In the Sloe Area and the Canal Zone, an industrial port area in the Netherlands with a concentration of companies in the process industry, the agricultural sector, and the logistical sector, several by-product exchanges and utility synergies have been realized over the past decade. These symbiotic exchanges are the outcomes of projects that are developed by firms, governmental agencies, and knowledge institutes in varying alliances since about 1997. Although in the early stages there were only a few relatively autonomous initiatives, over time the actors in the region increasingly established linkages between the initiatives and established regional visions as a basis for their further development.
In this paper I investigate how the actors of various institutional backgrounds in the Sloe area and the Canal Zone build institutional capacity for industrial symbiosis, which is defined as the capacity to address the development of industrial symbiosis in a collaborative fashion. The central research question of the paper is as follows: “How does institutional capacity building between firms, governmental agencies and knowledge institutes in the Sloe Area and Canal Zone influence the emergence and development of industrial symbiosis in the region?”
I investigate institutional capacity building along three dimensions. First, I investigate how the range and density of the networks between firms, governmental agencies and knowledge institutes develops over time. Second, I investigate how actors utilize these networks to jointly develop and share knowledge on potential symbiotic exchanges. Third, I investigate how the actors increase their ability to mobilize for joint action by attracting key actors and resources. My overarching theory is that increasing institutional capacity contributes to the ability of actors to realize increasingly complex symbiotic exchanges and to develop strategic visions that can be used to address the development of the network of symbiotic exchanges as a whole.
The investigation that I present in the paper is based on a process approach, which focuses on the investigation of temporal patterns in sequences of events. Longitudinal data that have been collected on the developments in the Sloe Area and Canal Zone the past 1,5 years have been entered into an event sequence dataset, which contains a chronological list of relevant events. The analysis of the data shows how networks, knowledge, and mobilization capacity are built over time, how this influences the content and the scope of projects that actors in the region engage in, and how this affects the symbiotic exchanges that the actors establish and the strategies that they use to address the development of the network of symbiotic exchanges at the regional level.
In my conclusion I discuss the role of institutional capacity building in the emergence and development of industrial symbiosis in general and the role of collaboration between firms, governmental agencies and knowledge institutes in particular. More specifically, I discuss how such collaborations influence the ability of the actors to realize complex symbiotic exchanges.