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The Role of Innovation Catalysts in Business Model Re-Design for Circular Economy

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2022) | Viewed by 4793

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
Politecnico di Milano, School of Management, Via R. Lambruschini, 4/b, 20156, Milano (MI), Italy.
Interests: circular economy, innovation management, renewables, energy efficiency, smart ecosystems.

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Guest Editor
Tampere University, Industrial Engineering and Management, Hervanta Campus, Korkeakoulunkatu 10, 33720, Tampere, Finland
Interests: circular economy, technology business, innovation business, value creation, ecosystem approach

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Guest Editor
RMIT University, Graduate School of Business & Law, 379-405 Russell St, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
Interests: value-based strategies in B2B markets, sustainable value propositions, B2B services and solutions

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Guest Editor
School of Industrial Engineering, LIUC Università Cattaneo, 21053 Castellanza, Italy
Interests: circular economy, digital innovation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleague:

Circular Economy (CE) is gaining prominence from a strategic management perspective (Rosa et al., 2019). Accordingly, current research is calling scholars for investigating how existing firms re-design their business model while adhering to CE principles (Ranta et al., 2018). In particular, adopting a Circular Business Model (CBM) requires firms to rethink each of the three main dimensions of Business Model (BM) (Lewandowski, 2016): (i) value creation, that is, the set of resources and activities, as well as the relationships with the supply chain stakeholders (Urbinati et al., 2017, 2019), (ii) value delivery, that is, the ways through which firms promote and communicate their circular value propositions towards customers and other stakeholders (Ranta et al., 2019; Linder & Williander, 2017), and (iii) value capture, that is, innovative ways to generate economic and environmental benefits, such as pay-as-a-service mechanisms (Tukker, 2015), and new practices for managing the relationships with clients, such as take-back systems or product-service systems (PSSs) (Kjaer et al. 2019).

The transition towards CBMs therefore requires profound changes within the firm, but also in the broader business ecosystem (Frishammar & Parida, 2019), comprising business actors from suppliers to customers; universities and research centers developing new technologies and innovative solutions for circularity; and local and national governments fostering the social and regulatory environment supporting CE. These actors determine and shape the settings for creating and capturing value from circularity, and thereby they may contribute to companies’ business model re-design and change. We argue that such changes are triggered by specific CE innovation catalysts, that is, actors and/or their actions inside or outside firms (Tortoriello et al., 2014; Martin, 2011), which in practice drive the transitions towards CE.

However, current research is still lacking deeper insights into the roles of such innovation catalysts in CE. Therefore, more knowledge is needed to understand how different innovation catalysts enable, drive, and/or influence business model redesign in companies and the broader ecosystem.

The aim of this Special Issue is to welcome conceptual and empirical studies from scholars investigating the roles the actors of this broad ecosystem (within and outside the firm) play as innovation catalysts that have the potential to accelerate the adoption of CE along each of the dimensions of CBM.

In particular, this Special Issue is interested in including the following topics:

  • BM re-design for CE;
  • Innovation catalysts for CE;
  • The roles of supply chain stakeholders in CE;
  • Creation and capture of value in CE;
  • Challenges and barriers of CBMs;
  • Trends and opportunities of CBMs;
  • Business and innovation ecosystems in CE and their role in CBMs.


Frishammar, J., & Parida, V. (2019). Circular business model transformation: A roadmap for incumbent firms. California Management Review, 61(2), 5-29.

Kjaer, L.L., Pigosso, D.C., Niero, M., Bech, N.M., & McAloone, T.C. (2019). Product/Service‐Systems for a Circular Economy: The Route to Decoupling Economic Growth from Resource Consumption?. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 23(1), 22-35.

Lewandowski, M. (2016). Designing the business models for circular economy—Towards the conceptual framework. Sustainability, 8(1), 43.

Linder, M., & Williander, M. (2017). Circular business model innovation: inherent uncertainties. Business strategy and the environment, 26(2), 182-196.

Martin, R.L. (2011). The innovation catalysts. Harvard Business Review, 89(6), 82-87.

Ranta, V., Aarikka-Stenroos, L., & Mäkinen, S. J. (2018). Creating value in the circular economy: A structured multiple-case analysis of business models. Journal of cleaner production, 201, 988-1000.

Ranta, V., Keränen, J., & Aarikka-Stenroos, L. (2019). How B2B suppliers articulate customer value propositions in the circular economy: Four innovation-driven value creation logics. Industrial Marketing Management.

Rosa, P., Sassanelli, C., Urbinati, A., Chiaroni, D., & Terzi, S. (2019). Assessing relations between Circular Economy and Industry 4.0: a systematic literature review. International Journal of Production Research, 1-26.

Tortoriello, M., McEvily, B., & Krackhardt, D. (2014). Being a catalyst of innovation: The role of knowledge diversity and network closure. Organization Science, 26(2), 423-438.

Tukker, A. (2015). Product services for a resource-efficient and circular economy–a review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 97, 76-91.

Urbinati, A., Chiaroni, D., & Chiesa, V. (2017). Towards a new taxonomy of circular economy business models. Journal of Cleaner Production, 168, 487-498.

Urbinati, A., Chiaroni, D., & Toletti, G. (2019). Managing the Introduction of Circular Products: Evidence from the Beverage Industry. Sustainability, 11(13), 3650.

Prof. Dr. Davide Chiaroni
Prof. Dr. Leena Aarikka-Stenroos
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Joona Keränen
Dr. Andrea Urbinati
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • circular economy
  • innovation management
  • technology business
  • innovation business
  • value creation
  • ecosystem approach

Published Papers (1 paper)

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22 pages, 1945 KiB  
Influence of Inter-Firm Network Relationships on Circular Economy Eco-Innovation Adoption
by Shyaam Ramkumar
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7607; - 15 Sep 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3835
Research has shown that inter-firm networks and relationships play a key role in innovation adoption; however, these concepts have not specifically been applied to study their role in the adoption of circular economy eco-innovations. This paper considers whether the embedded relationships within inter-firm [...] Read more.
Research has shown that inter-firm networks and relationships play a key role in innovation adoption; however, these concepts have not specifically been applied to study their role in the adoption of circular economy eco-innovations. This paper considers whether the embedded relationships within inter-firm networks also influence circular economy eco-innovation adoption. Using a historical case study of the REALCAR closed-loop recycling initiative, by Jaguar Land Rover, from 2013 to 2017, the paper conducted qualitative interviews to reconstruct the structure and nature of the relationships between Jaguar Land Rover and its suppliers. This was complemented with a network regression analysis to determine the influence of these relationships on the adoption and implementation decisions of the closed-loop recycling process by the suppliers of Jaguar Land Rover. The results show that Jaguar Land Rover’s relationship as a key customer, facilitation of knowledge sharing among peer suppliers, and resistance from suppliers impacted by changing supply chain relationships played a role in the adoption decisions and adoption timeframe of the REALCAR closed-loop recycling innovation. This has implications for companies and supply chains to consider leveraging the inter-firm relationships embedded in their supply chain networks to accelerate the adoption of circular economy eco-innovations. Full article
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