Trade-off between utopia and business opportunity in WASP

Mariolina Longo, Matteo Mura December 7, 2020


This case describes WASP, a small Italian company that is a leader in the design and manufacturing of large-scale 3D printers. In 2018, the Financial Times placed WASP among the 100-most innovative digital companies in Europe. The case presents WASP’s vision towards sustainability and the circular economy. To that end, it also shows how the founder’s vision has been translated into projects and products through an innovative business model. The case highlights the relevance of systemic thinking when dealing with sustainability-related initiatives, and describes how circularity can be applied not only to products and processes, but also to business models. The case underscores the challenges and trade-offs that sustainability-oriented organizations have to face in balancing long-term social and environmental challenges with short-term financial results.

Target for Teaching

  • Organizational Change
  • Sustainability-Oriented Business Models
  • Green innovation
  • Circular Economy

Target audience and Issues

The target audience for this case includes executives, MBA students and master
students who are interested in exploring the organizational challenges related to
implementing sustainability-oriented business models.
The case could also prove useful for final-year undergraduates, as it shows the
need for systemic thinking when dealing with green innovations and circular economy
approaches to business, as well as when launching a new venture.

Teaching objectives

The overarching objective of this case is to provide an opportunity for students to consider how a company can solve a global challenge – “A self-3D-printed house for everyone” – and simultaneously prosper financially. The Sustainability-Oriented-Innovation paradigm provides a framework for exploring WASP’s journey, from start-up through a later growth stage, by detailing three main topics:

  1. The company’s objective towards sustainability: “To design products, production
    processes and economic models suitable for individuals’ wellbeing”;
  2. The type of innovation involved: “From technological innovation to business
    model innovation”;
  3. The unit of analysis the company focused on: “From the company itself, to the
    value chain, to the global value network”.
This abstract is based on
Trade-off between utopia and business opportunity in WASP | Case Study: Reference no. 720-0067-1 | Teaching Note: Reference no. 720-0067-8