Knowledge transfer to facilitate industrial symbiosis : a case study of UK-China collaborators

Wang, Qiaozhi


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© 2013 Qiaozhi Wang. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Interest in how industrial production could be adapted to promote sustainable development has increased in recent decades worldwide. Industrial symbiosis (where one company’s unwanted materials become the input for another company) is one approach to reducing the environmental impact of production, which itself has attracted widespread policy interest. The UK’s National Industrial Symbiosis Programme has become known internationally as an example of a successful industrial symbiosis initiative, attracting both academic interest and policy imitation. However, the suitability of industrial symbiosis development initiatives to be transferred between geographic contexts is a largely neglected issue in industrial symbiosis literature. Practice replication can be viewed as a knowledge transfer process. In order to address that issue, this study adopts a theoretical framework drawn from the knowledge transfer literature, which suggests that language skills, technical assistance and expertise are among the factors influencing the success of international attempts at practice replication. The knowledge transfer literature, however, has focussed on commercial activity, i.e., firms’ primary activities, not environmental initiatives such as industrial symbiosis. Theoretical framework on knowledge transfer is therefore adopted to study the topic.

The research aims to provide a deeper understanding of factors affecting the process of replicating one country’s industrial symbiosis development practice to another. A European Commission funded project replicating the UK’s industrial symbiosis network facilitation approach to the Tianjin Binhai New Area of China has been selected to conduct an in-depth case study. This case study can be viewed as a transnational knowledge transfer practice. In addition, this research used a knowledge transfer perspective to inform an in-depth analysis of the organisation of National Industrial Symbiosis Programme. Also, it conducted the analysis of policy context affecting industrial symbiosis activities in the UK and China to provide a background of industrial symbiosis development in the two countries. Qualitative research methods such as semi-structured interviews and participant observation have been used to collect data.

This research contributes to knowledge transfer theory through proposing a knowledge-based model illustrating the process of knowledge development within an organisation and the process of transnational knowledge transfer from the knowledge source to another. Also, factors affecting the process of transnational knowledge transfer have been summarised. In addition, the research provides a deeper understanding of a industrial symbiosis network facilitation approach which has been widely cited as an industrial symbiosis development exemplar. Theoretical contributions could guide future transnational collaborations on replicating good practices for industrial sustainable development.

Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, The University of Hull
Deutz, Pauline; Gibbs, D. C. (David C.), 1955-; Dai, Xiudian
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