The Covestro Circular Economy Program at the University of Pittsburgh will become the home to the most novel and leading-edge advances in circular economy technology, enabling a new generation of materials that can be separated and reused. The program will achieve this through a combination of an annual worldwide Innovation Call and an innovation continuum at Pitt that fosters, develops, advances, and commercializes novel circular economy technology from Pitt faculty and students, and Faculty around the world. The program’s resulting impact will be immediate and generational -- changing the way the world creates and reuses materials, while establishing a permanent platform for innovation in the circular economy for generations to come.

Innovation Fund

The program will achieve its mission in part through the establishment of an Innovation Fund that will support the programming, and most importantly the commercial translation of novel technology that flows through the circular economy. It is proposed that through the Covestro Circular Economy Program at the University of Pittsburgh, its Innovation Fund be initially established at the $5 million level and oversight is delivered by a Joint Steering Board/Committee comprised of University and Covestro LLC executives.

The initial $5 million innovation fund will be aimed at advancing circular economy technologies towards successful commercialization as defined by the creation of a startup company, or licensing of the technology to a partner. This initial capital will be deployed via a granting mechanism to a faculty member’s university at two different levels as detailed below. As projects successfully exit the university environment, a new opportunity will arise for affiliates to make direct seed-stage investments in related startup companies. 


Innovation Infrastructure Detailed

The program will establish four complementary tiers to promote, draw in, advance, and commercialize new circular design technology. These tiers will mobilize faculty worldwide while introducing an innovation platform to Pitt’s world class faculty and student body. Drawing on the successfully modeled life science innovation continuum at Pitt overseen by the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the program will create a system that begins at discovery and provides structure and support through development and commercialization. Unlike other innovation structures, it will include specific industry participation and an additional, key University partnership.


Innovation Infrastructure – Pitt, Covestro, and Others

Covestro will play a prominent role in both evaluating technology and guiding its development, delivering a distinctive industry perspective to ensure success and impact. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh and Covestro will work to establish partnerships with universities in Europe and Asia to create a global home for this Innovation Infrastructure to amplify the innovation opportunity throughput, therein amplifying the impact of these innovation pipelines.

The Tiers/Programs below could be replicated in other universities and would follow a coordinated schedule with the University of Pittsburgh. To create this unique continuum, we are proposing three tiers of development:

  • Tier I: Discovery & Innovation Program
    • The purpose of the Discovery & Innovation Program is to create a central receiving point for existing and new technology related to design for the circular economy, and for those advances to be further evaluated on scientific and commercialization measures. This would be considered an entry point for technology in development. 

  • Tier II: Technology Advancement & Commercialization
    • Leveraging successfully applied technology development programming and models from NSF-iCorps, Coulter Translational Program II and others at Pitt, the Technology Advancement & Commercialization Program (TACP) will deliver education, mentoring and support to further accelerate the circular economy innovation
    • The goal of Tier II is to advance the technology to a point of commercialization that can include licensing the technology to an industry
      partner like Covestro or creating a startup company to carry the concept forward.

  • Tier III: CircularX at Pitt
    • Drawing from the success and structure of the University of Pittsburgh’s LifeX program, the Covestro Circular Economy Program at the University of Pittsburgh will create CircularX at Pitt – a business accelerator targeting startups coming out of the program, but also creating a home for circular economy focused startups around the U.S. and the world.
    • CircularX will deliver resources and “circular” support to refine, develop and advance the emerging circular economy small businesses.
      Programming and Outreach will be a critical component of the regular operations of CircularX, delivering the CircularX message regionally, nationally, and coordinated worldwide.

Summary Comments on Circular Innovation Program

Within this expansive innovation ecosystem, Covestro and the University of Pittsburgh will define best practices for advancing innovation across the circular economy. In doing so, the innovative technologies and companies emerging from this pipeline will magnify the worldwide adoption of new manufacturing processes, designs and techniques aimed at intensifying the global impact of these important efforts.