Morphogenesis of Industrial Symbiotic Networks

by Erika Džajić Uršič (Author)
©2020 Thesis 152 Pages


The study deals with Industrial Symbiosis (IS), a term used to describe a network of diverse organizations that make use of different by-products to improve their facility to achieve common goals, improve environmental conditions or improve business and technical processes. Industrial symbiosis is understood as a technological material as well as a social relationship between so-called social actors, which are involved in the exchange of secondary resources.
The author proposes a model for the evaluation of the possibilities to establish such industrial symbiosis with a study benchmark of seven industrial symbiotic examples used to build a qualitative multi-criteria decision model for the evaluation of the industrial symbiotic network model. With the data obtained from the best-known industrial symbiotic cases in the world, the author examines the importance of social actors’ involvement in industrial symbiosis both in their industrial and non-industrial technological processes.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Table of contents
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Objectives and the purpose of this study
  • 1.2 Research questions and hypothesis
  • 1.3 The structure of the work
  • 2 Literature review
  • 2.1 A circular economy as economy of the future
  • 2.2 Introduction to industrial ecology concept
  • 2.3 Introduction to industrial symbiotic concept
  • 2.4 Barriers and obstacles of industrial symbiosis
  • 2.5 Background of industrial symbiosis as a scientific field
  • 3 Outlining research of social aspects
  • 3.1 Morphogenesis of industrial symbiotic networks
  • 3.2 Mutual environmental society: Clusters theory
  • 3.3 The drawback of sustainable embeddedness in industrial symbiosis
  • 3.4 Exchange conditions and social mechanisms of control
  • 3.5 Building a complex system approach
  • 3.6 Building trust, good communication, and proximity
  • 3.7 Jens Beckert’s theory: Social forces develop networks in industrial symbiosis
  • 3.8 The relevance of decision-making process
  • 4 Case studies
  • 4.1 Kalundborg industrial area, Denmark
  • 4.2 Aalborg industrial area, Denmark
  • 4.3 Guayama industrial area, Puerto Rico
  • 4.4 Barceloneta industrial area, Puerto Rico
  • 4.5 Kwinana industrial area, Australia
  • 4.6 Gladstone industrial area, Australia
  • 4.7 Rotterdam Europoort industrial area, the Netherlands
  • 5 Methodological framework
  • 5.1 Empirical material and data analysis approach
  • 5.2 Decision problem development and implementation of the model
  • 5.3 Decision EXpert method and DEXi software tool
  • 5.3.1 Principles of DEX method and DEXi software tool
  • 6 Modelling results and evaluations of case studies
  • 6.1 Ranking results of utility function
  • 6.2 Supposition and expectation of the results
  • 7 Conclusion and discussion
  • Appendix
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • References and sources

1 Introduction

The important nature of cost productivity, environmental safeguard, resource management, greenhouse gas emissions/reduction, and social considerations are imposing increasing pressure on the industrialized districts. Industrial symbiosis emerged as a collective, cooperative, and multi-industrial approach towards economic and environmental sustainability. Industrial symbiosis has been defined as bringing together »traditionally separate industries in a collective approach to competitive advantage involving the physical exchange of materials, energy, water and by-products« using Chertow’s definition (2000, 313−337). The positive economic effects are demonstrated as lower waste/by-product disposal costs, competitive advantages towards other firms, and a better reputation of the related firm that is also social actor. Firms hence participate in industrial symbiosis for the exchange of resources, such as by-products, materials, services, energy, etc., in the framework of closed and sustainable cycles. This cooperation contributes to the reduction of required input of materials and energy, as well as a decrease of the output in the form of waste. Furthermore, the low price of waste as a material, if compared with no waste materials, increases the economic effectiveness of individual organizations, which are recipients in the framework of industrial symbiotic networks. Open networks, on the other hand, allow entropy, which results in a loss of energy, poor utilization of materials, and consequently causes environmental damage (Chertow 2000, 2007).

The current study will analyse networks as parts of social fields in the industrial symbiosis, in which these networks help shape their topography. This will also have a more profound scientific effect, as the social topography of industrial symbiosis will serve as a case study of interaction among individual actors with their environment, based on their specific needs and preferences. Why is this the case in a present study’s research? Researching industrial symbiosis, combining its technological, ecological, informational, economical, and, as of recently, sociological aspects, can be relevant to study and to put forward a simple method for creating a model of industrial symbiotic networks. Keeping in mind that social interaction plays a major role in industrial symbiosis, including on a micro-mezzo-macro level, social structures are best suited to show the emergence of patterns from individual decisions and social interactions. By introducing a new model, this study explains and possibly forecasts new industrial symbiotic networks and their »behaviours-interactions« in a new region. By analysing such a model, it would be possible to identify some critical factors ←9 | 10→that should be considered when studying social interaction and their role for explaining observed patterns (Džajić and Rončević 2017).

The study of industrial symbiotic networks from the economic and especially ecological point of view is currently becoming the start of the subject of numerous multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) research studies, which mainly focus on waste management (see Boshkoska, Rončević and Džajić 2018, CTTÉI 2013), industrial ecosystem (Chertow 2000; Ehrenfeld and Gertler 1997), rounded economy (Laybourn 2016), supply chain management (Leigh and Li 2015), and economics (Chertow and Lombardi 2005; Džajić and Rončević 2017 quoted in Tomšič and Rončević 2017; Modic and Rončević 2018).

1.1 Objectives and the purpose of this study

This study will deal with the development of industrial symbiotic networks, where industrial symbiotic networks are dynamic, evolving, complex networks that are transcending the boundaries of technical, natural computer, and social systems.

The objectives and aims of the proposed study are as follows:

To show connections and exchanges between dynamic, completive, adaptive networks, operating across the boundaries of technical, natural, computational/informational, and social systems.

The development of a robust input-output model of physical, organizational, and technological exchanges, including their social interactions (networking); the ultimate aim is to model morphogenesis of industrial symbiotic networks by taking all relevant aspects into account. This will be engaged in computational sociology in order to explore, model, simulate, test, and observe an industrial symbiotic network.

To allow us to predict morphogenesis in a specific social setting using the model, thereby allowing us to develop tools for embedding industrial symbiosis in its natural, technical, and sociocultural setting.

To use the model in order to be able to identify the prerequisites and mechanisms for successful morphogenesis of industrial symbiotic networks, which will enable us to highlight already existing potentials and barriers to industrial symbiosis within a specific setting. This includes factors which are necessary to improve collaboration amongst actors.

To use the research to enlighten social aspects of industrial symbiotic networks and to use these theories to conceptualize the morphogenesis of symbiotic networks; it will also examine the influence of social structures on individual actions of industrial symbiotic networks development.

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The purpose of this study is to improve the methodology of the development of industrial symbiotic networks in industrial symbiosis, which is composed of various data analysis techniques. The new model allows for the evaluation of the current state of the industrial symbiotic network based on the three spheres and contributes to its clarification and to finding weak points in order to improve the industrial symbiotic networks.

1.2 Research questions and hypothesis

The research will be able to explore not only the explanatory role of social theory, but also its applied potential, the theoretically inspiring morphogenesis of industrial symbiotic networks. Exploration will be of one of the basic sociological questions, namely the mutual influence of emergent social constructions and individual actions. Next, the study and explanation of substantial differences in the morphogenesis of industrial symbiotic networks in different sociocultural settings and with the development of information and communication technologies, numerous formal and informal networks start to emerge.

Organized networks of structures and organized networks of actors are referred to as collaborative networks of industrial symbiosis (Archer 2003). In industry, clusters of organizations aim for efficient product development, production, and marketing tasks. Such partner consortia function as networked organizations in which cooperation is supported by information and communication technologies. Mutual trust can contribute to improved knowledge sharing, resource sharing, and taking joint risks. Trust brings many advantages to industrial symbiotic networks and should, therefore, be considered beforehand when creating industrial symbiotic networks. The branch of metaphysics (the philosophy concerning the overall nature of what things are) is concerned with identifying, in the most general terms, the kinds of things that exist in industrial symbiotic networks. In other words, addressing the following research questions:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
Industrial symbiotic networks Social forces Modeling Multi-attribute hierarchical model Evaluation
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 152 pp., 14 fig. col., 1 fig. b/w, 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Erika Džajić Uršič (Author)

Erika Džajić Uršič holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the School of Advanced Social Studies, Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Her research interests include Socio-economical factors of industrial symbiosis, computer intensive methods and applications, software modelling of industrial symbiosis networks, and the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of industrial symbiosis networks analyses.


Title: Morphogenesis of Industrial Symbiotic Networks