Preconditions to start and scale digital ecosystems : a study of aquacloud in the Norwegian seafood industry
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- Master Thesis 
Digital transformation characterizes a vast number of companies, and increasingly as the technological advancements with artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things, and 5G mobile network technology expands the possibilities. One digitalization strategy is to create digital ecosystems, which companies are increasingly pursuing to deliver complex value propositions and to develop structures for inter-organizational collaboration that facilitates open innovation. How digital ecosystems can be started and later scaled is not well understood, and this study focuses on the digital ecosystem AquaCloud to expand the knowledge on this subject. AquaCloud is an emerging ecosystem started by a seafood cluster organization together with Norway’s largest salmon producers. Their first goal is to predict sea lice outbreaks by applying AI to large data sets, and in the future, AquaCloud could become something far greater as the ecosystem structure facilitates open innovation. Findings show that data standardization and data security are fundamental to allow heterogeneous and complementary technologies operate together towards a joint value proposition while securing sensitive data. However, without fully understanding how to design this system, findings suggest digital ecosystems have to start with trust and simplified contracts among the involved parties, allowing experimentation toward a functional design. Also, findings suggest starting with large industry players helps to root the ecosystem in the industry and attract external contributors through its signaling effect. Then, as standardization and security are established, the ecosystem becomes scalable as technologies can easily connect and disconnect while efficiently preserving interests as trust shifts from primarily humans to systems. Furthermore, findings suggest establishing a structure e.g., an organization which adjusts standards and security measures according to changing business environments is fundamental for long-term success. These findings represent considerable barriers to overcome, but for digital ecosystems like AquaCloud, the incentives to succeed far outweigh the costs. Overall, creating a digital ecosystem shows signs of being a beneficial strategy if one can manage to establish these preconditions. Through the investigations and analysis performed, AquaCloud is on the right track to becoming a successful digital ecosystem, and an excellent case for inspiration.