Industrial Symbiosis Readiness Level – A Practical Matrix-Tool for Guidance and Assessment


Lovisa Harfeldt-Berg 1),2), Elin Wallin2, Annika Löwgren 2)*, Per Sommarin 2)
1) Environmental and Energy Systems Studies, Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, P.O. Box 118, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden.
2) RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Ideon Beta5, Scheelevägen 17, 223 70, Lund, Sweden.
*) Presenting author.


Transitioning to a sustainable, carbon-free industrial era requires the invention and adoption of new, cleaner ways of conducting business. The needed changes in value chains, policies and production technologies are substantial. One initiative to increase energy and resource efficiency is the formation of industrial symbiosis (IS) networks. IS has been recognized as one important approach to succeed in the transition towards sustainable industrial sectors, both by the Swedish government (Government Bill 2020/21:60) and the European Commission (Sommer, 2020). IS networks can, if appropriately managed, lead to significant economic, environmental, and social benefits (Cui et al., 2018; Dong et al., 2013; Fraccascia et al., 2020). This study has developed a tool, the Industrial Symbiosis Readiness Level-Matrix (ISRL-Matrix), to evaluate and support the progress of IS networks. The matrix is developed within the scope of the EU-project “Creation Of new value chain Relations Through novel Approaches facilitating Long-term Industrial Symbiosis” (CORALIS). The ISRL-matrix has been developed based on relevant literature and case studies where interviews and workshops were conducted with actors participating in either existing or emerging IS networks.

The ISRL-matrix offers a framework for capturing the complexity within the deliberate development of long-term sustainable symbiosis collaborations. Such complexity stems from the dynamic behaviour of both the individual actors and society. The proposed framework emphasizes the importance of using a holistic approach for successful development of an IS collaboration. The ISRL Matrix is intended to be used in both the initiating phase of the IS network and then continuously through the developing process. By using the ISRL-matrix as a guide, the user has the possibility to evaluate the development of an existing, or potential, IS network from six different categories corresponding to nine ascending readiness levels (RL1-RL9): Technology and Integration (TIRL), Business (BRL), Organisation (ORL), Legal issues (LRL), Society (SRL), and Environment (ERL). Due to the complexity often associated with IS networks, ORL, SRL and ERL (Figure 1a) are evaluated based on the progress of the entire IS network. TIRL, BRL, LRL, and ERL (Figure 1b) are evaluated based on specific collaborations and connections within the IS network. The evaluation of the IS network is based on assessments of the individual participating actors to give an estimate of the total readiness of the symbiosis. RL1 refers to an early stage of development and RL9 corresponds to long-term sustainable operations within the IS network.


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