Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation ecosystems

Place-based Innovation Ecosystems: A case-study comparative analysis

This case study  represents a conclusive comparative analysis of a series of five Place-Based Innovation Ecosystem cases and aims at extracting policy relevant conclusions about the orchestrators and other systemically important actors and elements of these systems.  It contributes to the European Commission Joint Research Centre’ s research line about analysis and methodologies of Place-Based Innovation Ecosystems (PIEs).

The authors seek to generate scientific evidence for the future development of the European Union policies related to innovation in the context of regional and urban Innovation Ecosystems, emphasising the importance of the place-based dimension of innovation for the purpose of local economic transformation.

The selected PIE cases across EU are Espoo Innovation Garden and Aalto University (Finland), Digital Social Innovation in Barcelona (Spain), Volvo companies in Gothenburg (Sweden) and Ljubljana Start-up Ecosystem and the Technology Park Ljubljana (Slovenia). These cases are targets of the European Union’ s cohesion policy framework, with RIS3 as an ex-ante conditionality (EU Regulation 1301/2013).  The Boston-Cambridge Innovation Ecosystem (Massachusetts, United States of America) serves as a “Satellite’ case in the case series and follows a different (non-European) policy framework (RIS3 is not mandatory).

Rissola and Haberleithner create the conceptual framework for the case studies based on the following questions that highlight the territorial dimension of innovation:

  • why does innovation take place in certain places and not in others?
  • what are the contextual conditions and public interventions enabling such innovations to happen in a specific site?

Throughout the study, the term “place-based” reflects efforts towards urban or regional economic transformation that exceeds the eventual effects of national or even EU level strategies. The authors recognise the basis of this concept in the empowerment of a bottom-up approach that seeks benefits for the concerned city or region, and connect it with the philosophy behind Smart Specialisation.

Five different models of Place-based Innovation Ecosystems are defined based on the territorial dimension, the roles of main actors, the ecosystem contextualisation of Smart Specialisation strategies and entrepreneurial discovery process  and the key enabling factors of each innovation ecosystem:

  1. The Entrepreneurial University Innovation Ecosystem (Espoo)
  2. The Digital Social Innovation Ecosystem (Barcelona)
  3. The Industrial Innovation Ecosystem (Gothenburg)
  4. The Start-up Innovation Ecosystem (Ljubljana) and
  5. The Innovation District Ecosystem (Boston-Cambridge)

Each of these models has  the potential to serve as an indicative reference for the development of other EU (and non-EU) cases.

This study evidences a high complexity of innovation ecosystems with different levels of implementation of the Quadruple Helix Model and different kind of interrelations with Smart Specialisation Strategies and their inherent Entrepreneurial Discovery Processes.

The conclusions are summarised by the authors in the following points:

  • The analysed innovation ecosystems are of high complexity, with strong individual system properties. Each system is representing a particular type of innovation ecosystem
  • There are different levels of implementation of the Quadruple Helix Model (4H), from a rudimentary application to a transforming stage from Triple Helix to 4 H and up to fully adapted
  • Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3)- and, in particular, the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP), which vertebrates their definition and implementation- have different levels of interrelation with the questioned ecosystems, from a very low influence to the ecosystem up to fully related to the relevant processes and dynamics.
  • The orchestrators or main key-players play an essential role in the innovation ecosystems, influencing directly and indirectly their development- they are enabling interaction across the quadruple helix actors and implement governance structures that support the circulation of knowledge dynamically on different territorial scales.
  • Local, regional, national and international innovation-related policy agendas have a relevant impact on the strategic directions of innovation ecosystems, for example the UN2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Innovation ecosystems are significantly dependent on talent attraction and retaining, on an entrepreneurial and risk-taking culture, as well as on the presence of R&I infrastructure and on compatible and complementary system stakeholders.
  • Internationalisation is a core element of competitive, sustainable and successful implementation of place-based innovation ecosystems.
  • There is no single and conclusive recipe for the successful implementation of place-based innovation ecosystems.

The next steps on this JRC research line will be the conceptualisation of a case analysis model based on this comparative analysis and a critical review of the original conceptual and methodological framework.

Find the study here.