Engineering for Ecological Transition

Programme Overview

We are consuming more and more and living beyond the planet's resources. The future of humanity depends on an obsolete economic model that is less and less viable. The omnipresence of advertising and promotional offers, new fashions, and incessant technological development all encourage us to consume more and more. To produce goods, we have to extract raw materials that will become scarce. All the  waste we generate is not infinitely recyclable. Today, the pollution of our Earth affects all the elements essential to our existence: air, soil, water and climate.

Since the industrial revolution, our economic world has essentially been based on a linear model. It exploits natural resources, extracted in a sustained and increasing manner, to produce products and services that will be consumed and promptly discarded.
It has now become urgent to initiate an ecological transition and a paradigm shift. Imagining a new economic model is not utopian but on the contrary feasible. It is enough to limit our consumption to our basic needs and to use as few resources as possible by reusing and recycling everything that can be reused and recycled. To this end, we need to move to a "circular economy" and a more low-tech approach.


Faced with these environmental challenges, the option's objective is to train responsible engineers. They must be capable of imagining and designing new ways of consuming, producing, working and living together. Three concepts will be studied in order to meet this objective:

  • Circular economy: moving from a so-called linear economy to a virtuous circular model in order to produce goods and services that drastically reduce the consumption and waste of raw materials, the production of waste and the use of non-renewable energy.
  • Eco-design: integrating the environment from the design stage of a good or service, and at all stages of its life cycle to reduce the harmful effects of climate change, depletion of the ozone layer, air and water pollution, toxicity and waste generation.
  • Low-tech: applying three key principles: useful, sustainable and accessible to objects, systems, techniques, services, know-how, practices and lifestyles.

Contribution to sustainable development goals



Learn more about Centrale Nantes' commitment to the 17 sustainable development goals

International students can follow this option, taught in French, via:

  • A double degree programme - Open to international students selected by our partner institutions. Selected students spend two years studying courses from the engineering programme at Centrale Nantes. This usually includes one year of the common-core engineering curriculum followed by one year of specialisation. Double degree students are typically accepted after successfully completing two or three years of higher education in their home institution.
  • The fast-track engineering programme: Open to students with a Bachelor's or equivalent degree in science. Our fast-track programme gives international students who are qualified to bachelor level the opportunity to gain the 'diplôme d'ingénieur' in just two years.
Course Content
  • Challenges and stakeholders in ecological transition: climate change, global limits, ecological thinkers, politics, environmental law, Corporate Social Responsibility, Social and Solidarity Economy.
  • Low-tech - building a resilient and sober world: Introduction to low-techs, exploration, low-tech approach and experimentation
  • Circular economy - the fundamental principles: responsible purchasing, green logistics, industrial ecology, functional economy, responsible consumption, longer life cycle, recycling, regulations, business models.
  • Eco-design - reducing carbon footprint and life cycle considerations: environmental impact assessment, carbon footprint, tools and approaches, life cycle analysis, recycled materials, recycling processes, eco-innovation.
  • Ecological Transition Mornings with expert speakers: Jean-Marc Jancovici, Matthieu Orphelin, Jean-Michel Buf, Vincent Liegey, Yannick Roudaut.

The teaching programme comprises lectures, company visits, speakers from industry, participatory workshops, case studies and industrial projects.  

Download syllabus

Examples of projects and internships


  • Organising the Ecological Transition Mornings
  • Participation in the Pays de la Loire Sustainable Development Trophy panel
  • Eco-design of a mushroom farm
  • Life cycle analysis of catering packaging (Nantes Métropole)
  • Carbon balance of a foundry (Lemer)
  • Low-tech goods assessment tool (University of Nantes)
  • Functional economy: student furniture in Nantes (Pays de la Loire Region)
  • Implementation of a self-diagnostic tool on the circular economy
  • Creation of educational materials on the circular economy

Students' poster example:


  • Rethinking the business model around an eco-designed folding bike (Decathlon)
  • 'Cradle to Cradle' - a step towards the resource paradigm - application to building (Upcyclea)
  • Carry out a complete carbon balance for the Sonceboz Group (Switzerland)
  • Create a decision support tool to define the optimum time to refurbish or dismantle material handling equipment (Manitou)
  • Consulting and assistance with project management in waste management (Sage Services)
  • Development of decision support tools for the development of anaerobic digestion (Akajoule)
  • Inert waste from construction sites and the circular economy: Study of a recycling sector (Nantes Métropole)
  • Study of the parameters influencing the choice of sustainability of public infrastructure (Polytechnique Montreal)
  • Rethinking the role of the engineer in a degrowth society (Cargonomia - Hungary)
  • Experiment new ways of organising and developing low-techs on a regional scale (ADEME, the Brittany Region and Concarneau Cornouaille Agglomération). Call for applications:
After the option

Sectors of activity

  • Industrial, commercial and service company; Consulting and technical design office; Engineering company; Research and innovation centre; Eco-industry
  • Business group or association; Mixed economy company; Regional or territorial consular chamber; Economic development agency; Waste treatment plant
  • State services; Local authority; Hospital
  • Social and Solidarity Economy; Repair workshop; Resource centre; Recycling centre; Activities in the reuse or recycling of materials and construction waste; Rehabilitation company
  • Project management; Construction and waste recovery; Design office
  • Energy and methanisation
  • Waste collection and treatment; Waste disposal site.
  • Environmental protection associations; NGO
  • Alternative economy

Employment prospects

  • Eco-design engineer
  • Local planning coordinator
  • Strategy Manager
  • Responsible buyer (public and private)
  • Company director
  • Architect and environmental engineer
  • Consultant
  • Low-tech and degrowth engineer
Published on November 5, 2015 Updated on January 2, 2024