Industrial Symbiosis - A Tool for More Sustainable Regions?

Murat Mirata

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


Today's industrial systems are regarded to have unsustainable characteristics. In order to acquire a more sustainable state, fundamental changes are needed in the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the resource flows associated with such systems. These need to go hand in hand with a more equitable distribution of the benefits and burdens associated with such resource use. The identification and facilitation of the necessary transformations in resource flows is the main subject of Industrial Ecology (IE) research field. As a sub-field of IE, the Industrial Symbiosis (IS) concept intends a sustainability contribution through establishing synergistic relations among economic activities located in a geographic region. These synergistic relations can increase the efficiencies by which different resources are utilised. There is increasing interest in systematically catalysing the development of IS networks as a means of providing a sustainability contribution. This is motivated by the efficiency gains provided by operational IS networks, the low number of such operational cases, and the increased understanding about the factors that determine the development of synergistic relations among regional actors. There are, however, uncertainties regarding how to facilitate the emergence of IS networks as well as the extent of sustainability contribution such networks can provide.

In this research, the issues pertaining to the facilitated development of IS networks in European regions are studied and the effectiveness of different approaches are investigated. Based mainly on the insights gained through the author's involvement in IS programmes in the UK and Sweden, the importance of properly addressing the human related and organisational aspects in IS developments is emphasised. Drawing mostly on empirical findings the influence of policy elements, the regional governance, and organisational history and culture on the IS developments are demonstrated and analysed. The importance of regional capacity building and learning enabled by IS programmes are highlighted and a call is made to properly monitor and communicate progress in these areas.

With regards to the sustainability contribution of IS networks, this research cautions that the dominating overemphasis placed in IS programmes on the revalorisation of production wastes will provide limited sustainability contribution at best. It is argued that a more profound contribution can be achieved, if IS developments are set to serve the objectives of an appropriate regional sustainable development strategy that gives proper consideration to social and environmental issues as well as economic ones, and that fosters systemic changes. A strategy informed by the newly introduced Distributed Economies concept is found to be one that can provide the needed guidance to IS while at the same time benefiting from the synergistic relations it catalyses. Specific recommendations targeting IS practitioners, policy makers, regional governance bodies, and academic community are distilled from research findings with the intention of assisting both the development of IS networks as well as improving their sustainability contributions.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
  • Johansson, Allan, Supervisor
  • Lindhqvist, Thomas, Supervisor
Award date2005 Oct 7
Print ISBNsISBN 91-88902-36-6
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2005-10-07
Time: 10:15
Place: Aulan, IIIEE,Internationella miljöinstitutet, Tegnérsplatsen 4, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Wells, Peter
Title: Dr
Affiliation: Cardiff University


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Technological sciences
  • Teknik
  • regional sustainability
  • distributed economies
  • Industrial ecology
  • Industrial symbiosis


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