Eco-Industrial Regions (EIR)

  • Project team:

    Lehn, Helmut (Project leader); Franka Steiner, Dámare Araya

  • Funding:

    Heidelberg Karlsruhe Research Partnership (HEiKA)

  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Project partners:

    Heidelberg Center for the Environment, Heidelberg University; Institute of Geography, Heidelberg University; Heidelberg Center for Latin America, Heidelberg University; Institute of Regional Science, KIT

  • Research group:

    Sustainability and environment

Project description

The efficient use of raw materials is at the heart of political sustainability strategies at various levels of spatial planning. Various stakeholders are involved in its implementation - above all the state and private companies, but also households and municipalities. Potential cost savings can motivate cooperation.

Projects that start at a regional level have greater potential for resource efficiency than projects that are limited to individual industrial plants or homogeneous companies in an industrial park. Within a region, the diversity of stakeholders with complementary operating units increases, resulting in economies of scale and economies of scope. Companies and local groups invest together, for example, in an infrastructure for energy generation and waste or wastewater disposal, or special industrial waste is valued as resource for other productive uses. At a regional level, material flows or water-energy-heat couplings can also be directed into settlements, i.e., into municipal areas. Eco-industrial regions are characterized by the fact that regional stakeholders succeed in jointly exploiting the economies of scale and economies of scope to increase resource efficiency.

Nevertheless, many regional resource efficiency projects fall far short of their expectations or are not even put into practice at all. Two causal complexes are blamed for this, which - although they are closely interwoven - are usually only discussed separately, but are linked in this project. On the one hand, resource efficiency potentials often remain untapped because the information required for their evaluation is often not available in sufficient detail at a regional level. Secondly, they often remain unexplored, because with each additional regional stakeholder the demands on the coordination of the actors for the joint management of the projects also increase.

Main objectives:

  1. In the selected eco-industrial regions, resource flows and potentials for increasing resource efficiency are analyzed.
  2. Stakeholders with regional networks are identified who are involved in the governance of resource efficiency or - because of their access to valuable information or as carriers of specific knowledge - are invited to participate.
  3. Based on the analysis of raw material flows and stakeholder constellations, approaches to evaluate and improve regional resource efficiency are developed that take regional governance contexts into account and thus help to better identify crucial steering elements.


Dr. Helmut Lehn
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe