Diener, Derek; Vanacore, Emanuela; Fallahi, Sara; Nyström, Thomas; Sallén, Josefina

Many firms have made commitments to enact measurable change towards circular economy principles. In terms of innovation, this means that there should be fertile ground on which to sow new value chains focused on achieving desired outcomes, if only the right entities find the right matches to make the goals come true. The promise of so-called circular open innovation is noted specifically (Brown et al 2020) but this can be tempered with observed resistance to collaboration due to insistent focus on profit maximization (Harland & Nienaber 2014). Considering potential and limitations, projects in circular open innovation offer valuable learnings, especially considering the dearth of such studies in literature (Brown et al 2020). Specifically, how such collaboration can be conducted has been identified as one area of interest (Jutting 2020). This study provides learnings from one project in which actors from multiple firms were matched based on an inventory of firm desired outcomes, inputs, knowledge, infrastructure, outputs, and customers (the heuristic). It was observed that individuals participating in the project cooperated and committed own resources as long as the tasks fit into the broader goals of their respective firms and one multiple firm matchmaking resulted in the development of the start of a new polymer value chain and product prototypes. Based on the way-of-working in the project and its successes, a heuristic for conducting inventory of actor wants and haves and for organizing potential chains interests was developed. The heuristic departs from the idea that desired outcomes are the foundation for justifying individuals spend time on projects that may be considered risky or undesirable if they were to be handled as more formal agreements between firms. Other details, like the inputs and customers, represent the tangible aspects that make a desired outcome possible. It was observed that when given many firms, there is likely at least one way forward.