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School of Business | Department of Information and Service Economy | MSc program in Information and Service Management | 2016
Thesis number: 14665
Mapping business ecosystem in biomaterials market
Author: Larimo, Ville
Title: Mapping business ecosystem in biomaterials market
Year: 2016  Language: eng
Department: Department of Information and Service Economy
Academic subject: MSc program in Information and Service Management
Index terms: metsäteollisuus; forest industry; ekosysteemit; ecosystems; innovaatiot; innovations
Pages: 65
Key terms: ecosystems; ekosysteemit; innovations; innovaatiot; industry; teollisuus; forest industry; metsäteollisuus; technology; teknologia; entrepreneurship; yrittäjyys
Forest industry has traditionally been one of the main drivers of the Finnish economy but its output has been mostly low-value, high-volume products, such as paper and board. The global decrease in paper demand, growing interest in renewable materials to replace fossil-based materials and the increased understanding of wood biomass chemistry have spurred totally new aspirations to utilize cellulose, the main component of plants and the most abundant organic polymer on Earth.

This research is written as part of the project Design Driven Value Chains in the World of Cellulose (DWoC), a strategic initiative aiming to make Finland the birthplace of branded, value-added cellulose products and new business concepts built on them. The project is conducted as collaboration of several institutions and funded on large part by The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes). One of the core goals of DWoC is the development, piloting and fostering of appropriate business models and emerging business ecosystem. However, most of the novel utilization areas of cellulose are still quite far from commercialization.

Research applies the theory of business ecosystem to examine the possibilities to take novel, value-added, design-driven application areas of cellulose to markets. Business ecosystem is a concept developed in 1990s to describe the interconnectedness of companies and the resulting dynamics. In the core of the concept is co-evolution, which occurs between companies in business ecosystem in a same way as between organisms in natural ecosystem. Business ecosystem has been used extensively to describe the dynamics of IT industry. This research brings the ecosystem discourse to forest-based industry.

Also many other ecosystem concepts have been developed in literature, such as innovation ecosystem, industrial ecosystem and entrepreneurship ecosystem. All these, along with the closely related concept cluster are discussed in the literature review part. Properties, structure and lifecycle of business ecosystem are discussed, as well as the managerial challenges of being a part of business ecosystem.

Research was conducted as an exploratory case study. Data collection methods used were in-depth, semi-structured interviews of five professional persons. All these persons had a long background of working with forest-based products and novel utilization areas of cellulose in different roles, either in industry or academic research.

Interviews provided rich insight on what would be the outlook of the prospective business ecosystem, in which new applications of cellulose are effectively transferred from research to markets. First, the business ecosystem is an emergent structure by nature and cannot be born with purposeful construction. Second, the prospective business ecosystem would consist mostly of already existing actors, reinforced with some totally new actors. Third, there are many obstacles for the emergence of the ecosystem, such as the risk-aversiveness of traditional forest corporations and lack of scalable business models. Fourth, diffusion of innovation-related information among actors should be couraged in order to enhance the technology transfer.
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