applying big data analytics (a kind of AI) based on systematic literature review was initiated toward a journal paper publication: we see a high potential to apply big data analytics to design for REES in terms of theory development and industrial application. Also, a foundational work using protocol analysis for design sessions with REES partners was documented to evaluate users’ learning of a design support. This work is also showing a scientifically validated result that will contribute to enhancing our knowledge of design for REES.