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Inter-firm cooperation and local industrial ecology processes: Evidence from three French case studies


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In this paper, we are interested in industrial and territorial ecology (ITE), whose aim is to optimize the management of material and energy flows between local economic players by drawing inspiration from the cyclical nature of natural ecosystems. The organizational elements, specifically the forms of coordination between actors, appear to be central in the setting out of these processes. This is why methodological devices promise to respond to the chronic difficulty of implementing local inter-firm relations conducive to cooperation. The work presented here, based on social network analysis, aims to determine their validity through three case studies. First, we examine the need to consider the spatial dimension of ITE approaches to understand the conditions for the emergence of inter-firm cooperation and sustainable development, and we present the methodological elements of our work. Then, we proceed to the case studies and identify inter-firm relations and study their evolution over time. We conclude with an assessment of the devices studied, the intermediary role of facilitators, and the difficulty of perpetuating these types of cooperative relations, which raises serious questions about the modalities of the implementation of sustainable territorial development processes.
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To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
Inter-firm cooperation and local industrial ecology processes:
Evidence from three French case studies
André Torre
University Paris-Saclay, INRAE, Agroparistech
ORCID: 0000-0001-5644-7520
Maël Jambou
University of Technology of Troyes, UR InSyTE
Sabrina Dermine-Brullot
University of Technology of Troyes, UR InSyTE
ORCID :000-0003-2206-7284
Sébastien Bourdin
EM Normandie Business School, Metis Lab
ORCID: 0000-0001-7669-705X
Summary: In this paper, we are interested in industrial and territorial ecology (ITE), whose aim is to optimize
the management of material and energy flows between local economic players by drawing inspiration from the
cyclical nature of natural ecosystems. The organizational elements, specifically the forms of coordination between
actors, appear to be central in the setting out of these processes. This is why methodological devices promise to
respond to the chronic difficulty of implementing local inter-firm relations conducive to cooperation. The work
presented here, based on social network analysis, aims to determine their validity through three case studies. First,
we examine the need to consider the spatial dimension of ITE approaches to understand the conditions for the
emergence of inter-firm cooperation and sustainable development, and we present the methodological elements
of our work. Then, we proceed to the case studies and identify inter-firm relations and study their evolution over
time. We conclude with an assessment of the devices studied, the intermediary role of facilitators, and the
difficulty of perpetuating these types of cooperative relations, which raises serious questions about the modalities
of the implementation of sustainable territorial development processes.
Keywords: Industrial ecology, circular economy, cooperation, firm interactions, social network analysis
JEL Codes: R1, Q2, Q57
We seek to verify whether the methodological devices put in place to help local inter-firm cooperation in terms
of industrial and territorial ecology (ITE) are effective.
Corresponding author
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
To do this, we examine the cases of three devices implemented in French regions, using an approach based on
social network analysis.
Our results show that the devices are not sufficient for developing and maintaining inter-firm cooperation
regarding environmental resources: it intensifies during the workshops but, in general, lasts only a short time.
This is mainly due to low monitoring and the insufficient number of intermediary agents that support governance
processes for sustainable development at the local level.
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
I. Introduction
The linear functioning of our industrial society is increasingly generating important impacts. Natural resources
are being depleted. The climate is changing and getting warmer, and pollution caused by human activities is
accumulating and damaging natural ecosystems as well as the services they can provide. These phenomena are
raising concerns about the current and future populations' well-being and are gradually affecting all regions and
states, even the most prosperous ones (MEA, 2005; IPCC, 2019).
In response to these issues, the circular economy is an interesting avenue for action that puts an end to the harmful
effects of society's linear functioning (Gregson et al., 2015). Promoting the circular organization of production
and consumption methods, it originates in Boulding's (1966) work, which highlights the inconsistency of the linear
economic model that mobilizes unlimited flows of resources with limited stocks. The environmental question,
often considered as a constraint, then becomes an opportunity to develop the economy (Bocken et al., 2014). The
circular economy promises to present potential for concrete actions to make production and consumption patterns
more sustainable in territories, through reliance on organizational and technological innovation and green growth
(Baldassarre et al., 2019). This is why many countries have adopted this concept since the 1990s and have
translated it into concrete public policies from the national to the local scale (Hobson et al., 2018). In France, for
example, the creation of the Institut de l'Economie Circulaire (Institute of the Circular Economy) in 2013 was the
culmination of the introduction of the concept into public policies. It has led to its very rapid spread among firms
and territories. It is also widely promoted by ADEME (Agence De l'Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'Energie),
the national public agency in charge of environmental and energy transitions, which has launched several
experimentations in various territories in order to develop the circular economy in French regions.
In this article, we are interested in one of the operational strategies of the circular economy: industrial and
territorial ecology (ITE). ITE aims to optimize the management of material and energy flows between the various
economic players in a territory by drawing inspiration from the cyclical nature of natural ecosystems (Cerceau et
al., 2018). In other words, the waste of some becomes a resource for others; the practices related to this are called
flow closures or industrial ecology synergies (Erhenfeld, 1997). These ITE approaches are above all based on
collective action, which requires stakeholders' intentional collaboration towards a common and shared objective:
economic development and environmental impact reduction (Gertler, 1995; Heeres et al., 2004).
First, mainly considered from a technical and engineering point of view, as defined by Allenby (1992), the
territorial dimension is at the heart of ITE, which is, in terms of its construction, spatialized. Indeed, beyond the
individual interests of actors, these clustering flows, located in a given area and taking place between local actors,
could make an important contribution to territorial development processes, in particular, by enabling the recycling
and recovery of local inputs, while promoting a more sustainable and autonomous mode of growth. Furthermore,
the characteristics and resources of the territory will influence the way in which ITE is implemented (Kasmi,
2020; Torre & Dermine-Brullot, 2021). The current craze with regard to the circular economy tends to encourage
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
the deployment of these initiatives, which are largely financed by public authorities. Indeed, ITE becomes a policy
of economic development and the reduction of the environmental impact of industrial activity.
However, these initiatives are not always easy to implement. Beyond the economic, technical, and regulatory
aspects that condition the feasibility of flow exchanges, organizational elements, specifically the forms of
coordination and cooperation between actors, appear to be central and are often problematic (Mirata, 2004; Boons
& Baas, 1997; Heeres et al., 2004). This is why methodological devices have been developed (often thanks to
public funds) and are promoted by public actors (ADEME in France) in order to facilitate the implementation of
ITE projects that are generally driven by public actors, as opposed to self-organized approaches for which the
issues of coordination and collaboration do not constitute problems (Chertow & Erhenfeld, 2012). These planned
initiatives require coordination by an intermediary actor called a facilitator. The methodological device includes
operational tools, sometimes IT tools, and is based on a set of actions to be implemented by the facilitator in order
to support the process of collaboration between firms in a sustainable way.
So far, no studies have been conducted on these devices and their capacity to fundamentally transform the nature
of relations between actors and to densify the network of actors, in order to generate conditions conducive to the
emergence of lasting inter-firm cooperation that is favorable to the development of ITE (Jambou, 2016). The work
presented here aims to determine their validity through three French case studies, which illustrate the French
government’s desire to develop an ambitious policy in terms of ITE and, more globally, the circular economy.
The three case studies are based on comparable territorial and institutional situations but are distinguished by the
use of different methodological devices (tools and methods), particularly in the creation of inter-firm relations.
We try to answer the following questions: Are these devices effective? Do they make it possible to promote the
establishment of processes of sustainable territorial development and the circular economy at the territorial level?
In order to analyze their deployment and the results produced, we carry out an analysis in terms of social networks,
which allows us to characterize inter-firm relationships and monitor their evolution over time.
In this paper, we first examine the need to consider the spatial dimension of ITE approaches in greater depth to
understand the conditions for the emergence of inter-firm cooperation, before proceeding to the three case studies.
For each ITE project, we present the device used and identify all the inter-firm relations. We then study their
evolution over time using social network analysis before analyzing the causes of the contrasting evolutions that
we observe. We conclude with a discussion on the effectiveness of the methodological devices studied, the
intermediary role played by the facilitators, and the difficulty of perpetuating relationships beyond the face-to-
face meetings organized by the facilitator.
II. Territorial approach of industrial ecology processes
Among the various circular economy strategies, ITE is the only one that integrates a proven spatial dimension
(Torre & Dermine-Brullot, 2021). First, from an economic and environmental perspective, it only makes sense if
the firms that exchange material and energy flows are geographically close. Second, the inclusion of the approach
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
within a territory consists in considering the latter's specific characteristics (Korhonen, 2001), both in terms of the
problems to be solved and what it offers regarding the resources that can be mobilized to solve these problems.
II.1. Context-dependent conditions of emergence through cooperative and trust relations
To analyze the inter-firm cooperation processes in ITE approaches, it is essential to look back on the numerous
studies that have sought to explore the conditions for the emergence and development of this behavior. Following
industrial economics or game theory approaches, cooperative relationships may be informal or based on
agreement, symmetrical or asymmetrical, or based on trust or mistrust. But, they are always distinguished by a
voluntary commitment from both parties, which leads them to reveal their intentions and some information in the
hope of obtaining mutual benefits from the pooling of their interests and a part of their resources (Axelrod, 1984;
Contractor & Lorange, 1988).
The cooperation between firms can take various dimensions, from informal relations to formal agreements or joint
ventures. Regarding production systems or innovation behaviors, many agree on the need for geographical
proximity between actors, be it permanent (Boschma, 2005) or temporary (Gallaud & Torre, 2004). It is assumed
that it can reduce transaction costs and the environmental impact associated with the management of the flows
concerned (Ehrenfeld & Gertler, 1997), and foster the social and cognitive links that are essential for cooperation
(Baas & Huisingh, 2008). However, short distances are not enough. Mirata and Emtairah (2005) also highlight
the importance of collective learning in cooperative processes to bring out a set of common interests that go
beyond individual interests.
Several scholars argue that trust is omnipresent in the processes (through empirical approaches), without
necessarily seeking to describe its mechanisms (Gibbs, 2003; Hewes & Lyons, 2008; Ashton, 2008). The role of
intermediary actors in facilitating exchanges and cooperation is also highlighted (Paquin & Howard-Grenville,
2012). Exchanges of flows are linked to inter-firm relations, which are often organized within networks of actors
that should be analyzed regarding social capital and territorial anchoring. Indeed, according to Boons and Howard-
Grenville (2009), ITE approaches rely on economic and organizational activities, which are at the heart of social
arrangements. These processes will contribute to creating trust, facilitating the collective learning process, or
providing the necessary ingredients for cooperation. Thus, the analysis of the conditions for the emergence and
development of inter-firm cooperation in ITE approaches leads us to believe that they highly depend on the context
of the territory in which the process takes place.
Numerous studies show that inter-firm cooperation is more easily deployed when the ITE approach takes the
social and institutional characteristics of the territory into account (Kasmi, 2020; Cerceau, 2018; Jacobsen &
Anderberg, 2009). Economic activities are linked to the structural organization of social relations (Granovetter,
1973). This explains the fact that actors rely on their own networks (professional, friendship, family, etc.) to
develop ITE cooperation. However, these actors also belong to companies that are themselves embedded in legal,
regulatory, and political regimes of their own. These characteristics can thus create opportunities and constraints.
II.2. The development of territorial methodological devices
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
Inter-firm cooperation relationships are never easy to build and often need to be assisted by public authorities or
local governance systems (Radicic et al., 2020). This is even truer in the case of ITE processes, characterized by
their novelty and risk-taking nature, which makes enterprises reluctant to embark on this type of approach. That
is why mechanisms have been created to help companies collaborate on environmental approaches.
Methodological devices are a set of actions, means, and measures deployed to implement an ITE approach at the
local level. Their aim is to identify priority needs or issues for stakeholders, whether firms or public actors, and
to focus the search on synergies between them. The objective is to generate dynamics, exchanges, and results very
quickly. By focusing on the needs of firms, which are also involved at a very early stage in the process, these
devices consider firms' sustained mobilization and motivation. Methodological devices help to build an inter-firm
network, create and maintain new relationships, identify opportunities for synergies, assist with their
implementation and evaluation, and ensure the ITE approach's sustainability.
The organization of inter-firm workshops is recommended to bring about new cooperative relationships. The time
available for data collection and the identification of synergies is short (collecting data on incoming and outgoing
flows from companies or by consolidating databases). It may include computer tools dedicated to the search for
synergies. The devices also rely on a facilitator's presence as a third-party actor. They facilitate the adhesion of
firms and their networking and aim to create a relational context favorable to exchanges. As the synergy
identification phase is very short, they claim to dedicate more time to the support and follow-up of synergy
projects to encourage the sustainability of the inter-firm cooperation process.
III. Methodology
Our approach is based on the comparison of three French case studies (see the map in the appendix), each one
corresponding to the implementation of a methodological device for setting up synergies between firms. Each of
the cases is subject to an in-depth examination based on participant survey questionnaires, followed by an analysis
of social networks. The analysis is carried out over the period 2015-2017, and the longitudinal aspect is important
since the phenomenon studied, namely the emergence of inter-firm relations, evolves over time.
III.1. The three case studies
The particularity of the selected case studies is that they are based on the organization of workshops that aim to
connect firms. Inter-firm workshops allow new cooperative relationships to be formed and data to be collected
(inputs and outputs of firms that could be exchanged thanks to what is called a synergy). They improve
communication in terms of offering economic opportunities to convince firms to participate. A software tool is
used to capitalize resources (inputs and outputs) and identify synergies, with more or less advanced options, such
as synergy management or the provision of a collaborative platform. Experienced over periods of two years or
less, their common feature is the desire to generate inter-firm dynamics, exchanges, and synergies rapidly. A
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
synergy is considered to be created when an inter-firm exchange enables a (material or immaterial) resource to be
substituted or pooled to reduce the environmental impact
Three methodological devices were chosen for different reasons. First, INEX Circular and ACTIF were the only
two IT tools that were easily accessible to practitioners and therefore widely used in France. ACTIF is the official
tool of the national Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI) network, which is very often in charge of the
monitoring of ITE initiatives in France. It could be widely used in the future. INEX is a more recent occurrence
and was developed by a private French consulting firm. It is particularly interesting because it claims to solve the
problem of coordination and the linking of actors over the long term, which is one of the main difficulties faced
by ITE initiatives. It presents itself as a trusted third party. Finally, the NISP was chosen by ADEME and the
Institute of the Circular Economy (Institut de l’Économie Circulaire) to be tested in four French regions. It too
promised to create strong links between actors thanks to the originality of its workshops and its relative efficiency
in collecting data.
Figure 1: Localization of the firms using the NISP device in Nord Isère
The methodological device inspired by the National Industrial Symbiosis Program (NISP) (Mirata, 2004), in
the Nord Isère territory, was developed by the English consultancy International Synergie. The experimentation
is coordinated by the Institute of the Circular Economy and co-funded by the candidate regions and ADEME. In
the AURA region (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), the experimentation is led by the CCI of Nord Isère and Grenoble.
This methodological device relies on inter-firm workshops, in which firms formulate their needs (resources they
are looking for or waste products they want to discard) on cards that circulate from table to table. All the actors
have the opportunity to present themselves and thus identify potential synergies. All resources are capitalized in
Examples of synergies noted in our surveys may have concerned the pooling of IT equipment or the recovery of
wooden drums, white and printed paper, cardboard and plastic film, or IT equipment.
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
an IT tool named SYNERGie, which allows inter-firm connections to be deduced. This tool is used by the
facilitator and offers the particularity of analyzing the environmental impact of synergies and monitoring them
over time. The device has brought together 39 firms from the Nord Isère territory and neighboring areas. The
Nord Isère territory, which comprises two sub-prefectures (Vienne and La Tour du Pin), covers 2,708 km² and
includes 232 municipalities grouped into 17 inter-municipalities (Communautés de Communes)
: its economy is
dominated by the tertiary sector (transport-warehousing, health), but the manufacturing industry is also well-
established, despite a decline in the number of employees over the last decade.
Figure 2: Localization of the firms using the INEX device in Drôme-Ardèche
methodological device in the Drôme-Ardèche territory (or Communauté de Communes Porte de
DrômArdèche) is based on an IT tool named INEX Circular. The device enables the pre-identification of potential
synergies from open data and provides a collaborative platform to facilitate inter-firm exchanges and
communication. This initiative is part of a global project developing ITE activities in the Rhône-Alpes sub-region.
It aims to support companies in their search for the optimization of energy and waste treatment costs in order to
increase their competitiveness and improve territorial development. It is based on the organization of workshops,
in which firms are grouped together around themes that have been pre-identified as priorities. They highlight their
needs and are offered the opportunity to continue the discussions on a collaborative platform. The project
supported by the local government has brought together 32 firms from a variety of sectors. The territory covers
an area of 1,479 km2 and partly five French Départements (Isère, Drôme, Rhône, Loire, and Ardèche)
. The
Geographical data from the official website of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Nord Isère (2016).
For Ingénierie Technique et Environnementale (Technical and Environmental Engineering).
Schéma de Cohérence Territoriale des Rives du Rhône (2012). An urbanism document about regional
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
economic activity is mainly focusing on the tertiary sector, but the industrial sector is very present, especially the
chemical industry.
Figure 3: Localization of the firms using the ACTIF tool in Quimper Cornouaille
The methodological device developed by the Quimper Cornouaille Chambers of Commerce and Industry
(CCI QC) uses the ACTIF tool, dedicated to the search for synergies, based on flow data (the inputs and outputs
of firms). The Quimper Cornouaille CCI are pioneers in the deployment of ITE in the Brittany region, in particular
with regard to issues related to the circular economy. The data collection method is inspired by the approach
developed by the NISP. It is based on business-to-business workshops, in which firms exchange their needs (in
terms of resources and waste products) based on an auction system to reduce data collection time while enabling
direct contact. This device was tested in an ITE initiative launched in June 2016, which brought together 18 firms
from various activity sectors, half of which came from the maritime and fishing industries. The firms were all
located within the local government, in south-western Brittany in the Finistère Département, covering an area of
2,484 km2.
A significant share of its economic activity is made up of services and trade, but the part occupied by
the food-processing industry remains essential.
The characteristics of the three case studies are summarized in Table 1.
Panorama économique de Cornouaille, Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Quimper Cornouaille (2015).
Official report on local economic activities.
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
Table 1: Summary of the three case studies
Despite their similarities, these three methodological devices have very distinct features. The NISP device needs
considerable human and financial resources compared to the other two devices, and has a sophisticated monitoring
system to follow the implementation of the synergies. The INEX methodology is the only one with a pre-
identification system to identify synergies before the workshop, and it is also the only one that provides a
collaborative platform to facilitate inter-firm exchanges. Finally, ACTIF is a more basic tool compared to the
others and differs in terms of its auction device.
III.2. Social network analysis
Network analysis premises go back to Simmel's (1917) work, which laid the foundations for the science of the
structures of social relations. Research in sociometry and, more broadly, in social psychology (Moreno, 1934),
anthropology (Levi-Strauss, 1969), and applied mathematics (graph theory and linear algebra) (Harary et al.,
1965; White et al., 1976) also contributed to the evolution of the concept. A network is defined as a set of nodes
(individuals or organizations) linked by one or more types of relations (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). Its analysis
focuses on a description of the interdependencies between actors (the presence or absence of links) and allows a
simplified representation. A social network exists if it is possible to define a set of actors (organizations or
individuals) and particular types of observable, existing, and non-existent relations between these actors (Lazega
& Snijders, 2015).
Since we are interested in the set of inter-firm interactions that are present or absent in ITE approaches, we have
chosen to build a network describing the organization of relations between local actirs. It allows the identification
of the overall structure of the studied group and sub-groups and their interconnections and the positions of central
and intermediate actors. The network structure characteristics are measured by indicators that allow the
connections to be described based on matrices recording the relations between actors. The most global indicator
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is density (i.e., the ratio between the number of existing links and the number of links that could exist): a high
density reveals strong group cohesion, a particular social control, and a sense of belonging. The minimum distance
between two actors makes it possible to reveal the 'openness' or 'disconnection' of a network: if two actors cannot
join (even through a large number of intermediaries), the network will be described as 'disconnected,' whereas if
it is open, it is possible to determine how far each actor is from any other. The absence of links, or structural holes,
allows to identify non-redundant contacts (with the same relational structure).
Different indicators can be used to identify cohesive groups, such as a 'clique,' a subset of actors within a network
where each one is linked to all the others, or the 'n-click' (or 'quasi-click'), where each one is linked to all the
others by one path of length 'n' or less (Borgatti, 2002). Structural equivalence classes are subsets of actors who
have the same set of links and the same relational profile but are not related to each other (Lorrain & White, 1971).
Identifying bridges (or rare links) between cliques is another interesting indicator in the characterization of the
structure of a network. Indeed, without bridges between cliques, the network becomes disconnected, so locally
connected networks (with a density close to one) can be disconnected on the global scale.
Centrality indices make it possible to qualify the positions and the importance of the actors in the network
structure. The centrality degree is measured by the number of links corresponding to an actor: the more central it
is, the more 'active' it is and the more it can 'capture' what is happening in the network (Freeman, 1979). Closeness
centrality is the number of individuals an actor has to pass through to contact the other actors in the system: the
more central the actor is, the more easily it interacts with the other members of the network (Beauchamp, 1965).
The centrality of intermediarity (betweenness) is measured by the number of times a node is on the geodesic paths
of all the other pairs of nodes (Newman, 2003). Intermediarity is a link, a bridge, and makes it possible to identify
'relay individuals' (Brandes, 2001). Finally, eigenvector centrality is defined by the nodes to which an actor is
directly connected and considers both the node's position and the structure of the entire network (Bonacich, 1972).
III.3. Data collection and analysis
Our objective was to reconstitute the networks of actors and their evolution by noting the inter-firm relations. To
collect the information related to the exchanges and necessary for the analysis of social networks, we carried out
a series of 67 executive interviews
consisting of sociometric questions with a choice of predefined answers,
conducted with the firms and structures playing a significant role in the process (facilitator, funder, coordinator)
and carried out between 10 and 15 months after the inter-firm workshops. We questioned each firm about its
relations with all the other participating firms; when the choice of response required additional information, we
asked the interviewee to expand on his or her remarks. This questionnaire was followed by three open-ended
questions regarding the company's motivation to participate in the process, its satisfaction with regard to the
Initially, we had planned to carry out two periods of interviews per case study, a first occurring three to four
months after the workshop and a second twelve months after it. However, we were not allowed to speak with the
firms in the first few months. Therefore, we made the choice to favor the second interview period by slightly
readjusting the questions to bring out the diachronic aspect of the relationships.
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expectations it had, and its overall opinion (including successes, shortcomings, and possible improvements). We
also carried out seven semi-directive interviews to refine the answers and gather additional information.
For each case, we were able to interview almost two-thirds of the firms that participated in the ITE workshop (22
out of 39 for Nord Isère, 19 out of 32 for Porte de Drôme-Ardèche, and 14 out of 20 for Cornouaille). The
questionnaires enabled us to reconstitute the network of relations before and after their participation. The term
'relation' here implies a bilateral communication exchange (whether it is verbal, electronic, direct, indirect, formal,
or informal) that can take place across several frameworks (professional, commercial, friendly, leisure, personal,
etc.), which involves giving one thing and getting another in return. If one person communicates with another
without getting anything in return, we do not consider this to be a relation. Concerning the relations between the
firms with which we were unable to talk, we have reconstructed the type of relations based on the network
facilitator's knowledge. When no information was available, we arbitrarily considered that there was no relation
between the firms concerned. Thus, the network was not constructed completely (Wasserman & Faust, 1994), and
we assume a part of the network is missing.
A diachronic analysis of the network was carried out for each case study. The population studied corresponds to
the firms that participated in the workshops, from which additional qualitative information was requested. The
questions, inspired by Torre et al. (2019) and Ashton and Bain (2012), consist of evaluating the relations
maintained with the other firms in the network. Answers were coded according to the following criteria:
• Existence of a relationship between companies, coded as 0 (no) or 1 (yes)
• Origin of the relationship to determine if it is related to the ITE workshop, coded as 0 (before the process) or 1
(through the workshop)
Was there a previous knowledge, coded as 0 (no) or 1 (yes)
• Frequentation of networks, clubs, and associations outside the ITE process, coded as 0 (no) or 1 (yes)
• Existence of a collaboration outside the ITE workshop, coded as 0 (no) or 1 (yes)
• Evolution of the intensity of the relationship since the ITE workshop, (0 = no evolution; 1 = yes, but only in the
following 3-6 months; 2 = yes, we continue to maintain the relationship)
• Perception of the geographical distance that separates the actors, coded from 0 to 2 (0 = near; 1 = far; 2 = neither)
• Establishment of synergy, coded from 0 to 2 (0 = no; 1 = yes, under discussion; 2 = yes, completed)
From this questionnaire, we elaborated a picture of the networks, before, during and after the workshops. The data
collected were grouped together in matrices, with one matrix per question type. As we were unable to interview
all the firms, these matrices were not complete. We assumed that the firms that were not interviewed were not
connected with any other firms in the network (except if one of the interviewed firms affirmed having a
relationship with them). In fact, in our three case studies, according to the interviews with facilitators, most of the
firms that could not be interviewed were not very connected before the workshops and did not maintain any
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contact after the workshops. However, this strategy, which follows the recommendation about the missing
relational data from the reconstruction of the history of interactions (Grossetti et al., 2011), can be considered to
be a limitation of our study.
To exploit the results, we used the social network analysis software, Ucinet and Netdraw. The Ucinet software
made it possible to measure the global structure of the network (density, number of relations) and the actors'
centrality according to their position in the network and thus to apprehend their 'importance' in the network. The
Netdraw software contributed to the visualization of the general structure of the network; in other words, it made
it possible to visualize some of the results obtained with Ucinet. The diachronic comparison between the indicators
of density, centrality, and subsets (n-clicques) corresponding to the periods before and after the approach enabled
us to identify the evolution of the network's structure, the subsets, and the most central actors.
IV. Results
For each case, we will now analyze the structure of the inter-firm relations network (its density, the number of
relations, and the presence of sub-groups), the actors' positions (the centralities), and the type of relations
maintained within it. We identify a business-to-business connection when at least one communicative exchange
(a verbal, electronic, direct, indirect, formal, or informal one) has been made between two representatives about
topics related to ITE. The nature of this exchange is above all professional (commercial, business network, etc.).
Still, representatives may also maintain exchanges of a personal nature (friendly, leisure, family, etc.), which are
also reported later on.
IV.1. The NISP device in Nord Isère: difficulty in maintaining the relationships created during the workshop
The software for managing inter-firm synergies in Nord Isère makes it possible to capitalize on all the flows of
the various actors and to find connections between them, and then to assess the environmental impact of a synergy
and to monitor it over time; in other words, it enables its state of progress to be assessed. Following the workshop,
the facilitator is expected to get back in touch with each of the firms within three months. To assess the
effectiveness of the NISP methodological device and to judge its capacity to build relations and support the
economic actors of the local approaches in terms of ITE, we have analyzed, for three periods (before, during, and
after the workshop), the inter-firm network formed by the participants in the initiative.
Before the workshop: connections but a sparse inter-firm network
Before the workshop, the network brought together 39 firms from various backgrounds and only included 125
relations related to collaborations, attendance at other professional networks, or personal ties. It thus presented a
low density (ratio between the number of ties observed and the number of possible relations), in the order of 0.145.
The facilitator of the approach, an adviser to the CCI of Nord Isère (actor 29), already held a central position,
which enabled him to control some of the network's interactions. The sociogram (Figure 1), which graphically
represents these relations, places the actors with the greatest number of relations in the center and those with the
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
fewest relations on the periphery. On average, the companies knew eight organizations participating in the
workshop and already had a relationship with six of them. Some of them, located on the periphery of the sociogram
and mostly geographically distant (nodes 38 and 39), had no relations at all. In contrast, those that were the closest
to the center had up to 14 relations (node 26).
We identified cohesive (strongly connected) sub-groups and the possible bridges (links) that connect them by
measuring the number of n-cliques in the network to identify the most densely connected groups. The results
revealed 27 n-cliques, with n = 2, which shows that the network was not very cohesive. The weakness of these
relations is also reflected in actors with a higher degree of intermediation than others, particularly those positioned
in several n-cliques simultaneously, such as the facilitator of the approach and a dozen firms that were slightly
more centralized than the others.
The network created at the business-to-business workshop
During the workshop, 96 new relations related to ITE were built, 11 of which involved the approach's facilitator.
The network grew denser (from 0.145 to 0.256), with the number of relations almost doubling to 221 (Figure 4).
The 96 new relations have led to a slight loss of centrality on the facilitator's part. They have allowed a reduction
in the average number of links that a company must mobilize to reach the other members of the network, which
is positive for the creation of synergies. This can be explained by the close geographical proximity created by the
workshop, which allowed many face-to-face exchanges. The number of n-cliques, with n = 2, identified in the
post-workshop network has decreased significantly compared to the initial situation, from 27 in the pre-workshop
network to 4 in the post-workshop network. This result reveals that the network has become denser and more
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
Figure 4: The inter-firm network during the NISP workshop
The disintegration of the network one year after the workshop
However, it turns out that these new relations have not been activated for the most part. One year after the
workshop, only 31 relations (existing and new ones) out of 221 were activated during the year. By 'activated' we
mean that, during this period, there was at least one bilateral exchange about the workshop (by email, by telephone,
or face-to-face) between two actors during the post-workshop phase. The facilitator's late accompaniment explains
this relatively low figure in the post-workshop phase, which led to a weakening of the dynamics due to the lack
of contact and the weak maintenance of existing links. Regarding the structural analysis of the network and the
actors' positions, there is no difference between the workshop's network and the one in place one year later. The
number of relations, the network's density, and the actors' centrality remain the same (Figure 5).
In short, the NISP methodological device’s effectiveness in establishing relations and supporting businesses is
somewhat mixed. The inter-firm workshop proved that it is a suitable means to generate a significant quantity of
new inter-firm relations related to ITE resources and to maintain the existing ones. However, in the Nord Isère
territory, once the workshop was over, the coaching could not occur as initially planned, and very few relations
were activated. This directly impacted the implementation of synergies: among potential synergies identified
during the workshop, only 45 were still identified one year later during our interviews, and very few of them were
discussed during the post-workshop period. In the end, four synergies were achieved over the studied period,
which brings us back to the initial objectives of the project and may seem very low. We must also consider the
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real likelihood of establishing so many relationships based on such a sensitive and not very obvious subject and
of making them operational: there is no doubt that many firms would be interested in taking such steps and that
they feel real potential, but at the same time that they do not really know how to achieve these expectations.
Figure 5: The inter-firm network before, during, and after the NISP workshop
IV.2. The INEX device in Drôme-Ardèche: the emergence of a network of good practices around ITE
The project implemented in Drôme-Ardèche is an experimentation that consists of supporting firms in their search
for the optimization of costs related to energy and waste treatment to increase their competitiveness. The INEX
design office was chosen to lead the approach and deploy its methodological device, which is supposed to facilitate
inter-firm synergies related to ITE resources and experiments.
Before the workshop: a very poorly connected network
The process brought together 32 firms. Before the workshop, the inter-firm network was very sparse (0.065), with
only 49 relations. It comprised 27 n-cliques, with n = 2, which is representative of the lack of connections. The
project leader did not occupy a central place in the network. Still, the number of relations maintained per firm,
measured according to their centrality degree, informs us that three firms (nodes 3, 9, and 14) were slightly more
interconnected than the others and, therefore, could play a potential role as intermediaries. It is worth noting the
considerable number of firms (13 in total) that are located on the sociogram’s periphery and that have only one
relation or even none at all.
A workshop leading to a densification of the network
During the workshop, logically, the network became denser, with the number of relations almost tripling to 131,
resulting in a density of 0.186. Eighty-two new relations related to ITE were built during the event, so that firms
were almost three times more connected than before, even though the overall density of the network remained
relatively low (Figure 6). The number of n-cliques increased to 2, with n = 2, indicating a very high possibility of
direct contact. The five firms that developed the most relations were initially positioned in the center of the
sociogram (nodes 1, 5, 14, 15, and 18). Belonging to various activity sectors (agri-food, ceramics, wholesale trade,
New relations
Relations maintained
One year later
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
construction work), they do not have any marked similarities. Still, they are all located within the territory of the
local government in charge of the project.
The workshop facilitated direct contact between firms by proposing a new reference framework focusing on the
circular economy. The facilitator positioned itself as the central actor of the network: with 28 new relations, its
intermediarity (betweenness) has greatly developed, allowing him to have control over the interactions or
exchanges between other actors and thus to perform his role as a trusted third party for many firms. The main type
of relation developed during the workshop corresponds to economic cooperation based on synergies.
Figure 6: The inter-firm network during the INEX workshop
A structure activated one year after the workshop
Firm support was only carried out with a restricted core of firms, which continued their environment-related
exchanges. One year after the workshop, the network structure had not evolved, just like the position of the actors,
since the total number of relations, the density, and the centrality of the actors remained identical to those
previously noted. Of the 131 relations, 29 were maintained, half of which involved the facilitator of the approach
(Figure 7). The sociogram shows that the centrality of the actors did not directly influence the maintenance of
relations since the activated relations involved central firms (link 18-3), central and peripheral firms (link 22-3),
and firms on the periphery among themselves (link 21-36). The structure of the network, as well as the results in
terms of centrality, reveals that the position of the actors did not directly influence the emergence of potential
synergies since the synergies discussed can be found both on the periphery (nodes 21 and 36) and in the center of
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
the sociogram (nodes 18 and 3). In the end, the new relations were more activated than the pre-existing ones,
which is encouraging in terms of the emergence of sustainable and virtuous local relations.
Figure 7: The inter-firm network before, during, and after the INEX workshop
Thus, the INEX device has shown its effectiveness in creating new relations between the firms of the territory
thanks to the organization of an inter-firm workshop. The maintenance of these relations remains mixed, but it is
difficult to formally assess whether this is related to the methodological device, to the difficulty in terms of really
building common resources linked to energy and waste treatment, or to the context in which the approach took
place, since the support could not be carried out as initially planned. Of the 22 synergies that emerged during the
workshop, 18 were discussed during the post-workshop period, 4 of which were concluded during the period
studied. The synergies discussed and achieved emerged in greater numbers as a result of the new relations and are
generally located in a geographical area considered by the firms as being 'close' (e.g., between 10 km and 25 km
IV.3. The CCI Quimper Cornouaille device: an approach that is ill-suited to promoting sustainable
The project implemented by the CCI QC was based on an innovative methodological device allowing the
concretization of synergies and the formalization of the provision of ITE services to local governments.
Before the workshop: an already very dense network
Twenty firms, mainly from Concarneau, took part in the process, nearly two-thirds of which came from the fishing
and boating sector. Before the approach, the network (the firms, the facilitator, and the carrier) of 108 relations
was already very dense (0.468), which means that half of the possible interactions already existed. There were
only 2 n-cliques, with n = 2, which also reveals the actors' strong cohesion. Three actors (including the project
leader) were somewhat more central than the others (the local government [node 10], the CCI QC [node 22], and
firm 17 [node 17]) but appeared to be somewhat homogeneous in terms of centralities. The relations' content was
based on numerous collaborations, the use of parallel networks, and some personal knowledge.
During the workshop: a slight densification
New relations
Relations maintained
One year later
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
During the workshop, the network was further expanded (to 0.580), with the emergence of 26 new relations
(Figure 8).
Figure 8: The inter-firm network during the CCI workshop
On average, the workshop enabled two new relations related to ITE to emerge per company. The facilitator, the
CCI QC, became the most intermediary actor, as shown by the eigenvector centrality analysis. The three structures
that were initially the most central observed a slight loss in terms of their importance, while the less central firms
upstream experienced the opposite trend. In the end, the homogeneity of the network in terms of centrality was
reinforced, and overall, the workshop facilitated the gathering of actors around ecological-related synergies.
One year after the workshop: few relations were activated
One year after the workshop, only 10 relations out of 134 were activated (2 from new relations and 8 from pre-
existing ones), half of which involved the facilitator (Figure 9). Compared to the other two approaches, the
proportion of relations activated after the workshop is very low: 7% compared to 14% for the NISP project and
20% for the INEXe project. The lack of follow-up from the facilitator in the post-workshop phase partly explains
this observation, which reveals that the firms do not get back in touch on their own once the synergy has been
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
identified and that support is probably necessary. Moreover, the low number of relations activated after the
workshop may mean that the methodological mechanism was insufficient in terms of facilitating the actors'
coordination or that the relations' historicity plays a minor role in the emergence of synergies. To make pre-
existing relations evolve, some collective, long-term learning that leads to a change in the mental frames of
reference seems necessary. The methodological device clearly did not meet this expectation because the ecological
framework appeared to be relatively undefined, especially since the obligation to build cooperation that could
prove useful at the level of local governments seemed distant for firms interested above all in processes with
operational aims.
Figure 9: The inter-firm network before, during, and after the CCI workshop
Finally, the CCI QC's methodological device does not seem to have been adapted to the types of relations
encountered in the process (many pre-existing collaborations, with firms frequenting many networks). Indeed, the
network's strong connectivity (i.e., many relations maintained, multiple collaborations) seems to increase
expectations. Besides, the participants were working together in networks of expertise or economic development,
looking for innovative environmental solutions (synergies) that they would not have been able to consider outside
the approach's framework. Favoring an economic focus, the ACTIF approach did not sufficiently distinguish itself
from other firms gatherings and ultimately led to a certain indifference.
V. Discussion
The schemes studied in our work proposed to bring together groups of local economic actors through workshops
during which firms were invited to exchange and make contacts with regard to sharing resources related to ITE.
The analysis showed that the results were generally positive during the workshop phase since many links between
firms were built. However, the way the workshops was conducted led to the creation of different inter-firm relation
categories depending on the cases studied and a variable, and often low, level of activation of these relations over
time. These results question the possibility of setting up inter-firm cooperation processes concerning ITE
procedures at the local level, and thus cast doubt on the creation of virtuous circuits of flows and products in favor
of sustainable territorial development. They also conduct us to think about the implementation of these processes,
as well as the actions or policies that support them.
New relations
Relations maintained
One year later
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
V.1. Globally successful connections, but with structures of relations that vary from one device to another
As the workshops' context suggests, it was mainly business-opportunity-type relations that were forged during the
meetings. Figure 10 provides a comparison of the three schemes in terms of business-to-business relations. We
can see that the NISP workshop, where many relations pre-existed, was the one that generated the greatest number
of new inter-firm ITE-based relations compared to the number of participants, ahead of the INEX and the CCI
QC workshops (despite having a very close networking methodology to that of the NISP). It is assumed that the
number of new relationships, in the latter case, is smaller due to, in particular, the large number of pre-existing
Figure 10: Comparison of methodological arrangements in terms of inter-firm relations
Firms were put in touch with one another in a targeted manner, according to the themes that were supposed to
present common issues or interests, to identify solutions through ITE. The way the workshop was conducted
seems to have impacted the content of the relations that were built as a result. The main objective of the workshops
was to generate new economic cooperation based on synergies. Our interviews show that most of the exchanges
indeed focused on the identification and discussion of synergies between firms. They led to the creation of
cooperative relations related to this theme, but the informal moments of the workshops (warm-up, breaks, closing)
also made it possible to build other types of relations (Table 2), namely commercial collaborations, networking
relations, and personal or courtesy relations. However, according to the INEX workshop method, which is more
directive than the other two, the participants are sometimes less focused on the objective of the workshop and
have time to develop new business or courtesy relations. Clearly, the general commitment shown here remains
relatively weak and limited to a few relations, except in the NISP case; it is not sufficient for establishing lasting
39 32 20
44 22
Nombre d'entreprises / Nombre de relations
Dispositifs méthodologi ques
Nombre d'entreprises à l'atelier
Nombre de relations interentreprises avant l'atelier Incluant l'animateur et le coordinateur
Nombre de relations interentreprises créées lors de l'atelier Incluant l'animateur et le coordinateur
Number of inter-firm relations before the workshop
Number of inter-firm relations created during the workshop
Number of firms at the workshop
Including facilitators and coordinators
Including facilitators and coordinators
Methodological device
Numbers of firms/number of relations
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
relationships and, even less so, for popularizing or seriously launching operations or procedures related to the
circular economy at the territorial level.
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
Table 2: Type of business-to-business relations built in the workshops
V.2. Support that is underestimated and challenging to implement
This relative weakness is linked to the underestimation of the question of coordination (by the facilitator) and its
role in the maintenance of local relations. In each situation, a variable number of relations was activated as a result
of the workshop (Table 3). In the case of the INEX approach, slightly more than one in five relations were
activated, half of which involved the facilitator of the approach. For the NISP approach, the proportion is slightly
lower, with the activation of 31 of the 221 relations. For the CCI QC approach, very few relations were activated,
only 10 out of 136 (i.e., less than one in ten). This observation highlights the lack of support for firms, which
seems to be the three devices' weakest point. The lack of frameworks offered by the methodological devices makes
the support process unclear and underdeveloped compared to the obstacles and difficulties met in terms of
communication and collaboration.
Table 3: Relations activated during the post-workshop phase
The sharing of a common vision for the rest of the workshop and a precise timetable emerged as the missing
elements in all the three study areas. Without this sharing, firms adopt a wait-and-see attitude or lose interest in
the process and quickly return to their routines. This problem is linked to a certain lack of framing. Coaching
proves difficult to translate into practice. Simple reminders by phone or email are limited in terms of maintaining
a dynamic in the absence of physical meetings. The sending of a newsletter and the implementation of a
collaborative platform are of interest to firms, but their consultation is not easy to estimate. The organization of
new meetings is often favored by the participants, provided they are planned before or during the workshop and
present the firms with deadlines and objectives. This element is seriously lacking in our three experiments.
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
Ultimately, the arrangements provided in their current form (i.e., based on remote contacts) reveal the difficulty
in terms of providing support once the workshop has ended and of maintaining momentum without face-to-face
interactions. As far as our case studies are concerned, the support was likely minimized while elaborating the
procedures, rather than during the inter-firm workshops. The latter are quantifiable (number of participants,
number of synergies identified) in terms of objectives and success indicators. In contrast, support is very random
and subjective, often based on trial and error. Thus, it was severely reduced to weak monitoring at a distance.
However, it seems that it is during this phase that an essential part of the cooperative process takes place and that
cooperative relations can be built.
V.3. The facilitator: an indispensable third party
The proportion of relations involving the facilitator of the inter-firm network approach is 20% for the NISP, 35%
for the INEX, and 28% for the CCI QC. These figures indicate the facilitator's role as an intermediary; the more
significant the proportion of relations involving this actor, the more the facilitator controls the network and
positions itself as a relay actor. Our results confirm those of Paquin and Howard-Grenville (2012), showing that
the facilitator can play an intermediary role and replace pre-existing social links by accelerating the development
of a feeling of trust between firms that did not know each other before in the process of the creation of ITE
relations. It also creates a link between firms from different sectors of activity, which makes the exchange of
information more complex as they do not systematically have the same references, language, modes of reasoning,
and capacity to absorb values and concepts of synergy. Therefore, a great deal of work is necessary to help them
reach a mutual understanding that makes it possible to find a compromise between cognitive overlap and the
diversity of knowledge (Nooteboom et al., 2005).
The intervention of the facilitator is therefore of decisive importance, whether it is during the phase of mobilizing
the firms, by putting them in contact with one other, or in their follow-up and support (Patala et al., 2020). But,
said importance is particularly crucial in terms of supporting firms, relaunching them, and helping them to
implement their projects. As a recognized territorial institution, the facilitator's legitimacy is useful in the
mobilization and networking phases, and his expertise is expected in terms of the follow-up. It clearly represents
an essential link in the process of sustainable territorial development because it makes it possible to connect
initiatives and local actors, and thus to initiate virtuous dynamics at the level of a territory. This issue has to be
seriously considered to ensure the success of local governance operations or territorialized public policies in favor
of the development of ITE.
VI. Conclusion
The objective of this article was to assess under what conditions it is possible to implement voluntary ITE or local
circular economy approaches, based on the fact that numerous works show that it is mainly a question of
implementation flows and, even more so, of organizational issues and collaboration between local actors. Based
on this observation, we focused our approach on the possibility of creating cooperation links at the territorial level
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
concerning the sharing of resources to promote the implementation of ITE approaches. Our work was based on
the study of three methodological devices set up in three French territories, whose implementation and evolution
in terms of the analysis of social networks was studied.
First, our results show that the methodological devices studied allow the creation of new relations between firms
during the workshops. However, each situation is different according to the field and the particular methods used.
Indeed, the relational and organizational context specific to each territory has to be considered. When there are
many relationships between firms before the workshops (and therefore potentially a certain amount of trust and
the sharing of common norms and values), it does not necessarily imply greater efficiency in the number of new
relations created and, even less so, in the number of synergies implemented after the workshops. This even tends
to complicate the whole process for several reasons: the actors know one other, and are more dissipated or will
tend to exchange information on different subjects, and therefore be less focused on the objective of the workshop,
which is to create industrial ecology synergies. It can also be assumed that if they know one other and are already
aware of ITE, any potential synergies, if they are of interest to firms, will already have been implemented before
the workshop.
Second, it turns out that while these mechanisms are effective at bringing actors together from their territories and
especially firms, they are not very suitable for maintaining effective cooperation over time. Many ITE actors
consider tools for identifying synergies, researchers, and practitioners alike as indispensable in ITE approaches
(Grant et al., 2010). However, it must be noted that in the case of the approaches studied, the results remain limited
in terms of the number of synergies implemented and, even more so, in terms of the creation of relations between
firms. Indeed, like in other cases (Polge & Torre, 2017), the support of an intermediary actor remains necessary
to make the firms cooperate by helping to create a climate of trust between them, but also by supporting their
cooperative relations and helping them to maintain them over time.
Third, we highlight the major role played by public actors in developing ITE. INEX, ACTIF, and the
experimentation of the NISP program were developed within the framework of research projects partially financed
by ADEME. ADEME is also promoting the constitution of a national network of practitioners called SYNAPSE,
whose objective is to provide feedback and allow the sharing of good ITE practices, and more than 150 initiatives
promoting ITE in the French territory are partly funded by a public actor. Public actors are involved in ITE
initiatives all over the world, taking on different roles, such as operator, organizer, financer, supporter,
policymaker, or regulator (Bourdin & Nadou, 2020; Uusikartano et al., 2021), in order to make ITE a real strategy
for the sustainable development of territories.
These results have important implications in terms of public policies and local public action in a period when the
introduction of circular economy approaches seems to have become one of the new mantras of territorial
development policies (Bourdin & Torre, 2020). This is true at the European level and particularly in the French
case, where ADEME is supporting them with a series of methodological tools that aim to facilitate interactions
between voluntary enterprises. Our work shows that the implementation of these tools is not easy and that their
To be published in The Annals of Regional Science, 2022
success remains uncertain. Furthermore, it indicates that the provision of methodological devices promoting
contacts and exchanges or the setting up of collaborative workshops is not sufficient. It is, above all, having people
dedicated to this collaborative task that is essential because they can carry out follow-ups that ensure the
maintenance and sustainability of the relationships built. The cost of such interventions is quite different since it
is not only a question of acquiring a turnkey method but also of financing the persons responsible for the
intermediation functions at the local level. Of course, this choice implies a much heavier financial commitment
and follow-up over time at the local level.
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... Or, elle s'avère absente des diverses définitions de l'économie circulaire et reste essentiellement sous-jacente (Niang et al., 2020: Bourdin et Maillefert, 2021. Pourtant, dans la pratique, cette dernière s'appuie bien souvent sur les avantages relatifs à la proximité géographique de différentes activités et acteurs pour permettre la réutilisation de déchets et échanger des flux de matières par des coopérations inter-entreprises (Jambou et al., 2021). Et cette proximité géographique est d'autant plus importante qu'elle limite l'impact environnemental. ...
... On observe également que la localisation des établissements circulaires a quasiment évolué dans la même proportion que celle des emplois, confirmant les disparités entre les moitiés sud et nord du pays dans la croissance des activités circulaires (figure 3). Ceci semble induire une proximité géographique d'activités économiques ; cette proximité étant favorable à l'apparition de bassins de main-d'oeuvre locale ancrée autour des questions d'économie circulaire (Doré, 2021), notamment via la mise en oeuvre de synergies interentreprises (Jambou et al., 2021 Cependant, tous les secteurs de l'économie circulaire ne présentent pas le même niveau de concentration spatiale, en particulier en ce qui concerne les activités de recyclage et valorisation des déchets. Ceci peut s'expliquer par le fait que chaque communauté de communes (ou équivalent) dispose de la compétence liée au traitement des déchets, ce qui induit plutôt une dispersion spatiale, et que cette activité se développe également en zones rurales par la mise en place des activités de méthanisation (Niang et al., 2021). ...
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Le modèle d'économie circulaire, envisagé comme une solution adaptée aux défis globaux des changements climatiques, est aujourd'hui souvent proposé pour la conception et la fabrication de produits à forte valeur ajoutée, générateurs de nouvelles activités économiques pourvoyeuses d'emplois et de valeur dans les territoires. Cet article contribue à analyser l'évolution et le degré de concentration spatiale des activités d'économie circulaire à l'échelle des zones d'emploi de la France métropolitaine sur la période 2008-2015. Nos résultats mettent en évidence une croissance de l'emploi circulaire supérieure à celle de l'emploi total. Par ailleurs, nous montrons à la fois que les activités circulaires sont davantage métropolitaines et qu'il existe, en France, une diagonale du vide de la localisation des activités d'économie circulaire. On observe également un effet régional marqué de la répartition spatiale des activités circulaires, suggérant une territorialisation des politiques publiques d'économie circulaire. Mots-clés : Économie circulaire, zones d'emploi, établissement, croissance de l'emploi, concentration spatiale.
... The analyses of Jambou et al. (2022) focus on industrial and territorial ecology. In particular, the authors evaluate the possibility of creating virtuous inter-firm cooperation in terms of synergies. ...
The Circular Economy and Sustainability are among the greatest challenges faced by policymakers, producers, and consumers. Circular Economy processes demand less from the environment since they can minimize waste generation and, hence, can be powerful tools to combat the negative effects of climate change. Additionally, following subsidiarity principles, public policies supporting the Circular Economy should be designed at the lowest levels of public administrations—this provides huge opportunities for regional governments to design, implement and monitor these policies. This editorial of the special issue explores and discusses implications for those policies before introducing the five papers published in the special issue dedicated to policies for regional economy and sustainability. While some of the papers attempt to conceptualize sustainable development through a microeconomic perspective, others have a clear macroeconomic empirical focus. In consequence, this special issue provides a rich body of work for further Circularity and Sustainability nexus studies.
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Circular economy aims to break with linearity through a new organization of industrial society and its flows, based on circularity. In this approach the environmental question becomes an opportunity for economic development rather than a constraint. This notion tends to replace the concept of sustainable development but has a similar objective. This study finds that the territory can be considered as a relevant scale to consider the circularity of the economy, due to the geographical proximity of the actors involved, the local environmental problems to be solved, and the economic and social benefits to be expected. However, some strategies will contribute to the sustainable development of the territories, while others, such as recycling, can cause, locally, interesting environmental, economic or social benefits, while creating negative rebounds in other jurisdictions.This study sketches a convergence between CE approaches and territorial analyses: while CE gradually takes on the spatial, then territorial question, parallel territorial analyses are increasingly interested in circular dimensions. This raises the question of the potential for territorial innovation to shift towards strong sustainability.
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The roles of public actors in promoting the industrial circular economy is uncharted, despite sustainable actions often resulting from collaboration between these actors and private actors. This study therefore illuminated (1) what roles public actors take on in the operation of an eco-industrial park (EIP) and (2) how these roles occur within the actor structure of an EIP? Correspondingly, the research conducted two qualitative case studies on EIPs where public entities are essential actors and analyzed these public spaces via the qualitative content analysis of primary and secondary data. Study 1 extensively analyzed 20 EIP cases around the world. The analysis uncovered six roles played by public actors in EIPs: operator, organizer, financer, supporter, policymaker, and regulator. Study 2 involved a longitudinal exploration of four national EIP cases, an examination of identified roles, and an ecosystem visualization mapping of what positions public actors can assume in an EIP. The research contributes to the literature primarily through the identification of roles, which show how public actor involvement in EIPs can be multifaceted and crucial in successfully operating an EIP. The research also offers new insights and a model of public actor roles in EIPs, serving as a tool for these actors to self-reflect and understand the functions that they can serve in aiming for sustainable EIP operations.
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This contribution essentially aims to highlight the contribution of the circular economy in territorial development and the new industrial strategy for Europe. We highlight the main challenges of the circular economy and present the main obstacles to its deployment today. Finally, we propose the establishment of a European industrial and territorial ecology.
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Industrial symbiosis (IS) is a key paradigm for achieving circular economy among industrial firms. Achieving new IS projects often requires outside facilitation, and intermediaries can help solidify and expand existing IS networks. While various intermediary roles have been identified in the literature, less attention has been paid to the potential challenges that intermediaries might encounter in their activities. Based on the case of the national symbiosis network FISS, the Finnish Industrial Symbiosis system, this study investigates the dilemmas faced when organizing IS networks. It identifies openness and value demonstration dilemmas, which hinder intermediary-firm relations. It also identifies collaborative intermediation processes among intermediaries in seeking to uncover value, ensuring community embedding of new networks and selective integration of intermediation activities. These processes can help overcome the intermediation dilemmas. The results on the collaborative intermediation and its development over time contribute to research on facilitated IS and on intermediaries in sustainability transitions. For policy-makers, the study pinpoints the need for collaborative intermediation where both national and regional intermediaries are involved to ensure both economies of scale and flexibility.
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Industrial regions, specialized in heavy industry, currently face many challenges, due to their strong specialization (job losses, closure of plants, etc.) and are looking for new paths of diversification. Industrial ecology can be an engine of this diversification: the industrial symbiosis generated by its implementation is a source of positive externalities stemming from the articulation of geographical, organizational, and cognitive proximities. These externalities strengthen territorial attractiveness and favor the development of a related variety. Using a mixed methodology including the constitution and analysis of database and interviews, we study the case of Dunkirk, pioneer city in France for the implementation of industrial ecology. The empirical results show that the new companies are linked to local ones through eco-industrial synergies. These synergies can be, through the flows of information and knowledge, a source of the emergence of new markets and innovative technologies and thus induce territorial development.
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In a context where anaerobic digestion is a controversial subject, it is not surprising to see that between 20% and 30% of anaerobic digestion projects are abandoned, mainly for reasons of local opposition, problems of coordination between stakeholders and the implementation of real territorial governance capable of facing the challenges encountered during the setting up of the project. We can consequently question the role that local territorial authorities could play to encourage the development of biogas in France. We used semi-structured interviews conducted with anaerobic digestion stakeholders to identify the main functions of territorial intermediation (and their specific elements) that local authorities could have to encourage the deployment and success of these projects. Local authorities play the role of intermediation by (i) ensuring spatial and cognitive proximities between actors, (ii) mobilizing territorial resources and favoring local anchorage (iii) installing trust among the local stakeholders and (iv) having a role of instigator by participating in the supply (inputs) of biogas plants and the purchase of the energy produced (outputs).
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Industrial Symbiosis (IS) is a collective approach to competitive advantage in which separate industries create a cooperative network to exchange materials, energy, water and/or by-products. By addressing issues related to resource depletion, waste management and pollution, IS plays an important role in the transition towards sustainable development. In the literature, two conceptual perspectives on IS can be identified: the Industrial Ecology (IE) and the Circular Economy (CE) perspective. Despite the recognition of these two perspectives, their relationship remains unclear and explicit attempts to develop an integrated perspective have not been made yet. Consequently, the goal of this research is to highlight and start addressing this critical gap of knowledge in order to support future research and practice geared towards the design of new IS clusters. We pose the following research question: How can the IE and CE perspectives on IS be combined in order to support the design of IS clusters? To this end, we first investigate the two perspectives more in depth and compare them in terms of nature, features and relevance for the study of IS. This is done by applying them as conceptual lenses for the analysis of the same case study, an existing IS cluster. The comparative analysis provides insights into how the two perspectives differ, ultimately demonstrating that they are complimentary and both necessary to fully describe an IS cluster. While the CE perspective is more suitable to explain how a cluster functions from a business standpoint in the operating phase, the IE perspective is more suitable to explain its development over time and its impacts on the environment, the economy and society. Building upon the outcomes of the comparative analysis, we leverage on the discipline of Strategic Design and integrate the two perspectives into a process for designing new IS clusters. We suggest two directions for future research. First, improving our comparative analysis of the two perspectives by looking at a wider sample of IS clusters of different sizes and in different contexts. Second, focusing with more specificity on the issue of how IS clusters can be designed, potentially by trying to apply the process we propose on a real case aimed at designing a new IS cluster.
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In this paper, we seek to identify the dynamics of change and innovation at work in the agricultural sector of the Brazilian Amazon region, which operate in a context of environmental and technical pressure. We search for understanding how different innovative practices are implemented and how hybrid practices can develop through relationships between local actors who belong to different worlds. Our study focuses more specifically on dairy production in the Paragominas municipality, whose “green municipality” programme has led to an intensification of agricultural production and a significant reduction in deforestation, and where different forms of agriculture coexist. The dynamics of interaction are explored through an analysis of social networks, in which we examine, from empirical data, the structure of networks that facilitate interactions. Through an analysis of proximity relationships, we perform a detailed study of the spatial and non‐spatial determinants of these interactions. The paper first presents the study sites and analysis methods, then we provide a description of our results concerning innovation models, stakeholder networks and proximity relations.
L'innovation est actuellement reconnue comme un facteur de croissance pour les firmes. Mais de plus en plus, elle nécessite de recourir à la coopération car les firmes se spécialisent sur des compétences de base et ne disposent pas en interne de la totalité des connaissances nécessaires pour innover. Si l'organisation de la coopération a été déjà relativement étudiée, il n'en est pas de même pour les conflits qui se produisent inévitablement au cours du développement des projets. Dans ces conditions, est-il nécessaire que les firmes qui coopèrent n'innovent qu'avec d'autres organisations localisées à proximité de manière à pouvoir résoudre rapidement les conflits ? L'objectif de cet article est au contraire de montrer qu'il n'est pas nécessaire que les firmes soient co localisées pour innover, mais au contraire qu'elles peuvent utiliser une forme de proximité géographique temporaire. Ce schéma théorique est appliqué aux activités de biotechnologies.