Since 2017, Ph.D student Lucia Mortensen has followed the environmental project in Aalborg East, Miljø++, especially closely: the project has formed the basis of her thesis, which focuses on what is needed to get industrial collaborations and green business models off the ground.

In the recently completed thesis, she concludes among other things that proactive stakeholders, skilled facilitators and perseverance are some of the most critical elements in establishing successful collaborations. She does not hide the fact that she has garnered great international interest during her industrial Ph.D. in Port of Aalborg’s commitment to its local area:

- Port of Aalborg plays a very special role in the Miljø++ project, in that the port is involved in the development of the surrounding businesses and – in conjunction with the University of Aalborg and the other partners in the project – is working to create industrial symbioses between the companies in the area. In this regard the port’s commitment and collaboration is quite unique, and the willingness that lies behind the Miljø++ project is absolutely something that has attracted attention all around the world, says Lucia Mortensen from the University of Aalborg, who is behind the Ph.D thesis.

- Even from the very start of my Ph.D project, when I spoke about the initiative at conferences around the world, I experienced a great deal of interest in Miljø++. The interest came in particular from agencies and other institutions in countries such as Italy, Finland, Norway and Sweden, she adds.

New insights generate interest
Lucia Mortensen explains that at least some of this interest is due to the Miljø++ project contributing towards entirely new insights in the area. As while the economic, environmental and societal effects of industrial symbioses are well-documented today, it continues to be unclear how the symbioses occur and how they should be facilitated:

- There is a need for examples from different geographical contexts, which can inspire and show how the facilitation might take place – and it is precisely here where the Miljø++ project can contribute with experiences. Interest has also been great because this project involves a port collaborating with a university to take the initiative and coordinate the process. In many other examples around the world it’s authorities such as municipalities and local authorities that handle the facilitation and coordinating work, she says.

Lucia Mortensen also points to the fact that the port, as a municipally-owned public limited company, can relate to both private businesses and public authorities in its work processes. This double role allows the opportunity for the port to both enter into collaborations with other companies and institutions to facilitate industrial symbioses, and also to act as a kind of authority and collaborate with politicians and public bodies.

In it for the long haul
Port of Aalborg’s work with industrial symbioses has already been going on for several years – including before Miljø++ was established – so there is valuable knowledge and experience to be obtained, which can be taken advantage of moving forward. According to Lucia Mortensen however, it’s important to remember that the projects should be seen as long-term investments:

- The formation of industrial symbioses is a long-term investment that requires patience, and a high degree of pro-activity is needed from the various stakeholders. It’s also important to create strong collaborations and a targeted process, where the correct resources are made available. Different stakeholders can take on different roles in the process, and here, it is crucial that they possess the right skills, both professionally and personally.

Positive collaboration brings new knowledge to Port of Aalborg
According to Port of Aalborg’s CTO, Mette Schmidt, the port’s collaboration with Lucia Mortensen and the University of Aalborg functions especially well and provides an opportunity to further develop the Miljø++ project:

- It's a big gain for us as a business to be seen on our initiatives with new, outside eyes. It makes us aware of which aspects of the Miljø++ work could benefit from being tackled differently, and what we ought to focus on generally in order to achieve the best results in the collaboration between the companies, she says.

- Here is where the Ph.D project becomes interesting, in that Lucia Mortensen is dealing with the involvement of stakeholders in the processes we work with, and she can use her knowledge to challenge our approach to doing things, concludes Mette Schmidt.