Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Industry and Innovation

For a Special Issue on

Innovation Ecosystems for a Circular Economy

Manuscript deadline
29 February 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Lucia Piscitello, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
[email protected]

Francesco Quatraro, Universita' di Torino, Italy
[email protected]

Einar Rasmussen, Nord University Business School, Norway
[email protected]

Jagjit Singh Srai, University of Cambridge, UK
[email protected]

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Innovation Ecosystems for a Circular Economy

Background and Objectives

The adverse effects of climate change and biodiversity loss call for urgent actions to reduce the environmental burden of human actions. In this context, the Circular Economy (CE) paradigm has been proposed as a promising framework to overcome the limitations of the current ‘linear’ production-consumption model, and to achieve the decoupling of economic development from finite resources through the introduction of closed resource loops (Bibas et al., 2021; Sauvè et al., 2016). Making the transition to a CE where materials and resources are kept in use can reduce the extraction of new raw materials and at the same time reduce the waste and emissions from discharging used material. Hence, the CE transition towards using closed material loops can be part of the solution to create a more sustainable future (Stahel 2016).

For this reason, the CE transition has increasingly received support from governments worldwide as a lever not only to mitigate environmental pressures, but also to promote resilience, entrepreneurship, and job creation. At the European level, the CE has become core to the European Union's climate and industrial policy. In particular, the European Circular Economy Action Plan has introduced legislative and non-legislative measures to promote products' eco-design, waste prevention, and internal markets for secondary raw materials. The Action Plan stresses the relevance of innovation in general, and especially of digital technologies, to power the CE transition, as already acknowledged in the policies and practices for eco-innovation up-take and CE transition. In fact, the systemic eco-innovation, powered by multidimensional policies, is the key to unlock deep transition (e.g. de Jesus et al., 2019).

While the literature on CE is surging, there is still scant evidence on the interplay between the CE transition and innovation dynamics among different actors and at different geographical levels (Evertsen et al., 2022; Jakobsen et al., 2021; Di Stefano et al., 2023). On the one hand, circular operating models require alternative materials, novel processes, advanced manufacturing technologies, and new business models and business management perspectives (Ahmad et al., 2023). As such, innovation processes associated with circularity require open and multidisciplinary approaches often dealing with tensions and trade-offs and involving actors across the circular value chain. Industrial innovation in the CE requires multiple actors to address technological and operational challenges that span organizational levels and boundaries, and relatively little is actually known about challenges concerning employment and skill requirement in the CE (e.g. Burger et al., 2019).

On the other hand, regional analyses have emphasized the local character of the CE model, describing the main actors involved and the key technological trajectories within industrial ecosystems (Fusillo et al., 2021; Suchek et al. 2021). Within this context, it is emphasized that - more than ever, we need collaboration between different stakeholders (e.g. companies, start-ups, governments, universities, and consumers), and various types of intermediaries that facilitate interactions between them (Rainville, 2021)

The objective of this special issue is to stimulate the debate about the interplay between the transition to the CE paradigm and the dynamics of innovation adoption and generation in organizations, regions, and countries both from an open (global) innovation perspective and from a regional ecosystem viewpoint. It also aims at drawing academic and policy-relevant insights in relation to the implementation and relevant consequences of the CE transition at the economic, social, and local/global levels of analysis.

Research Topics

Based on the above background and objectives, suggested topics for the Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

Determinants and Enablers

  • The nature of interactions and partnerships between firms, universities, institutions, and different intermediaries, in enabling the CE
  • Open innovations and (intra- and inter-firm) organizational challenges
  • Global dynamics and international spillovers for enabling the CE transition
  • The role of national industrial policies and public procurement for innovation-driven CE transition
  • Reconfiguring supply chains for enabling the CE transition through digital innovations e.g. digital passports, traceability, data-sharing incentivization, and digital platforms
  • Understanding the enablers of CE business models (including technology, finance, policy, regulation, partnering configurations, and culture)
  • The heterogeneity of CE adoption patterns across industries, countries, and actors
  • The implementation of new CE-related innovations based on science and technology
  • The role of different actors in innovation ecosystems in implementing CE innovations

Economic, Social, and geographical consequences of the CE transition

  • The impact of CE innovations on closing resource loops
  • The knowledge base of the CE and the related changes in education programs
  • The impact of CE on employment, skill requirement, skill reconfiguration, and wage differentials 

Methodological challenges

  • Measurement of CE technologies and innovations: new data and methods
  • Measuring economic and sustainability impacts of CE innovations
  • Modelling tensions and trade-offs related to CE at different level of analysis (firm, region, industry) and developing relevant indicators for CE adoption

We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Papers can adopt either a single or multi-level, as well as either a micro or macro level analysis.

Submission Instructions

Important Deadlines

  • Submission date: 29th February 2024
  • Expected publication date: Summer/Fall 2025

Related events

Authors of papers remaining after the first round of reviews will be invited to a paper development workshop. This will be organised in connection to a discipline related conference, or a dedicated workshop, with the option for online participation, with timing aligned with the time plan of the special issue. The workshop will provide an opportunity for intensive discussions and dialogue on the topic. Acceptance to the workshop would not guarantee acceptance to the Special Issue.

Submission Process

Paper submissions will undergo rigorous editorial screening and double-blind peer review by a minimum of two recognized scholars. The standard requirements of Industry and Innovation for submissions will apply. Please consult the journal submission guidelines available at

A typical paper for this journal should be around 10,000 words, inclusive of the abstract, tables, references, figure captions, and footnotes.

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