Industrial Symbiosis

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Industrial symbiosis is an approach where different industries collaborate to exchange and utilize waste resources, creating a more circular and efficient industrial ecosystem. In industrial symbiosis, the waste or byproduct of one company becomes a valuable input for another, mimicking the symbiotic relationships found in nature.

Impact on climate action

Industrial Symbiosis fosters climate action by facilitating resource sharing and waste exchange among industries. By promoting synergies and circularity, this innovation reduces waste generation, conserves resources, and minimizes environmental impact. It optimizes resource utilization, lowers emissions, and contributes to a more sustainable industrial ecosystem.


  • Waste Exchange: Companies identify and exchange waste resources that can be used as inputs in other companies’ production processes.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Industrial symbiosis requires collaboration and partnerships between different companies to identify and implement waste exchange opportunities.
  • Circular Economy Principles: Industrial symbiosis is based on the principles of the circular economy, which aims to eliminate waste and keep resources in circulation.
  • Resource Mapping and Analysis: Identifying and mapping waste resources and potential users is crucial for facilitating industrial symbiosis.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Digital Platforms for Waste Exchange: Digital platforms are being developed to connect businesses that generate waste with businesses that can utilize those waste materials, facilitating industrial symbiosis and resource exchange. These platforms use data analytics and AI to match waste resources with potential users.
  • Waste Valorization Technologies: Innovations in waste conversion technologies, such as anaerobic digestion and gasification, are enabling the transformation of waste materials into valuable products, making industrial symbiosis more feasible and attractive.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Aspire:
    • Technology Enhancement: Aspire develops industrial symbiosis platforms that facilitate resource sharing and collaboration among businesses to optimize resource utilization and minimize waste generation. Their platform connects companies within industrial ecosystems, enabling them to exchange materials, energy, and by-products for mutual benefit.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Aspire’s industrial symbiosis platform offers a digital marketplace for identifying synergies and opportunities for resource exchange among businesses. Their technology promotes circular economy principles by facilitating the reuse, recycling, and repurposing of materials and resources within industrial networks.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Aspire serves industries seeking to adopt circular economy practices and reduce their environmental footprint. Their platform caters to manufacturers, utilities, and waste management companies looking to optimize resource efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability through collaborative partnerships.
  • Symbiosis Center Denmark:
    • Technology Enhancement: The Symbiosis Center Denmark promotes industrial symbiosis through research, consulting, and knowledge sharing initiatives. They collaborate with businesses, government agencies, and research institutions to develop strategies and tools for fostering symbiotic relationships within industrial ecosystems.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: The Symbiosis Center Denmark serves as a knowledge hub and facilitator for industrial symbiosis initiatives, providing expertise and support to companies seeking to optimize resource utilization and minimize environmental impact. Their approach integrates research, education, and outreach to promote sustainable development and innovation.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: The Symbiosis Center Denmark engages stakeholders across various industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, energy, and waste management sectors. Their services and programs are tailored to companies and organizations interested in exploring and implementing industrial symbiosis practices to improve resource efficiency and competitiveness.
  • National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) UK:
    • Technology Enhancement: The National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) UK is a collaborative initiative that promotes industrial symbiosis through matchmaking, facilitation, and support services. It brings together businesses, government agencies, and stakeholders to identify and leverage synergies for resource optimization and waste reduction.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: NISP UK provides a platform for businesses to identify opportunities for resource exchange, waste valorization, and cost savings through industrial symbiosis. Their approach fosters collaboration and innovation among companies, driving sustainable development and economic growth.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: NISP UK serves businesses and organizations across various sectors, including manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and healthcare. Their program helps companies identify and implement symbiotic opportunities, leading to resource efficiency gains, environmental benefits, and competitive advantages.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM is actively involved in research on Industrial Symbiosis, focusing on developing innovative frameworks and methodologies for fostering collaboration and resource sharing among industrial symbiosis networks.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves analyzing industrial ecosystems to identify opportunities for synergistic exchanges of resources, energy, and waste streams among co-located industries, leading to improved resource efficiency and waste reduction.
    • End-use Applications: TUM’s work has applications in manufacturing clusters, industrial parks, and urban development projects. For example, they’re researching collaborative supply chain networks where waste from one process becomes a valuable input for another, leading to reduced environmental impact and increased economic value.
  • University of Cambridge:
    • Research Focus: The University of Cambridge conducts cutting-edge research on Industrial Symbiosis, exploring innovative strategies and tools for promoting resource efficiency and circularity in industrial ecosystems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing decision support frameworks, stakeholder engagement strategies, and policy recommendations to facilitate the establishment and operation of industrial symbiosis networks at various scales.
    • End-use Applications: Their work finds applications in heavy industries, food processing, and waste management. For instance, they’re researching industrial symbiosis initiatives that enable waste heat recovery and utilization among co-located manufacturing facilities, as well as exploring opportunities for collaborative waste management and recycling programs.
  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft):
    • Research Focus: TU Delft is a leader in research on Industrial Symbiosis, focusing on developing interdisciplinary approaches and technological solutions for optimizing resource flows and material exchanges in industrial symbiosis networks.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves leveraging systems thinking, network analysis, and spatial planning techniques to design and implement industrial symbiosis initiatives that enhance resource efficiency, reduce environmental impact, and promote economic competitiveness.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in petrochemicals, biotechnology, and urban planning. For example, they’re researching symbiotic relationships between industries where excess heat, water, or by-products from one process are utilized as inputs for another, leading to mutual benefits and sustainability improvements.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Industrial symbiosis is being implemented in various industrial clusters around the world. For example, the Kalundborg Symbiosis in Denmark is a well-known example where companies exchange waste resources, such as steam, water, and fly ash, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits.