Congratulations, Marcus! You’ve been awarded the Renova environmental stipend – what will that mean for you and your continued research?
- Thanks, it feels really great! I’m going to write a book about circular business models, and focus on opportunities and challenges for Swedish manufacturing businesses in designing their products from the start so that they can be re-used and remanufactured for use in new products. Personally, this means new inspiration and joy over the recognition that my research is important.
Why do you think you, in particular, received the stipend?
- I think it’s due to my field of study. For the last few years I’ve studied how small businesses that believe they have, or could create, a smaller environmental impact than their competitors work strategically to convert this potential into increased profitability. In particular, I think that Renova likes my interest in remanufacturing, which is when parts of already used products are utilised in factory production. It’s a method that differs from reuse in that components are reused rather than entire products, and that the product is sold again as entirely new from the factory. Nor is it an issue of recycling in that the product material is not remade into new raw materials but is used in its original form a few times more.
Could you talk more about which research results you’ve reached so far?
- It’s hard to earn money on an environmental focus, at least for small businesses. Small Swedish companies that invest in environmental technology are clearly less profitable than businesses that don’t. The businesses that seem to do best are those whose offerings help their customers save money over the long term, and those whose offerings are used by their customers to work strategically over the long term on their own vulnerability to environmental issues.
Regarding remanufacture, the results are still in their infancy. The only result that’s really been worked out in detail so far deals with why there is often resistance to introducing circular business models for individual entrepreneurs, and this is because business models based on remanufacturing many times involve a higher risk than the “throw-away” model. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in circular business models as a concept, but I think the first step in finding profitable solutions is to identify where the problem lies.
So in addition to finishing your doctoral studies, the next step is writing a book. Can you go more into what it will be about?
- It’ll be about circular business models seen from a business strategy perspective. The plan is to write the book so it feels easily accessible and succinct. There are already many good articles, reports, and books written about remanufacturing and product-service systems, but a great number are either quite abstract or written in technical jargon with other researchers as a target audience. Since I think circular business models constitute a good business opportunity for many Swedish companies, I want to take a chance at disseminating these ideas to them. In a sense, it’s an opportunity for me to try to give something practical and valuable back to the society that funded my education.
Marcus Linder is a doctoral student at Innovationsteknik, a division in the Department of Technology Management and Economics at Chalmers. He also works at the Center for Business Innovation research centre. He plans to present his doctoral thesis in the autumn of 2013.
Text: Caroline Örmgård
Translation: Jeff Skinner/Space 360
Photo: Bettina Linder