Sotenäs industrial symbiosis

Sotenäs municipality lies 120 km north of Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast, in Bohuslän province and Västra Götaland County. Approximately 9,000 people live in this coastal municipality, which has strong cultural connections to the sea and includes well-known old fishing villages such as Smögen. Today, Sotenäs municipality emphasises circular business models and facilitates public and private actors to form symbiotic collaborations with positive economic, environmental and social impacts. Sotenäs municipality was a partner of the project “Industrial Symbiosis for Strong Communities” (IS-COM), at Johanneberg Science Park in Gothenburg. In December 2015, Sotenäs Centre for Symbiosis (Sotenäs Symbioscenter) was established to support co-operation between local businesses, academia, the public sector and society.

Facilitation by co-operation

Because of its small size, Sotenäs often collaborates with other municipalities and actors to remain competitive. For example, Sotenäs is the host municipality of an environmental board shared with Lysekil and Munkedal municipalities since 2013. Another example is Sotenäs’s collaboration within the regional project Tillväxt Norra Bohuslän (Growth North Bohuslän). By facilitating co-operation between municipalities and actors, several projects can focus on long-term healthy growth in the northern half of the province. One of the included projects is Industrial Symbiosis – local co-operation for sustainable business, which has been operated by the Sotenäs, Dals-Ed and Falköping municipalities for two years. It is partly financed by Västra Götaland County and aims at increasing co-operation between business, municipality and educational institutions, with a focus on resource efficiency and green projects that lower greenhouse gas emissions and create more jobs locally. Several projects within the regional framework involve the prominent sea as a vital natural resource, such as “Clean coastline” and “Keep the sea clean”.

Case study: Sotenäs Centre for Symbiosis

Sotenäs Centre for Symbiosis was officially opened in December 2015. According to Leif Andreasson, development strategist at Sotenäs municipality, the journey began in 2011 when then mayor Mats Abrahamsson stated that Sotenäs needed a type of focal point for local actors with the catchwords ‘environment’, ‘renewable energy’, ‘reuse and recycling’, and ‘skills development’. After a study visit to the world-famous industrial symbiosis in Kalundborg, Denmark (see Case 3), the idea of establishing a symbiosis centre was formed. Andreasson began looking at solutions together with business representatives in the area, and today the Centre for Symbiosis in Kungshamn houses Sotenäs municipality, a college, the governmental venture capital company Fouriertransform, and six more organisations. Studying the complex system image of the developing industrial symbiosis of Sotenäs, one finds that renewable energy, food production, and marine technology are key areas. For example, the Swedish Algae Factory (see Case 24) opened its first test bed for algae growth in connection with Smögen Salmon farm, and both companies together with Orkla Foods will be connected to a planned biogas plant. In turn, the biogas plant will produce electricity and heat for local fish-processing industries, and organic fertiliser for local farmers. Like an ecosystem, the Sotenäs symbiosis is growing slowly, organically and surely.

Important partners and policies

Sotenäs municipality has found an important partner in the Swedish state-owned venture capital company Fouriertransform. The municipality lacked substantial funds because it is a small municipality where half of the homes belong to seasonal residents; therefore, a long-term investor can be crucial for getting things rolling. However, the willpower of local clerks like Leif Andreasson, boldness of politicians with sustainable visions and the solidity of policy frameworks pointing out a clear, sustainable path ahead, are also crucial parts of the equation.

Regional dimension

Part of the reason for the establishment of the Centre for Symbiosis was to attract people to move to the area. After conducting a survey, the Sotenäs municipality were surprised to find that the majority of seasonal residents were young people and realised that they needed to adapt their plans to suit this social group. A majority of Swedish companies with marine connections have a presence in Sotenäs and the research and development within sea-based businesses is of high importance for the region’s future. Establishing well-functioning platforms for networking and a strong business culture of collaboration can bring great sustainability value to the continued economic stability and improved social and environmental aspects.

Sotenäs Centre for Symbiosis

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