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KiOR: Catalyzing green energy

Company name

Ramana Nanda and Toby Stuart

Harvard Business School 

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KiOR: Catalyzing green energy

Year published 

Last year covered in case 


Biofuels start-up KiOR was developing a proprietary technology that had the potential to dramatically impact the emerging renewable energy landscape: a process that converted cellulosic biomass into "bio-crude," a hydrocarbon mixture with properties to those of crude oil. KiOR had been operating as a virtual organization, but with venture financing in place, founder and chief technology officer Paul O'Connor and the KiOR board needed to decide where to headquarter their business. 

Teaching note

  • N/A

Key Management Reading

  • Ambec, S. & Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives. 45-62
  • Reinhardt, F. (1999). Bringing the Environment Down to Earth. Harvard Business Review. July; 149-157 

    Other Readings

    • N/A

    Audio/Visual Material

    • N/A

    Discussion Questions

    • N/A 

        Green Chemistry Principle

        • Principle 3 Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses (process)
        • Principle 6 Design for Energy Efficiency 
        • Principle 7 Use of Renewable Feedstocks 
        • Principle 9 Catalysis

        Fuels, including biofuels

        Teaching Topic
        Environmental issues
        Global/transnational issues
        Social need as business opportunity

        Management Discipline
        Business, government and society

        Business Logic
        Cost of capital (backing from Vinod Khosla, VC supporting renewable energy technologies)
        Product differentiation
        Reduced Cost

        Environmental Issue
        Cellulosic biomass
        Climate change
        Renewable energy

        North America

        Self Identified as Green Chemistry?

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