Closing competency gaps for circularity: Exploring partner dynamics for circular-oriented innovation

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The implementation of circular initiatives requires certain capabilities and knowledge that traditional business models often lack, requiring new perspectives and external collaborations. While it is understood that partnerships can aid in innovation and provide knowledge and capabilities to firms, the dynamics of collaboration for the transition towards circular business models (CBMs) need to be explored to understand why and how collaboration works between partners. A qualitative and in-depth case study of a gap exploiter business model and three of its partners was conducted to gain insight into collaborative relationships for circular-oriented innovation (COI). The research builds upon the theoretical foundations of the resource-based view and organizational learning by extending them to collaboration for COI, and expands the understanding of a gap exploiter business model by connecting it to research on innovation intermediaries—highlighting how particular competences and aspects of a gap exploiter business model enable collaboration with partners. The research found that motivations for collaboration for COI for B2C linear companies are derived from a need to fill competency gaps, although some companies perceive the need to fill competency gaps as temporary before building their own, while others use collaboration to build long-term relationships. Competences needed for COI include a combination of tangible and intangible aspects, such as space, tools, storage for repair and reconditioning, but also governance and managerial structures to formalize the COI as well as knowledge, skills, shared values and vision to operationalize the COI. The competences that contribute the most to enabling collaboration mechanisms are based on the skills and knowledge needed to operationalize circular strategies, as well as company values of collaboration and building partner relations. This research provides several practical resources for companies that include business model blueprints of successful gap exploiter models, competence for COI categories for companies to map out where they will need specific competences, and how these competences along with the business model blueprints enable collaboration. Future research could further examine and evaluate the criticality, volatility, and dependency of the competences for both COI and collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-147
JournalSustainable Production and Consumption
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

Free keywords

  • circular oriented innovation
  • circular business model innovation
  • gap exploiter business model
  • collaboration
  • circular competences
  • capabilities for circularity


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