Accelerating urbanisation and greenhouse gas emissions cause some of the world’s important environmental problems, which leads to an increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable environmental technology systems. Sweden has had a very strict environmental legislation since the 1970’s, with Swedish municipalities responsible for local environmental technology service systems. This has led municipal companies to be very experienced of some of the functions related to waste management, waste-to-energy and district heating.
Municipal companies often receive international visits where the foreign delegates sometimes request Swedish municipal knowledge regarding how to design and manage sustainable systems in their home regions. Therefore, the idea of municipal knowledge export has been up for discussion. This study aims to analyse the municipal companies’ previous experiences of knowledge export, which includes looking at what incentives and barriers they perceive therein. The work also investigates what knowledge municipal companies export and what approaches they choose, as well as what role they and other actors think municipal companies should have in order to best benefit Swedish environmental technology export.
The project was designed as a qualitative interview study, where the main data collection was carried out in semi-structured interviews with decision-makers in municipal energy and waste companies. Interesting companies were found using desktop research. Data collection was complemented by a survey where municipal companies were asked about their involvement in knowledge export.
The results show that municipal companies export knowledge such as consulting and advisory services, education and project management. They offer knowledge for example within managing waste systems, operating district heating plants, as well as public awareness and citizen participation. Some companies have started subsidiaries dedicated specifically to export ventures, while others offer personnel as sub-consultants to private companies. Most export took place as projects run by the municipal companies themselves, often financed by development aid funds.
The most important incentives motivating municipal companies to start or continue their export endeavours include motivating employees, becoming an attractive employer, contributing to reducing environmental impact where it is most needed, and external initiatives or requests. The most prominent barriers were related to lack of resources, cultural and political differences, and challenges related to marketing.
The municipal companies and other actors in governmental and private organisations appear to have different perceptions of the significance of municipal knowledge and the role municipal companies should play, in order to best contribute to Sweden’s environmental technology export. In general, the interviewed municipal companies tend to seek a more active role in the export, whereas the other actors would prefer municipal companies to be more focused on promoting the export from their home region.