- 11.12.2023 - 07:30 

Circular Lab: Advancing Sustainability through Computer Science

The Circular Lab, an initiative aimed at catalyzing a circular economy in the Lake Con-stance region, was kicked off this summer with the motto “We need to advance the sustainable change”. With the Institute of Computer Science as a valuable team member, the Circular Lab has the potential to position the Lake Constance region as a leader in the European circular economy landscape. By developing and industrializing circular processes and insights generated within the lab, this initiative can significantly impact the regional economy and environmental sustainability.

Technology-driven circular processes at industry scale

Within the Circular Lab, the Institute of Computer Science is set to play an important role in developing research prototypes for technology-driven circular processes, particularly in the textile industry. “Together with SOLVE, a social innovation studio specializing in fashion design and sustainability, we aim to industrialize a novel circular fashion design methodology”, says Prof. Dr. Andrei Ciortea, Assistant Professor of Web-based Systems at the Institute of Computer Science. This innovative approach revolves around constructing garments from multi-functional fabric blocks with multiple life cycles. The modular design facilitates easy repairs and disassembly, enabling fabric blocks to be reused for new garments. The fabric blocks are the atomic building blocks of every fashion collection: They are standardized multifunctional compatible textile modules that can be used and reused for manufacturing garments. The first prototype collection following this novel fashion design methodology is already available at SOLVE.

In its initial phase, the Institute of Computer Science aims to validate the feasibility of automating SOLVE's fashion design methodology. The goal is to synthesize recipes that automate garment assembly from available fabric blocks, incorporating visualization and simulation software for fashion designers. Successful implementation could pave the way for a zero-waste circular fashion industry, preserving fabric and reducing waste.

“Our primary contribution is to automate the assembly and disassembly of garments from reusable fabric blocks such that we can scale up and industrialize this novel design methodology for circular fashion. In doing so, our contribution provides the underpinning for one of the main research prototypes to be developed within the Circular Lab for the textile industry,” Prof. Dr. Simon Mayer, Full Professor and holder of the Chair of Interaction and Communication based Systems, explains.

Christina Dan, the Founder and Contextual Fashion Designer at SOLVE reports that the partnership with the ICS team has already yielded positive results; "The collaboration with the ICS team has enabled us to introduce, from an incipient stage, the automation technical factor in the design process and thus making it one of the key design components. These insights brought both newly found freedom and limitation and through them it fueled our design-thinking process, creating novel design inquiries, conditioning design, questioning existing processes, to finally generating innovative practical solutions".

Additionally, the project also explores the integration of established systems like GS1 Electronic Product Code Information System (EPCIS) for tracking garments and fabric blocks throughout the circular value chain. This approach enhances logistics transparency within the fashion industry.


Collaborations towards a more sustainable future

While the Circular Lab is in the early stages of building partnerships, collaboration with various stakeholders is already underway. The project offers significant opportunities for knowledge exchange, innovative solutions, and sustainable practices. As the project matures, concrete collaborations will emerge, amplifying the positive effects on the Lake Constance region and beyond.

For students pursuing a Computer Science degree at the University of St.Gallen, the Circular Lab serves as an example of how theoretical knowledge can be applied into real-world business applications. Moreover, it can open new opportunities for students passionate about applying technology to address sustainability challenges, offering them the chance to participate in student projects connected to the ongoing research within the Circular Lab.

The Circular Lab represents a significant step toward a more sustainable future, one in which circular economy principles are at the forefront of industry innovation. With the support of the Institute of Computer Science and its commitment to automation and sustainability, this initiative is poised to leave a lasting mark on the Lake Constance region and set new standards for circularity in various industries.

Image: SOLVE (