The world is facing many sustainability challenges, related to, for example, pollution and poor management of natural resources. Several causes have been identified, including the linearity of business models, a focus on core business and short-term profit, and narrow-minded decisions. In reaction to linear behaviour (extract, use, waste…), the founders of the Industrial Ecology concept argue that companies and public organisations should learn from the closed loops of natural ecosystems. This is closely linked with ideas regarding the circular economy.
Industrial and Urban Symbiosis aims to improve resource efficiency through local/regional collaboration. This complements the discourses that normally dominate: productivity, supply chains, and single sectors. Within the research area, the focus is on valorisation of underused material and energy resources (waste, by-products) that can be used by other actors within the network. However, collaboration can also involve common infrastructure systems for supplies and services, knowledge building, innovation, and marketing.
The potential to increase local/regional collaboration and to create positive synergies remains largely unused. Studies of industrial and urban symbiosis make it possible to generate economic, environmental, and social benefits in collaboration, improving the competitiveness of sole actors and the collective.
One purpose of the research is to increase our understanding of existing industrial and urban symbiosis networks. We need to know more about, for example, how such networks are established, the essential factors for their growth, how growth can be stimulated, and how the factors contribute to new symbiosis processes. The research field covers also value creation and how different types of collaboration and solution influence environmental performance, and looks at methods for environmental/sustainability assessments and decision support. The research is conducted in close collaboration with companies and public organisations, and we co-create knowledge with other actors.
The research group is deeply involved in the Biogas Research Center (BRC), where it works with management, coordination, and research activities. Biogas solutions are highly relevant factors in industrial and urban symbiosis, since they commonly play a central role in societal networks by transforming waste/by-products to valuable products. Biogas solutions contribute to a biobased and circular economy, in the form of, for example, more closed nutrient flows.
The research group has developed, runs and maintains the web-based hub: Swedish Platform for Industrial and Urban Symbiosis: industrialsymbiosis.se.