Interview with Symbios of Sweden, Louise Mattsson

The newly funded startup Symbios of Sweden want to meet the need for resource mapping of industries that wants to become more circular. We had a talk with the systems entrepreneur and project manager Louise Mattsson, who is the founder and owner of the company.

Could you tell me a little bit about your newly started business and what you do?
I founded Symbios of Sweden because I saw that there is a missing actor on the market. Someone that is not an organization or a university that can do resource mapping of industries. My company is aimed at helping municipalities, entrepreneurs, organizations, universities, and research institutes that want to do projects at national, regional, and local level, and thereby map the balance between social, economic, and other resources for increased sustainability.  Cross-border co-operation within the Nordic region through Interreg projects is also beneficial for the exchange of experience and interaction. The company aims to contribute to a more sustainable society through its expertise and ideas on how to connect all aspects of society and actors to develop the circular economy in Sweden.

How do you work with shifting to – and helping others shift, to a sustainable and circular business?
Besides identifying the resource and material flow, I make SWOT-analysis of the area (which can be an industrial site, village, a region etc.), calculate the input and output and how many other companies that can be created because of better resource management. I also look at models for how many new job opportunitiespossible symbiosis can bring.The work can be based off interviews with companies and local residences, depending on the site. Every case is unique because the starting point are different for all the sites.Individual companies can get the same help from me and I intend to provide them with tools, guidelines, models, and key numbers, for them to develop the company’s activities.

What are your biggest obstacles today to become more sustainable?
The biggest threat is the Swedish law (of for example waste and side streams) that makes practical applications of models impossible. Development must move forward in this area and this is a slow process from the EU.

What speaks for a circular transition?
Back in 2017 when more people started talking about circular economy, there were few tools for how to use it. It was so new that companies did not know how to address it. I think that now, and especially because of the pandemic, people become more aware of how they are living and how fragile the society is. I think that helps with the circular transition. Both for people that wants to start with self sufficiency and move from cities, but also companies that see the value of their side streams and collaborating with others in different sectors.

Is there any knowledge or information that could help you, or your sector, in the transition?
The leading players today with a focus on industrial symbiosis are Linköping University, RISE and other organizations that have consortiums containing people from big companies. Linköping University has a broad platform and reaches many stakeholders and can have many projects ongoing. Their weakness is that they are only run with project support and are dependent on it. RISE has complete edge expertise in many areas and is available throughout the country, but no specific expertise covering the interdisciplinary areas and how to combine them with the technical ones. I collaborate with both to learn more and to be up to date with projects going on all over the country.

Are you in any collaboration with public sector?
I am open to collaborate with the public sector, absolutely! I think its an advantage to include all parts of society.

Any international collaboration?
When I worked at RISE as a sustainability engineer, I worked in an Interreg project together with several partners from Finland. Building bridges is something I like working with and Sweden has so much to learn from the other Nordic countries. I enjoy cross border collaborations and it is something I am hoping to have the chance to do more in my company.

What do you think other companies like yours would need to be more sustainable?
I think the key is flexibility and working online. Today we have platforms that enables us to reach out to a bigger crowd – and by that, helping more companies.

What would it take to make companies like yours involved in a project like GRUDE?
For me I have a general interest to be up to date and meet people. Networking is key for connecting industries and people. This area is still new and to concretize industrial symbiosis, all ideas need to be welcomed.

Something else you would like to tell?
I currently work for the municipality of Älvsbyn in the Interreg project Arctiq-DC where I map the resources of the industries in the area. Älvsbyn has big and known industries such as Polarbröd, Älvsbyhus and Älvsby energy, but also many green industries with farming and tourist focus. Depending on where I start mapping resources, it becomes apparent what puzzles are missing in the big picture. In general, Northern Sweden is good in heavy industry such as mining, steel production and forestry, and in some cases good at industrial symbiosis without intentionally implementing it. Instead, it can be the social values that are missing to complete the picture, which is the biggest difference between north and southern Sweden. Industrial symbiosis is heavy reliant on social symbiosis to create balance in societies to make people stay, that is the most important piece of the puzzle in my opinion.

Louise Mattsson, founder of Symbios of Sweden

Thank you for your time Louise and best of luck with your new business!

Blogpost by
Amanda Mannervik
Strukturum, Sweden