17. Triple Helix and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems in the Light of Complexity and Evolutionary Ecology

Track conveners – Bernd Wurth, University of Strathclyde (UK) bernd.wurth@strath.ac.uk

From an evolutionary perspective, the Triple Helix concept describes universities, industry, and government as co-evolving actors in a socio-economic system. Entrepreneurship (or sometimes called entrepreneurial) ecosystems take a similar perspective on a heterogeneous population of agents, such as universities, companies and support institutions, among others, that interact, co-evolve and foster entrepreneurship.

However, the term entrepreneurship ecosystem has mostly been used metaphorically and is
sometimes even misunderstood. Using the analogy to biological ecosystems and viewing entrepreneurial ecosystems as complex adaptive systems, we can go beyond the metaphorical meaning. This way, the concept can provide novel insights, especially by including characteristics that have been neglected in research for the most part so far: self-organisation, the absence of a controlling entity, and emergence.

The aim of this track is to shed further light at the following issues, among others:

  • Present case studies and new research that view university-industry-government interactions within the ecosystem framework.
  • Develop new insights into how ecosystems work, what role institutions and individuals of the Triple Helix play, and how they are interact and co-evolve.
  • Since ecosystems lack a controlling entity and are usually not created or built, how do policies and strategies have to be designed to make successful interventions?
  • Individuals and organisations work strategically towards goals (that might contradict the wellbeing of the ecosystem or Triple Helix). How does self-organisation work in the context of university-industry-government interactions? How do the dynamics at the ecosystem level emerge?
  • By taking a complexity science perspective, can ecosystems as a form of complex adaptive systems help expand our understanding of the dynamics of the triple (and even quintuple) helix by providing an overarching framework?


Graham, R. (2014). Creating university-based entrepreneurial ecosystems: evidence from emerging world leaders. MIT Skoltech Initiative.
Holland, J. H. (1995). Hidden Order: How Adaption Builds Complexity. Reading, MA: Helix Books.
Hwang, V., & Horowitt, G. (2012). The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon. Los Altos Hills, CA: Regenwald.
Isenberg, D. (2010). How to start an entrepreneurial revolution. Harvard Business Review, 88(6), 40-50.
Leydesdorff, L., & Etzkowitz, H. (1998). The Triple Helix as a model for innovation studies. Science and Public Policy, 25(3), 195-203.
Malecki, E. J. (2011). Connecting local entrepreneurial ecosystems to global innovation networks: open innovation, double networks and knowledge integration. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, 14(1), 36-59.
Moore, J. F. (1993). Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition. Harvard Business Review, 71(3), 75-86.
Stam, E. (2015). Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Regional Policy: A Sympathetic Critique. European Planning Studies, 23(9), 1759-1769.
Tijssen, R. J. W. (2006). Universities and industrially relevant science: Towards measurement models and indicators of entrepreneurial orientation. Research Policy, 35(10), 1569–1585.