Seminar: Riccardo Marzano, “Barriers and drivers in the adoption of advanced wastewater treatment technologies: a comparative analysis of Italian utilities”, 8 june

On June 8, 2016, 11.00-12.00, SALA CONSIGLIO – Dr. Riccardo Marzano (Polytechnic of Milan) will give a talk on “Barriers and drivers in the adoption of advanced wastewater treatment technologies: a comparative analysis of Italian utilities” (joint with Garrone P., Grilli L., Groppi A.)


The adoption of new environmentally-friendly technologies is becoming a key issue in both public debate and policy arenas. The paper focuses on innovation adoption by wastewater utilities, and investigates why stringent environmental regulations are not sufficient to foster it. The adoption of advanced wastewater treatment technologies is made complex by the sunk nature of highly specific infrastructures, and the consequent exposure of utilities to political and institutional influences. In addition, it requires the involvement of various actors (utilities, suppliers, contractors), and is influenced by various stakeholders (communities, business users, citizens’ associations) that generally have no aligned objectives.

With reference to the aforementioned theoretical background, our paper develops and analyzes a conceptual framework that unfolds over two dimensions: (a) the role played by firm-specific characteristics,

i.e. technological and organizational capabilities and managerial professionalism; (b) the influence of community-level factors, i.e. citizens’ voice and pressure exerted by local stakeholders.

We investigate these issues through multiple descriptive case studies based on semi-structured interviews

with the CEOs and top managers of 11 wastewater utilities operating in a region in North-Italy.

The results suggest that firm-specific resources could spur wastewater utilities into adopting innovation,

despite an adverse institutional environment. At the same time, on the community-level side, the analysis shows that residents and local businesses are able to mobilize resources and exert pressure to either drive or hinder the adoption of water innovations.

Key-words: Water innovation, Wastewater, Environment, Adoption, Infrastructure, Utilities

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