The industrial symbiosis process as an interplay of public and private agency: Comparing two cases

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Industrial symbiosis (IS) can facilitate resource efficiency but requires a complex, dynamic process of sharing tangible and intangible resources between multiple private and public actors. Although IS studies have acknowledged the importance of these actors, they are studied as isolated and static streams. This study examines how public and private agency together contribute to the emergence and development of IS—i.e., the public–private interplay for promoting IS in a longitudinal manner. The study follows narrative and temporal bracketing process research strategies and relies on an in-depth and longitudinal qualitative multiple-case study design. Two IS cases were examined in terms of their actors (public, private), IS level (individual person, organization, network, national), and IS process phases (emergence, probation, development & expansion) within a Finnish context. Comparison of these two cases, which represent the main archetypes of IS models (i.e., IS planned by public actors and IS self-emerging among private actors), showed that the public–private interplay for promoting IS shares many similar features and paths within the cases. Thus, the main contribution of this study's qualitative processual approach toward public–private interplay for promoting IS is the modeling and definition of the IS process as an inherently dynamic interplay of intertwining public and private agency within each process phase and involving several actors on different IS levels. This finding challenges the current, somewhat dichotomic view in IS process studies that consider public and private actors as isolated and static. The findings of this study provide new insights into and practical guidelines for initiating, developing, and participating in IS activities for public and private actors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130996
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Agency
  • Industrial ecology
  • Industrial symbiosis
  • Process
  • Public–private interplay
  • Qualitative multiple-case study

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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