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Exploiting Industrial Symbiosis: Cases and Lessons

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Photo: NISP

About International Synergies

International Synergies connects stakeholders to help establish partnership for symbiosis. Kalundborg Eco-industrial Park in Denmark is a well known example. Besides acting as the connection, International Synergies help to find partners for idea exchanges, ranging from academia, research institutions, to groups with new technology. Sometimes, government is also part of the collaboration as its policies will encourage developing the circular economy.

In 2015, International Synergies ran a national program for the whole of England and have been applying their methods in other countries. Recently, they have worked in both Canada and the Netherlands. Additionally, four projects are on their way in China, providing concepts of industry symbiosis and assist local companies implementing those.

Ian Humphreys is the Director of Operations for International Synergies, a circular economy consulting company in central England. He talked about the industrial symbiosis.

Requirements of Collaboration Projects

First stakeholders must be divided into proper groups for inter-industry collaboration. International Synergies mostly endeavors to establish partnerships between companies from differentiated industries. With their assistance, those firms have access to the resource, not only waste but also redundant labor which used to be inaccessible. International Synergies successful is because all their projects are profitable, by enhancing business efficiency and creating win-win outcomes.

For example, company A is looking for a method to cut down waste treatment costs while company B takes those wastes as necessary elements in production. Then, by collaboration, A’s cost is reduced and so is the production cost for B.

Industry Symbiosis

According to McKinsey & Company in 2011, demand for resource, price of resource and instability has increased since the rise of China and some emerging countries. We are now facing resource revolutions and have to take them seriously. In Europe, people are more familiar with the concept of industry symbiosis and it has been adopted for developing the circular economy.

The range covered by industry symbiosis includes resources, raw materials, energy, redundant production, spare office and storage, and empty trucks after delivery. Any industry and business is welcomed to take part in the program. International Synergies divides the process into 6 phases. To start with is to find the partner to work with and the more partners in the networks, the merrier. There are industrial areas in Taiwan thus it is actually easy to practice and the networks are already formed into clusters. The next step is to discuss face to face to know what kind of wastes each other have and who can take them over. For instance, it would be a win-win situation if company A can use waste of company B as materials, as the waste of B is well-utilized and can decrease its costs.

International Synergies holds matching conferences for companies. 50 companies are gathered and separated in 8 to 10 groups. They are asked to write down the introduction of their industry, the waste of the company and offices, and the materials they need. The papers will then be shown to everyone and they can then exchange their resources and wastes. Not every company is able to find their perfect match but the rate of success is quite high with 300 to 500 opportunities among 50-60 firms. However, because of the abundant information, they have to use an analyzing tool called Synergie to integrate the information and then do advanced analyses.

Not only are resources exchanged but they can be matched and the nearest location for business be understood. International Synergies uses this data to help the companies without partners seek new collaboration opportunities.


Companies like Toyota, Michelin are all satisfied with the assistance of International Synergies. Take Michelin as an example, only 3 to 5% of waste is buried and the remaining rubber can be reused for pet mats, water absorbing materials, roads and alternative energies. If the pattern is widely applied, it can deal with many key parts of market malfunction and create win-win situation. It is definitely practical for Taiwan.


*This is speech summary from the Link and Loop Conference which was edited and compiled by the Link and Loop team. It was written and reported with the best available knowledge from the talk. There may be information discrepancies. Please contact the speaker for clarifications.


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