Ken Morotomi ’23

Ecologic Institute, Germany

Ecologic Institute is an independent, academic think tank for environmental research and policy analysis, based in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1995, Ecologic has grown into one of Europe’s leading transdisciplinary research organizations focusing on improving environmental policy and sustainable development. At the Institute, experienced researchers and academics from various backgrounds come together to conduct research providing policy analyses and consulting services to local, national, and EU governments; the private sector; and other nonprofit organizations. With more than 100 team members from more than 20 different countries, Ecologic is a diverse work environment that allows each member to contribute with their interests and passion and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth.

At Ecologic, I was a part of the Resource Conservation & Circular Economy team, as well as the Economics team. I was assigned to one big project and a few smaller projects that I contributed to throughout the course of the internship. The main project that I spent most of my time on was called “Raw Material Dependency of the European Union on China,” which was a study commissioned to us by a German foundation. As the EU transitions to a low-carbon economy, the demand for high-technology products such as electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines is expected to increase significantly. Despite the efficiency of these products, their reliance on industrial metals and rare earths cannot be ignored. With the EU currently importing more than 90% of its “critical raw materials” from China, policymakers and experts are emphasizing the risk and the need for alternative growth strategies. This project focuses on this issue from the perspective of a “circular economy (CE)”—a production and consumption model that decouples economic growth from the use of finite resources. There are several ways that one can approach this issue, including establishing new mines in the EU, finding substitutes for rare earths and a CE approach. The first two options are considered impossible due to the lack of time, resources or technological feasibility. Focusing on the CE approach I conducted research on various ways to either decrease the demand for primary raw materials or increase the availability of secondary raw materials. This analysis focused on the end-of-life phase of products (i.e., recycling) and on different stages of the cycle, including the design and use phase. Through intensive data analysis and literature review, I compiled a substantial study with the help of my supervisor and a team member.

As an economics and German major at Williams, this summer internship at Ecologic Institute has allowed me to explore my academic interests in a professional environment. I feel that this summer spent in Berlin has deepened my interests in both academic fields and broadened my horizons in terms of the journey I intend to embark on after my graduation next year.

I would like to express my gratitude for the immense support from my sponsor, Bill Chapman ’64, as well as from the ’68 Center for Career Exploration.