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Doctoral defence of Päivi Pelli, MSc (Econ), 1.12.2023: Service trends challenge the forest-based sector organizations to rethink their roles in the evolving bioeconomy

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Forest Sciences will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus and online.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

My research is about changes in the operating environment of forest sector companies and organizations, more specifically that of service trends. It is important to study services, because bioeconomy development is expected to change the forest sector and offer many opportunities, for example, in solving the complex challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, in creating economic growth from new bio-based products and their circular business models, and in securing the many benefits that forests provide for people both in rural and urban areas. Services are part of all these goals, but in forest economic research, questions of interest often start within the forest sector, for example: what kind of services do forest sector companies offer and what opportunities does this open? 

In my research, I take the opposite perspective: what is going on in parallel industries of the forest sector and how are service trends visible in the customer industries, thus, in my research in housing construction, its supply networks and markets? This view from outside-in to the forest sector is important because the bioeconomy cannot be defined by the forest sector companies and organizations alone.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

My research examines service trends as changes in company operations and, more broadly, as part of the evolving industrial production system. The sociotechnical transition model, which I use, allows both perspectives simultaneously. Thus, how technology and, for example, sustainability goals change business operations and how these changes affect companies across industries. 

As a new approach my research combines sociotechnical transitions with knowledge bases of engineering and business sciences: how are services and as-a-service operations approached in different industries? How will the business models of industrial production change when products and services are gradually mixed in the increasingly integrated systems? What kind of service innovations and new services can be detected in the markets? As a result, I find several perspectives to the bioeconomy. The forest and wood products industries seek to serve their customers with efficient and transparent supply chains for wood construction. 

At the same time, the customer's networks develop smart systems enabled by digital platforms, and experiment how the nature-based services and sharing economy solutions can be integrated in the built environment. The question is not only about new product service systems, but also about changing roles of the producers and users. Forest data or benefits from forests, such as climate services and health effects, can be detected in many ways in businesses outside the traditional forest sector. 

As a game-changing question, I raise whether the companies and organizations in the forest sector focus on serving the product service systems of today, or whether they seek to contribute to the next generation of product service system solutions, and transition of an entire industrial system.

How can the results of your doctoral research be utilised in practice?

My research demonstrates changing operating environment of the forest sector companies and organizations: we are part of an evolving service economy, and services are crucial for bioeconomy development. Today we recognize the product service systems enabled by digitalization and the new ways of bundling and unbundling of the material and immaterial production in the markets, but can we imagine the bioeconomy services of the future? The examples presented on service trends can help forest sector companies to identify opportunities for their own service development or for developing integrated solutions together with other industries. 

My research, however, emphasizes the need to understand change more broadly at the level of the entire production system. Service trends do not unfold as one possible future development solely. On the contrary, I conclude that none of today’s product service system models alone capture the future product service systems. Therefore, alternative scenarios are needed with a broader view than at present on the future forest sector and forest use. Forest research already produces possible scenarios. 

By combining this work with the knowledge bases of service research, it could be possible to describe market changes and changing business models in a way that different scenarios – thus also those challenging the current industrial production paradigm – became convincing, even intriguing to the forest sector companies and organizations.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

The doctoral research consists of three studies, each of which applies a different perspective to service trends in the forest sector and evolving bioeconomy. Service research disciplines provide a means how services and the changes in company operations can be identified and categorized, and further, how the direction of change in the markets can be described. 

By building on these knowledge bases, I have carried out qualitative content analyses to examine 1) role of services in the European RDI roadmaps of the forest-based sector and parallel industries, 2) business model changes in the supply networks of industrial wood construction, and 3) market offerings and service innovation in sustainable housing construction projects in Finland. In total, some two hundred companies have been analysed covering different industries of construction value networks. 

Main sources of data have been publicly available materials, such as research agendas, project and company databases, and marketing materials of companies. In addition, I have analysed three wood element products with a value-added trade analysis to assess how value is distributed in industrial wood construction supply chains. 

These data are confidential, but the results of the analysis are public and comparable to the analyses previously carried out by ETLA in Finland on how value added is formed and distributed globally. 

The doctoral dissertation of Päivi Pelli, MSc (Econ), entitled Service trends and the forest-based sector – an analysis of wood construction, the bioeconomy and evolving product service systems will be examined at the Faculty of Science, Forestry and Technology, Joensuu Campus and online. The opponent will be Professor Anne Toppinen, University of Helsinki,  and the custos will be Professor Jouni Pykäläinen, University of Eastern Finland. Language of the public defence is English.

For more information, please contact:

Päivi Pelli,, tel. +358 50 306 2198 (work)