Whether it is the energy sector, aerospace, medicine, or a simple car bumper, the underpinning concepts of connected, energy harvesting, adaptive and self-repair become equally apparent, as does the embedding of communication and electronic function into daily consumer objects (fueled by the Internet of Things). This is offset by the related rise of a new wave of short-lifetime waste electronic and electronic equipment which are currently often incompatible with developed recycling infrastructure, requiring adaptive disposal systems. Functional thin films and coatings within these systems, play a key role in both advancing the components performance, impacting on the component cost, and influencing the overall lifecycle in a circular economy. They therefore must be integrated by a ‘right material, right place, right application’ approach to move these systems from academia to full application. Barriers and potential solutions to creating advanced multifunctional performance in bulk manufacturing processes to meet industrial need is discussed.