Final Seminar: Nhat Strøm-Andersen

Thesis title: Transition in the making: How to create value and achieve a sustainable food processing: A case study of Norwegian food industry in the transition towards the bioeconomy.

Nhat Strøm-Andersen is a Ph.d Research Fellow at TIK Centre for Technology, Innovation, and Culture. This seminar marks her final evaluation prior to submission of her dissertation.

Project

Departing from a very fundamental question: how (un)sustainable is the current food system, my Ph.D. project explored the transition towards the bioeconomy by presenting an empirical analysis of the Norwegian food processing industry. More specifically, I looked into the food processing firms, studied actual and potential value chains, and identified sustainable pathways of valorizing bio-based resources such as by-products, organic wastes, rest raw materials, and side streams. The thesis brought the meat and dairy sector in focus as the incumbent firms in these two sectors play an important role in the Norwegian food processing industry. The thesis examined why, how, and under what condition(s) the Norwegian food processing firms are likely to innovate with respect to the utilization of bio-based resources. The study tackled three main objectives:

  1. studying food wastes, by-products valorization along value chains
  2. identifying actors and networks involved, and
  3. assessing regulatory frameworks that influence the food waste management issue

In other words, the study investigates the role of a dynamic interplay between technological innovation, strategy, and policy in the food industry under the context of the bioeconomy.

Results

The thesis explored what types of external pressures (local and global) exerted, and what innovation opportunities existed, which could make an impact on incumbent firms’ behaviors and decisions for by-product valorization. These pressures included: (i) an import ban that greatly affected the rest raw materials markets, (ii) the change of regulation, and (iii) emerging technological opportunities. The thesis explained why incumbents decided on which innovation paths to adopt and what strategies they practiced to pursue such paths by mobilizing different dynamic capabilities. Further, the thesis looked deeper into the innovation process of how incumbent firms innovate by doing a comparative case study on a meat and a dairy firm. It studied the incumbents’ absorptive capacity: how they mobilize external knowledge and apply it to realize the innovation strategies they had set out and the process of learning—exploratory, transformative, and exploitative. The study highlighted the importance of inter-industry learning and research collaboration. Moreover, the thesis explored the regulatory frameworks that influence the food waste management issue and discussed a need for ‘multi-level governance’ of food waste. In particular, it studied “industry self-regulation” and explained why incumbent food firms support a voluntary industry agreement on food waste reduction, and what motivated them to do so. An eclectic combination of causes and mechanisms including the “shadow of hierarchy”, social pressures, and “logic of appropriateness” lee to the industry agreement (in the form of industry self-regulation). The thesis shed light on understanding the current situation the Norwegian food processing industry was in, why they had to change, what change they made and how they did it. Overall, the thesis showed a strong interconnection between technological opportunities, policy, and firms’ strategies during the transition towards a sustainable bioeconomy.

Policy implications

This thesis noted three aspects of the situation of the food industry in the transition towards a sustainable bioeconomy that policymakers should address: (i) Support public funding to reduce the gap between R&D and commercialization, (ii) create a common platform and network to connect actors, and (iii) provide timely new policies, new supportive guidance, and regulations.


Supervisors

  • Fulvio Castellacci, TIK
  • Markus Bugge, TIK

Commentator

  • Markus Steen, TIK

Manuscript

The manuscript is available upon request. Please contact Lene Angelskår.

Published Oct. 10, 2019 3:25 PM - Last modified Oct. 17, 2019 10:52 AM