Scientific Articles

Here are the scientific articles, book chapters and books published by our project team.

From Waste to Value – Valorisation Pathways for Organic Waste Streams in Circular Bioeconomies

The SusValueWaste book

From Waste to Value investigates how streams of organic waste and residues can be transformed into valuable products, to foster a transition towards a sustainable and circular bioeconomy. The studies are carried out within a cross-disciplinary framework, drawing on a diverse set of theoretical approaches and defining different valorisation pathways.

Organic waste streams from households and industry are becoming a valuable resource in today’s economies. Substances that have long represented a cost to companies and a burden for society are now becoming an asset. Waste products, such as leftover food, forest residues and animal carcasses, can be turned into valuable products such as biomaterials, biochemicals and biopharmaceuticals. Exploiting these waste resources is challenging, however. It requires that companies develop new technologies and that public authorities introduce new regulation and governance models.

This book helps policy-makers govern and regulate bio-based industries, and helps industry actors to identify and exploit new opportunities in the circular bioeconomy. Moreover, it provides important insights for all students and scholars concerned with renewable energy, sustainable development and climate change.

The book is edited by Antje Klitkou, Arne Fevolden and Marco Capasso and is open access.

Towards Sustainable Wood-Based Energy: Evaluation and Strategies for Mainstreaming Sustainability in the Sector

Bioenergy, mostly from wood biomass, is now widely seen as an important element in the efforts to tame dangerous climate change. At the same time, foresters and development specialists note that wood-based energy production can contribute to rural development. However, to deliver on these two goals without generating negative side effects, wood-based energy has to be sustainable, while currently, the sector is developing rapidly in ways that are technologically advanced, with questionable sustainability. How can sustainability be achieved in bioenergy production, to make it a viable element of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and rural development? Arguing for the need to mainstream sustainability thinking into wood-based energy production, the article draws on a critical literature review to identify four different levels of sustainability in the existing research on bioenergy from wood. It shows two possible strategies for integrating sustainability in wood bioenergy production. A top-down approach draws on global forestry governance instruments, while a bottom-up approach uses best-practices in forest plantations for bioenergy purposes, as illustrated by a case study from rural Paraguay. Using aggregated and visualized sustainability indicators, the article exemplifies what sustainable bioenergy production means in more tangible terms.

Szulecka, J. Towards Sustainable Wood-Based Energy: Evaluation and Strategies for Mainstreaming Sustainability in the Sector. Sustainability 2019, 11, 493.

Governance for system optimization and system change:The case of urban waste

This paper analyses urban waste systems to explore how local authorities can resolve challenges related to climate change, urbanization and resource depletion. The paper investigates how different public governance regimes affect local authorities’ ability to move upwards in the waste hierarchy. It identifies three different governance regimes – traditional bureaucracy, new public management and networked governance – and uses the insights from innovation in urban waste in three Norwegian city regions – Oslo, Drammen and Bergen – to illuminate how these regimes possess both strengths and weaknesses in how they affect system optimization and system change. The observed working practices signal that the issue of urban waste systems is perceived as a challenge of system optimization rather than system change. Viewing this as a challenge requiring system change would probably have ensured a stronger directionality and a broader anchoring of actors. Such an approach is likely to have arrived at a waste prevention mode earlier than the step-by-step-solutions implemented so far. The paper concludes that there is not one best governance regime, but a need to acknowledge their co-existence and carefully consider the characteristics of the respective regimes in order to arrange urban waste systems for long-term dynamic and sustainable city regions.


Bugge, M. M., Fevolden, A. M., & Klitkou, A. (2018). Governance for system optimization and system change: The case of urban waste. Research Policy.

Residual biomass as resource – Life-cycle environmental impact of wastes in circular resource systems

Within an envisioned circular bio-based economy, a key component is the valorization of biomass wastes and residues into valuable products. If the commonly used method of life-cycle assessment (LCA) is applied to such products, an update and adaptation of LCA practice is needed regarding potentially outdated assumptions of residual resources as free from environmental impact. This paper therefore presents and discusses LCA approaches to evaluating residual biomass as resources, and implications of different approaches to LCA results and decision-making. Based on an analysis of 31 LCA studies of bio-based products, and on a model for recycling in LCA, we discuss alternatives to zero-burden assumptions for biomass residues. The studied literature shows a variety of approaches to assessing the impacts of residues, including views of relevant characteristics and causality in primary production systems, and intended use and interpretation of LCA results. In general, acknowledging upstream impacts through a simple model of recycling and allocation entails that the environmental characteristics of primary production systems reflect on by-products and residues. We argue that LCA studies of residue valorization must recognize the potential value of residues by considering upstream impacts, and thereby avoid both misconceptions of residues as per default environmentally preferable resources, and unintentional support for high-impact primary production systems. Residues as resources require this adaptation in LCA practice in order to avoid misguided decisions for a low-impact, bio-based and circular economy.


Olofsson, J. & Börjesson, P. 2018. Residual biomass as resource – Life-cycle environmental impact of wastes in circular resource systems. Journal of Cleaner Production 20: 997-1006.

Policy mixes for the sustainability transition of the pulp and paper industry in Sweden

Abstract: The need to view innovation policy through the lens of policy mixes has gained momentum given the growing complexity, the dynamics of real-world policy and the wide array of difficulties to address the current great societal challenges, notably the increasing pressure on the ecosystems that support our society. One of the main challenges concerning the transition towards bioeconomy, is to gain a more in-depth understanding on the policy mix to stimulate innovation in sustainability transitions.

Our paper aims at enriching the portfolio of empirical case studies on policy mixes for innovation and sustainable transitions, by investigating the development of the policy mix underpinning the sustainability transition of the pulp and paper industry in Sweden.

We apply a case study approach which draws on event history analysis, semi-structured interviews with industry and policy makers, literature reviews, a participative workshop with stakeholders from the pulp and paper industry, as well as on the IEA databases on climate change and energy efficiency policies and measures.

Our analysis emphasises coordination, timing and scale in policy mixes as important elements to understand how instruments interact to accelerate sustainability transitions. The mapping of the policy mix shows that destabilising policies were crucial for accelerating the transition process of the industry. Prior to novelty creation policies, destabilising policies (e.g. environmental policies) were needed for ‘innovation policy instruments’ to be effective.

More specific instruments (e.g. carbon tax), targeting particular functions of the innovation systems, require ‘on-the-ground’ policy intelligence and benefit from close interaction with industry.


Scordato, L., Klitkou, A., Tartiu, V. E., & Coenen, L. (2018). Policy mixes for the sustainability transition of the pulp and paper industry in Sweden. Journal of Cleaner Production, 183, 1216-1227.  

Technological innovation systems for biorefineries: a review of the literature

Abstract: The concept of a bioeconomy can be understood as an economy where the basic building blocks for materials, chemicals, and energy are derived from renewable biological resources. Biorefineries are considered an integral part of the development toward a future sustainable bioeconomy. The purpose of this literature review is to synthesize current knowledge about how biorefinery technologies are being developed, deployed, and diffused, and to identify actors, networks, and institutions relevant for these processes. Several key findings can be obtained from the literature. First, investing more resources in R&D will not help to enable biorefineries to cross the ‘valley of death’ toward greater commercial investments. Second, while the importance and need for entrepreneurship and the engagement of small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) is generally acknowledged, there is no agreement how to facilitate conditions for entrepreneurs and SMEs to enter the field of biorefineries. Third, visions for biorefinery technologies and products have focused very much on biofuels and bioenergy with legislation and regulation playing an instrumental role in creating a market for these products. But there is a clear need to incentivize non‐energy products to encourage investments in biorefineries. Finally, policy support for biorefinery developments and products is heavily intertwined with wider discussions around legitimacy and social acceptance. The paper concludes by outlining current knowledge gaps.

Bauer, F. , Coenen, L. , Hansen, T. , McCormick, K. and Palgan, Y. V. (2017), Technological innovation systems for biorefineries: a review of the literature. Biofuels, Bioprod. Bioref., 11: 534-548. doi:10.1002/bbb.1767

The role of Trials and Demonstration Projects in the Development of a Sustainable Bioeconomy 

Abstract: This article provides an overview of the literature on demonstration projects and trials,
and accounts for how insights drawn from this literature can contribute to the development of a
sustainable bioeconomy. The article reviews the literature on demonstration projects and trials,
covering both more broad-based studies on demonstration projects mainly carried out in the US
and more specific studies on demonstration projects for energy technologies carried out in Europe,
the US, and Japan. The aim of the article is to account for how demonstration projects and trials can contribute to the development of a sustainable bioeconomy.

Fevolden, A. M., Coenen, L., Hansen, T., & Klitkou, A. (2017). The Role of Trials and Demonstration Projects in the Development of a Sustainable Bioeconomy. Sustainability, 9(3), 419.

Directionality across Diversity: Governing Contending Policy Rationales in the Transition towards the Bioeconomy
Abstract: Although the bioeconomy has been embraced by many governments around the world as a way of responding to the grand challenge of climate change, it remains unclear what the bioeconomy is and how it can contribute to achieving these broad policy objectives. The aim of this paper is to improve our understanding of whether, and how, the bioeconomy includes contending rationales for governance and policy-making. In order to do this, we apply a typology of three bioeconomy visions onto the policy discourse on the bioeconomy. These visions are (1) a bio-technology vision; (2) a bio-resource vision; and (3) a bio-ecology vision. Based on a discourse analysis of 41 submissions to a public hearing on the development of a bioeconomy strategy in Norway, the paper explores the actors involved in shaping the new bioeconomy and analyses their positions on this emerging field. The paper finds that it is possible to categorise the consultative inputs into these three visions, and also that the bio-resource vision is predominant, which reflects the structure of the national economy. Moreover, the paper reflects upon how the contending visions observed imply negotiations and power struggles, which may hamper directionality in the current socio-technical transition.
Value Chain Structures that Define European Cellulosic Ethanol Production

Abstract: Production of cellulosic ethanol (CE) has not yet reached the scale envisaged by the
literature and industry. This study explores CE production in Europe to improve understanding of
the motivations and barriers associated with this situation. To do this, we conduct a case study-based analysis of CE production plants across Europe from a global value chain (GVC) perspective. We find that most CE production plants in the EU focus largely on intellectual property and are therefore only at the pilot or demonstration scale. Crescentino, the largest CE production facility in Europe, is also more interested in technology licensing than producing ethanol. Demonstration-scale plants tend to have a larger variety of feedstocks, whereas forestry-based plants have more diversity of outputs. As scale increases, the diversity of feedstocks and outputs diminishes, and firms struggle with feedstock provisioning, global petroleum markets and higher financial risks. We argue that, to increase CE production, policies should consider value chains, promote the wider bio-economy of products and focus on economies of scope. Whereas the EU and its member states have ethanol quotas and blending targets, a more effective policy would be to seek to reduce the risks involved in financing capital projects, secure feedstock provisioning and support a diversity of end products.

Gregg, J.S., Bolwig, S., Hansen, T., Solér, O., Ben Amer-Allam, S., Pladevall Viladecans, J., Klitkou, A. & Fevolden, A. Value Chain Structures that Define European Cellulosic Ethanol Production. Sustainability 2017, 9, 118.

Grassroots Innovations and the Transition Towards Sustainability: Tackling the Food Waste Challenge

Abstract: The need for innovative approaches to tackle food waste problem is widely recognized, given its tight links with agriculture, food security, trade, energy, deforestation, and climate change challenges. As a matter of fact, an emerging branch of literature is drawing attention to the value of food waste, reporting both technological aspects of food waste valorisation (by means of case studies and/or pilot-scale laboratory experiences), and how such innovative pathways may contribute to the transition towards sustainable production and consumption systems and a more sustainable waste regime. However, little research efforts have been invested so far in relation to the development and diffusion of innovative approaches addressing the food waste problem and the role of grassroots innovations. Thus, our chapter aims at contributing to this strand of literature, by addressing two main issues:

  • how do grassroots movements act and how effective are they in catalysing innovation in the food waste field?
  • what are the specific roles that grassroots innovations may play in the transition towards sustainable production and consumption systems and a more sustainable waste regime?

Our investigation draws on the analysis of several case studies of grassroots innovations from European countries, and builds on the multi-level perspective (MLP) approach. The specific findings of our study could support decision makers in developing tailored strategies to minimize the amount of food wasted along the supply chain and to unlock the enormous potential of food waste that is being landfilled, and also to instil some further investigations related to this strand of food waste literature.

This is chapter 15 in the book “Food Waste Reduction and Valorisation“.

Tartiu, V.E., Morone, P. (2017), Grassroots Innovations and the Transition Towards Sustainability: Tackling the Food Waste Challenge, in Morone, P., Papendiek, F., Tartiu, V.E. (Eds), Food Waste Reduction and Valorisation. Sustainability Assessment and Policy Analysis, Springer International Publishing, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-50088-1

Path creation in Nordic energy and road transport systems – The role of technological characteristics

Abstract: This paper reviews path-creation processes in road transport systems in the Nordic countries: e-mobility in Denmark, hydrogen and fuel-cell electrical vehicles in Norway, and advanced biofuels in Finland and Sweden. The study builds on the path creation literature, which seeks to explain the emergence of new technological pathways. Drawing on recent insights concerning the differences between design- and manufacturing-intensive technologies, the paper analyses the influence of technological characteristics on path creation processes. The case comparison indicates that technological characteristics seem to have greater influence on the content of activities in the later phase rather than the early phase of path creation processes. The analysis also emphasises that barriers to path creation processes differ depending on technological characteristics. This highlights the importance of considering technological characteristics in energy and transport policies

Hansen, T., Klitkou, A., Borup, M., Scordato, L., & Wessberg, N. (2017). Path creation in Nordic energy and road transport systems – The role of technological characteristics. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 70(April), 551–562.

A fuel too far? Technology, innovation and transition in failed biofuel development in Norway

Abstract: This article explores whether old, incumbent industries can prevent new, green industries from emerging by studying the rise and fall of the Norwegian advanced biofuel sector. It investigates three competing explanations that have been proposed to account for why Norway failed to develop a vibrant industry within this field: (i) the petroleum industry acquired all available risk capital, (ii) the petroleum industry captured all relevant technological expertise and (iii) the government failed to provide adequate incentives and support measures. The article applies a qualitative event-history analysis to chart the development of the most important Norwegian advanced biofuel companies – Borregaard (bioethanol), Cambi (biogas), Weyland (bioethanol) and Xynergo (biodiesel) – and uses their success and eventual failure as a key indicator of the condition of the emerging technological innovation system within this field. The article finds that the advanced biofuel companies were hampered mostly by inconsistent and unpredictable government incentives, and concludes that the third explanation best accounts for Norway’s limited success in advanced biofuels.

Fevolden, A. M., & Klitkou, A. (2016). A fuel too far? Technology, innovation, and transition in failed biofuel development in Norway. Energy Research & Social Science, 11.

What is the Bioeconomy? A Review of the Literature

Abstract: The notion of the bioeconomy has gained importance in both research and policy debates over the last decade, and is frequently argued to be a key part of the solution to multiple grand challenges. Despite this, there seems to be little consensus concerning what bioeconomy actually implies. Consequently, this paper seeks to enhance our understanding of what the notion of bioeconomy means by exploring the origins, uptake, and contents of the term “bioeconomy” in the academic literature. Firstly, we perform a bibliometric analysis that highlights that the bioeconomy research community is still rather fragmented and distributed across many different fields of science, even if natural and engineering sciences take up the most central role. Secondly, we carry out a literature review that identifies three visions of the bioeconomy. The bio-technology vision emphasises the importance of bio-technology research and application and commercialisation of bio-technology in different sectors of the economy. The bio-resource vision focuses on processing and upgrading of biological raw materials, as well as on the establishment of new value chains. Finally, the bio-ecology vision highlights sustainability and ecological processes that optimise the use of energy and nutrients, promote biodiversity, and avoid monocultures and soil degradation.

Bugge, M., Hansen, T. and Klitkou, A. (2016). “What Is the Bioeconomy? A Review of the Literature.” Sustainability 8(7): 691.

© 2015 NIFU. All rights reserved.