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Chemical Suppliers’ Perspectives and Impact on Innovation in the Wood Treating Industry

Erlend Nybakk, Eric Hansen, Andreas Treu, Tore Aase


Recent challenges to forest sector firm competitiveness have driven interest in innovation to
create a competitive advantage. Suppliers are a major source of innovation for forest sector firms, yet little
study has been done on their role in the innovation process. Using a qualitative case study approach,
we explore how chemical companies perceive innovation in the wood treating industry and how they
feel they impact innovation among wood-treating firms. Our findings indicate that chemical company
managers view the wood-treating industry as conservative and not particularly innovative. Additionally,
retailers play a hampering and directing role regarding innovation in the industry. Chemical company
managers feel that they have an important impact on innovation within their customer firms, partially
because they see limited possibilities for differentiating wood products without value-added additions,
such as chemical treatments. Currently, various mechanisms for coloring wood products, along with
standard chemical treatments, are the focus of innovation efforts. Chemical company managers also view
their role with customers as a problem-solver, providing a package of benefits following the total product
concept. Finally, strong relationships between chemical suppliers and key innovative customers play an
important role in creating and implementing innovations in the industry.


Wood industry, sawmills, chemical companies, NPD, process innovation, buyer–supplier relationships

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