Synthesis of knowledge on urban metabolism and urban experimentation approaches for the territorial expansion of the circular economy


Owing to their demographic weight, potential for action and concentration of infrastructures, activities and stakeholders, cities constitute strategic arenas for the transition to the circular economy (CE). However, the expansion of CE on an urban scale requires the transformation of the means of collective action.

First, there must be a new reading of the territory to quantify and characterize the resource flows within it. With that in mind, urban metabolism (UM) provides conceptual and methodological tools for territorial diagnosis and strategic design.

Second, governance approaches are required to stimulate circular innovations that may serve as transitional trajectories. In this context, urban experimentation derived from transition management constitutes a tool to mobilize stakeholders, innovation and systemic change.

Based on a review of scientific and grey literature and interviews, the synthesis of knowledge involves three components:

  1. Identify urban collective actions (policies, urban projects, etc.) in CE that mobilize UM in North America and Europe.
  2. Identify strategies to scale up urban experiments in CE.
  3. Categorize the characteristics and impacts of a crossover between UM and experimentation to implement urban CE strategies.


  • Circular city
  • Innovation
  • Transition management
  • Urban circular economy
  • Urban experimentation
  • Urban metabolism

Affiliated research axes

Axis 1: Change and Transition Management

Axis 4: Policy levers


Philippe Genois-Lefrançois

Doctorant UdeM

Martial Vialleix

Doctorant Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

Amount granted

The RRECQ is supported by the Fonds de recherche du Québec.
Fonds de recherche - Québec