Industrial Symbioses in the Ruhr Area: Emergence & potentials of the concept for the transformation of regions in change / InSym.Ruhr


The concept of industrial symbiosis describes the cross-company exchange of industrial by-products such as waste heat, wastewater or production residues in geographical proximity. Such co-operations enable economic as well as environmental advantages.

The use of by-products at power plant sites but also networks in chemical parks show that there is experience with cross-sectoral and cross-company solutions to utilise residues in old industrial regions. Existing infrastructures such as heat grids also form a suitable basis for future solutions. Taking current trends and so-called future industries into account, new possibilities emerge, for example the use of waste heat from data centres in heat grids or the cascading utilisation mechanisms of organic materials in the bioeconomy.

Industrial symbiosis as a spatial concept at local or regional level thus provides a perspective that complements sectoral approaches and may offer a suitable approach for the development of industrial regions.

The project aims to identify factors for the emergence of cross-company energy and material flows based on by-products. The qualitative investigation in old industrial contexts should contribute to the understanding of collaborative "green" process innovations. In this way, questions about path transformation in regions in transition will be answered.

The project thus contributes to expanding the outlined state of research on industrial symbiosis in Germany and especially in the Ruhr region. A qualitative analysis of various case studies to identify relevant drivers and obstacles in the emergence of inter-company material and energy flows as "green" process innovations will be carried out using the innovation biography approach. The project thus serves to test and further develop the approach on a methodological level regarding its suitability for examining "green" innovations and the transformation of industrial locations (Transformation Biographies). Results may inform structural policy concerning the transformation of old industrial regions.