Managerial and organizational challenges encountered in the development of sustainable technology: Analysis of Swedish biorefinery pilot and demonstration plants
Journal article, 2020

Pilot and demonstration plants (PDPs) perform critical tasks in the development of new sustainable technology by bridging basic knowledge generation and large-scale commercialization. Significant private and public funding has therefore been allocated to PDPs addressing climate change, pollution abatement technology and/or increased resource efficiency. After technology verification, PDPs typically struggle with evolving objectives, and reports of stalled or delayed development are common. Key problems may center on technical difficulties, but challenges of a non-technical nature are equally important, not least for the development of clean technology. This paper draws on a longitudinal case study of four PDPs used for advanced biorefinery technology development in Sweden and delineates the key managerial and organizational challenges that arise in and around such plants. By taking the actor networks around PDPs as the main unit of analysis, this paper gives a detailed description of various challenges, such as the division of responsibility for the operation and ownership of the PDPs, unclear roles and objectives, and the lack of specific competences and resources in the actor networks. One important conclusion is that improved knowledge about such challenges should increase the resilience of actor networks in and around PDPs, and also help shorten the formative phase of developing sustainable technology.

Pilot and demonstration plants

Organizational challenges


Technology development

Managerial challenges

Sustainable technology


J. Mossberg

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Luleå University of Technology

J. Frishammar

Luleå University of Technology

Patrik Söderholm

Luleå University of Technology

Hans Hellsmark

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Journal of Cleaner Production

0959-6526 (ISSN)

Vol. 276 124150

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Environmental Management

History of Technology



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