Biotechnology-driven business model archetypes: Sustainability, Innovation and Commercial Viability


  • George Peppou The University of Sydney



sustainable business model, biotechnology, triple layer business model canvas, business model archetypes



In spite of enthusiasm for biotechnologies to enable sustainability and the development of innovative sustainable business models, limited research, tools and resources exist. Therefore, this research questions how the business model of sustainable biotechnology-driven firms differs from other businesses.


This article applies a structured content analysis method to enumerate sustainable business model archetypes in biotechnology firms focuses utilising secondary data from 64 existing. The triple-layer business model canvas is used as the categorisation matrix.


Five sustainable business model archetypes were identified for biotechnology firms. Findings highlight that sustainable biotechnology-driven businesses can reach a sustainable business model through either operating as an environmentally-led or economically-led domain.

Research limitations/implications

This article recognises that transitioning to a sustainable business model requires significant change to many facets of the business, therefore this study provides a template for future organisations, supporting the realisation of future, sustainable, biotechnology innovations.


Unlike previous studies this article focuses exclusively on biotechnology firms, as well as utilising the Triple Layer Business Model Canvas as the categorisation matrix, the first article to do so. This article provides a template for large-scale industrial businesses to build, or transition to, more sustainable business models utilising biotechnology. 


Amit, R., and Zott, C. (2015). Creating value through business model innovation. MIT Sloan Management Review2, 53(3), 1–14.

Atlas, R. M., and Philp, J. (2005). Bioremediation. Applied microbial solutions for real-world environmental cleanup. ASM Press.

Aversa, P., Furnari, S., and Haefliger, S. (2015). Business model configurations and performance: A qualitative comparative analysis in Formula One racing, 2005-2013. Industrial and Corporate Change, 24(3), 655–676.

Baden-Fuller, C., and Morgan, M. S. (2010). Business models as models. Long Range Planning, 43(2–3), 156–171.

Blount, G. N. (2006). End-of-life vehicles recovery: process description, its impact and direction of research. J Mekanikal, 21, 40-52.

Bocken, N., Short, S., Rana, P., and Evans, S. (2014). A literature and practice review to develop sustainable business model archetypes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 65, 42–56.

Boons, F., and Lüdeke-freund, F. (2013). Business models for sustainable innovation : state-of-the-art and steps towards a research agenda. Journal of Cleaner Production, 45, 9–19.

Boons, F., Montalvo, C., Quist, J., and Wagner, M. (2013). Sustainable innovation , business models and economic performance : an overview. Journal of Cleaner Production, 45, 1–8.

Bragg, J. R., Prince, R. C., Harner, E. J., and Atlas, R. M. (1994). Effectiveness of bioremediation for the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Braungart, M., McDonough, W., and Bollinger, A. (2007). Cradle-to-cradle design: creating healthy emissions–a strategy for eco-effective product and system design. Journal of cleaner production, 15(13), 1337-1348.

Brueske, S., Sabouni, R., Zach, C., and Andres, H. (2012). U.S. Manufacturing and Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Analysis.

Carbone, J. (2003). Ethics, patents and the sustainability of the biotech business model. International Review of Law, Computers and Technology, 17(2), 203-218.

Carus, M., Eder, A., and Beckmann, J. (2014). GreenPremium prices along the value chain of biobased products. Industrial Biotechnology, 10(2), 83-88.

Casadesus-Masanell, R., and Zhu, F. (2013). Business model innovation and competitive imitation: The case of sponsor-based business models. Strategic Management Journal, 34(4), 464–482.

César Levy França, Broman, G., Robèrt, K.-H., Basile, G., and Trygg, L. (2016). An approach to business model innovation and design for strategic sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 140, 1–12.

Chesbrough, H. (2010). Business model innovation: Opportunities and barriers. Long Range Planning, 43(2–3), 354–363.

Chesbrough, H., and Rosenbloom, R. S. (2002). The role of the business model in capturing value from innovation: evidence from Xerox Corporation’s technology spin-off companies. Industrial and Corporate Change, 11(3), 529–555.

Demil, B., and Lecocq, X. (2010). Business model evolution: In search of dynamic consistency. Long Range Planning, 43(2–3), 227–246.

Doz, Y. L., and Kosonen, M. (2010). Embedding strategic agility: A leadership agenda for accelerating business model renewal. Long range planning, 43(2), 370-382.

Elkington, J. (1999). Cannibals with Forks: Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business.

Elo, S., and Kyngas, H. (2007). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), 107–115.

Emerson, J. (2003). The blended value proposition: Integrating social and financial returns. California management review, 45(4), 35-51.

Erickson, B., Nelson, J., and Winters, P. (2012). Perspective on opportunities in industrial biotechnology in renewable chemicals, 176–185.

Fisken, J., and Rutherford, J. (2002). Business models and investment trends in the biotechnology industry in Europe. Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, 8(3), 191.

Foss, N. J., and Saebi, T. (2017). Fifteen Years of Research on Business Model Innovation: How Far Have We Come, and Where Should We Go? Journal of Management, 43(1), 1–28.

França, C., Broman, G., Robèrt, K-H., Basile, G., and Trygg, L. (2016). An approach to business model innovation and design for strategic sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner

Production, 140, 1–12.

Gavrilescu, M., and Chisti, Y. (2005). Biotechnology - A sustainable alternative for chemical industry. Biotechnology Advances, 23(7–8), 471–499.

Geissdoerfer, M., Bocken, N., and Hultink, E. J. (2016). Design thinking to enhance the sustainable business modelling process – A workshop based on a value mapping process. Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, 1218–1232.

Guest, G., and McLellan, E. (2003). Distinguishing the trees from the forest: Applying cluster analysis to thematic qualitative data. Field Methods, 15(2), 186-201.

Haner, U.-E. (2002). Innovation quality—a conceptual framework. International Journal of Production Economics, 80(1), 31–37.

Hatti-Kaul, R., Törnvall, U., Gustafsson, L., and Börjesson, P. (2007). Industrial biotechnology for the production of bio-based chemicals–a cradle-to-grave perspective. Trends in biotechnology, 25(3), 119-124.

Jernström, E., Karvonen, V., Kässi, T., Kraslawski, A., and Hallikas, J. (2017). The main factors affecting the entry of SMEs into bio-based industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 141, 1–10.

Joyce, A., and Paquin, R. L. (2016). The triple layered business model canvas: A tool to design more sustainable business models. Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, 1474–1486.

Johnson, M. W., Christensen, C. M., and Kagermann, H. (2008). Reinventing Your Business Model. (cover story). Harvard Business Review, 86(12), 50-59.

Kim, D.-Y., Kumar, V., and Kumar, U. (2012). Relationship between quality management practices and innovation. Journal of Operations Management, 30(4), 295–315.

Liedtka, J. (2011). Learning to use design thinking tools for successful innovation. Strategy and Leadership, 39(5), 13-19.

Lubik, S., and Garnsey, E. (2016). Early Business Model Evolution in Science-based Ventures: The Case of Advanced Materials. Long Range Planning, 49(3), 393–408.

Lynd L Laser M Bransby D Dale B Davison B et. al. (2008). How biotech can transform biofuels. Nature Biotechnology, 26, 169–172.

Matos, S., and Hall, J. (2007). Integrating sustainable development in the supply chain: The case of life cycle assessment in oil and gas and agricultural biotechnology. Journal of Operations Management, 25(6), 1083-1102.

Mizsey, P., and Racz, L. (2010). Cleaner production alternatives: biomass utilisation options. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18(8), 767-770.

Mitchell, D., and Coles, C. (2003). The ultimate competitive advantage of continuing business model innovation. Journal of Business Strategy, 24, 15–21.

Mitchell, D., and Coles, C. (2004). Establishing a continuing business model innovation process. Journal of Business Strategy, 25(3), 39–49.

Norman, W., and MacDonald, C. (2004). Getting to the bottom of “triple bottom line”. Business Ethics Quarterly, 14(02), 243-262.

Nosella, A., Petroni, G., and Verbano, C. (2005). Characteristics of

the Italian biotechnology industry and new business models: The initial results of an empirical study. Technovation, 25(8), 841–855.

Nusem, E., Wrigley, C., and Matthews, J. (2015). Exploring aged care business models: a typological study. Ageing and Society, 1-24.

OECD. (2001). The Application of Biotechnology to Industrial Sustainability.

Osterwalder, A., and Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business model generation : a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers.

Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., and Tucci, C. L. (2005). Communications of the Association for Information Systems Clarifying Business Models: Origins, Present, and Future of the Concept. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 16(16), 1–25.

Powell, W. W. (1998). Learning from collaboration: Knowledge and networks in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. California management review, 40(3), 228- 10.2307/41165952

Prajogo, D. I., McDermott, P., and Goh, M. (2008). Impact of value chain activities on quality and innovation. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 28(7), 615-635.

Rothaermel, F. T., and Deeds, D. L. (2004). Exploration and exploitation alliances in biotechnology: A system of new product development. Strategic management journal, 25(3), 201-221.

Sabatier, V., Craig-Kennard, A., and Mangematin, V. (2012). When technological discontinuities and disruptive business models challenge dominant industry logics: Insights from the drugs industry. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 79(5), 949-962.

Schreier, M. (2014). Qualitative content analysis. The SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis, 170-183.

Scherer, C., Emberger-Klein, A., and Menrad, K. (2017). Biogenic product alternatives for children: Consumer preferences for a set of sand toys made of bio-based plastic. Sustainable

Production and Consumption, 10, 1-14.

Shury, J. (2015). Researchers Use Biotechnology to Recycle Carbon Fibre. Retrieved from

Spieth, P., Schneckenberg, D., Ricart, J. ., P., S., D., S., and J.E., R. (2014). Business model innovation - state of the art and future challenges for the field. R and D Management, 44(3), 237–247.

Teece, D. J. (2000). Strategies for Managing Knowledge Assets: the Role of Firm Structure and Industrial Context. Long Range Planning, 33(1), 35–54.

Teece, D. J. (2010). Business Models , Business Strategy and Innovation. Long Range Planning, 43(2–3), 172–194.

Tikkanen, H., Lamberg, J. A., Parvinen, P., and Kallunki, J. P. (2005). Managerial cognition, action and the business model of the firm. Management decision, 43(6), 789-809.

Upward, A. (2013). Towards an Ontology and Canvas for Strongly Sustainable Business Models: A Systemic Design Science Exploration, (August), 1–1138. Retrieved from

Vermeulen, W. J. V, and Witjes, S. (2016). On addressing the dual and embedded nature of business and the route towards corporate sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 112, 2822–2832.

Voelpel, S. C., Leibold, M., and Tekie, E. B. (2004). The wheel of business model reinvention: how to reshape your business model to leapfrog competitors. Journal of change management, 4(3), 259-276.

Westkämper, E., Alting, L., and Arndt, G. (2001). Life cycle management and assessment: approaches and visions towards sustainable manufacturing. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part B: Journal of Engineering Manufacture, 215(5), 599-626.

Wilson, S. C., and Jones, K. C. (1993). Bioremediation of soil

contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): a review. Environmental pollution, 81(3), 229-249.

Wrigley, C., and Straker, K. (2016). Designing innovative business models with a framework that promotes experimentation. Strategy and Leadership. 44(1), 11-19.

Zott, C., Amit, R., and Massa, L. (2011). The business model: recent developments and future research. Journal of management, 37(4), 1019-1042.

Zott, Christoph, and Raphael Amit. "Business model design and the performance of entrepreneurial firms." Organization science 18.2 (2007): 181-199.

Zott, C., and Amit, R. (2008). The fit between product market strategy and business model: implications for firm performance. Strategic management journal, 29(1), 1-26.