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Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki and Leena Aarikka-Stenroos

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Leena Aarikka-Stenroos, Paavo Ritala and Llewellyn D. W. Thomas

In management literature, “ecosystems” are increasingly invoked for improvement of environmental sustainability and the circular economy (CE), but there is conceptual as well as empirical ambiguity regarding their role, composition, and nature. This chapter reviews existing ecosystem conceptualizations, distinguishes the main applications and implications of these constructs for the CE, and identifies empirical examples. We argue there are three categories of CE ecosystems each with a distinct analytical focus—the flow of material and energy, the flow of knowledge, and the flow of economic value. We position these three categories to existing ecosystem literature, propose a set of definitions for diverse CE ecosystem types, discuss the composition, agency, and outcomes of each CE ecosystem type, and provide a heuristic to assist scholars and practitioners. We also suggest implications of this typology for future research and practitioners’ efforts to improve environmental sustainability in our society. We believe that improved structured knowledge of CE ecosystems can guide practitioners, companies, and public actors (such as cities and municipalities) on organizing and reorganizing their activities, when pursuing environmental sustainability through collaboration in ecosystem settings.

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Lise Aaboen, Anna Dubois and Leena Aarikka-Stenroos

In the present chapter, we focus on how start-ups become embedded in the university and industry context(s) in order to suggest a research agenda for a more systemic approach to university and industry actors when studying start-up development in entrepreneurial universities. More specifically, the story should not end in business formation but an entrepreneurial university also has roles in the further development of start-ups originating both from the university and industry. We base our suggested research agenda on a case study of the automotive and transport cluster in Western Sweden, which is established as both an academic context and an industry context. We relied both on secondary data about the case as such as well as primary data about the relationship development patterns of the 9 start-ups in the cluster. We identified 5 different patterns of how start-ups become embedded. Arguing that the development and success of university-based start-ups have to be understood in terms of how they embed in their context(s) entails several important implications for further studies connected to additional details of the development patterns, the roles universities play in the networking and embedding of start-ups and the design of collaborative platforms for collaboration between various actors.

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Anil Engez, Paul H. Driessen, Leena Aarikka-Stenroos and Marika Kokko

This chapter examines how the concept of a living lab can be used to establish distributed agency on a limited scale with relatively low risks in the context of a transition towards sustainability. As the current literature on the impact of living labs and distributed agency on sustainability transitions is nascent, we explore the concept of distributed agency in a case study, the Hiedanranta living lab, located in the city of Tampere in Finland. The case study relies on qualitative research design containing interviews with key stakeholders and broad secondary data. Findings of the study point out that in order to advance the resource efficiency and thus sustainability in living labs, all actors including researchers, equipment providers, city planners from the municipality, regulators, companies and users need each other to test solutions and contribute with their expertise, knowledge, equipment and facilities. The shared goal of the transition to sustainable lifestyles, which includes use of renewable energy and recycling, requires many autonomous stakeholders, thus raising the need for distributed agency. The study contributes to the urban living lab and sustainability transition literature by uncovering the individual and mutual acts of living lab actors.