Travelling Business Models : On adapting business models to new contexts

Sammanfattning: How business models are configured can provide one solution to bringing forward sustainable innovations and transforming businesses and industries so that they become more sustainable. Creating a shift in the energy sector’s use of renewable sources is of particular importance since the energy sector is the source of one-fourth of all global greenhouse gas emissions. In California, the dominant business model for solar energy is the so-called third-party-ownership business model (TPO). It can be described as a “Cleantech-as-a-service business model” based on product usage rather than the traditional direct ownership model. The research in this thesis started with the observation that actors in European markets were adopting the TPO business model. However, despite being portrayed in various media and reports as a successful archetype to copy, the TPO was in fact adapted to fit its new market contexts. The research in this thesis focuses on the phenomenon of the “travelling TPO” to empirically explore how a BM “circulating out there” as a model to follow is brought into a new context and adapted to fit it. The findings show that business models are highly context dependent and that both external market conditions and internal organizational factors influence business models that are brought into new contexts. The thesis presents business model translation as an emergent and actor-oriented view on how organizations recognize, adopt and adapt business models as models to follow. In line with a translation perspective, the research reveals that the tacit and ambiguous nature of business models allow actors involved in bringing and adapting business models into new settings to shape them according to their experiences and interests. Through interpretations and adaptations, actors continuously create preliminary translations of a business model that iteratively resonate with the new context. This eventually allows the business model to be contextualized in its new setting.