The entrepreneurial ecosystem (EE) literature has attracted much attention, especially in policy circles. However, the concept suffers from a number of shortcomings: (1) it lacks a clear analytical framework that makes explicit what is cause and what is effect in an EE; (2) while being a systemic concept, the EE has not yet fully exploited insights from network theory, and it is not always clear in what way the proposed elements are connected in an EE; (3) it remains a challenge what institutions (and at what spatial scale) impact on the structure and performance of EE; (4) studies have often focused on the EE in single regions or clusters, but lack a comparative and multi-scalar perspective and (5) the EE literature tends to provide a static framework taking a snapshot of EE without considering systematically their evolution over time. For each of these shortcomings, we make a number of suggestions to take up in future research on EE.
The primary aim of this article is to reprise the debate about the role and competence of the state in innovation and development, building on the contributions of new industrial policy. It then examines the experience of one of the most ambitious mission-led innovation programmes ever launched in Europe, the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) programme, which has been influenced by industrial policy ideas. The article also identifies a number of challenges facing the S3 programme, particularly in the less-developed regions of the European Union, where these challenges are most pronounced.
Morgan, K., & Marques, P. (2019). The Public Animateur: mission-led innovation and the “smart state” in Europe. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 12(2), 179-193.
Professor of Governance and Development and University Dean of Engagement at the School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University
The interview transcript
Janna thank you very much for accepting this invitation to have a coffee break with me, how are you doing?
Thank you very much, it’s great to be here and I’m doing very well, thank you
Great to know, I’m enjoying as usual a very nice and dark this time black Colombian coffee, which coffee are you having today?
I have a lovely cappuccino.
Janna I want to talk with you about very interesting paper you wrote in which you do a critical review of entrepreneurial ecosystems, could you please tell me what the paper was about?
sure so the paper is about the concept of entrepreneurial ecosystems, they became very popular and it was mentioned a lot so a lot of policy makers were keen on applying that concept, however it was also a bit confusing and researchers at that time also had hard time to explaining all the bits and parts of that concept, so in our paper we went through systematically different research papers to explain what were the shortcomings of that concept at that time.
That sounds great so I imagined that the key notion of your paper is entrepreneurial ecosystems, do you mind giving us a definition of this concept?
yes of course entrepreneurial ecosystems are ecosystems that support or not entrepreneurship in the region and you could think about Silicon Valley, which is a popular example or another region like Stockholm or Lund, where there are different actors and factors are coordinated in a certain way that they support or not productive entrepreneurship, so we talk about actors, factors, links between them it happens in a region and we promote productive entrepreneurship.
Thank you for that that’s a very important concept indeed, in being in Lund very important to define it there um I want to know now a little bit about the findings of your paper can you tell us something about them please?
yes of course so the findings were about shortcomings as I mentioned and we found that cause and effect in the framework was not really clearly explained, another thing was that we were talking about entrepreneurial ecosystem like a network and we know a lot about networks through network theory and we have network tools but those were not yet applied to that concept, another thing were institutions institutions, such as culture or laws and regulations are very important, we know that, but also that was not really discussed in that concept yet in scientific literature, multiscalar approach was not taking up either, which means that not only looking at networks in one region, but how also how links outside of the region to national and global level play a role, also institutions play a role not only at regional level, but also at national and global levels and that is important to understand how that impact entrepreneurship comparative analysis or comparative approach was not taking up either too much, which means that researchers were focusing on certain regions and explaining that as singular cases and more comparative studies would be good to have and last point was dynamics, many discussions were about static view on entrepreneurship ecosystem, entrepreneurial ecosystem and it’s really interesting to know how we arrived there, how did silicon valley became what it is or how did Stockholm became what it is, how it started um developed their networks and became stronger with time.
So interesting thank you for that I would like you please to tell us a little bit about your personal experience or your personal motivation when you when you wrote this paper?
so this is a concept that supports or not entrepreneurship and of course that is very interesting to know because I’ve been an entrepreneur myself, I had a company and then I studied masters in entrepreneurship so anything that can help entrepreneurs dare to start a company and get support in those questions have been interesting to me.
That’s great to know honestly I’m also an entrepreneur myself and I really enjoyed your reading your paper because of that so, finally I want to ask you about the implications for for policy makers after your paper.
so the relevance to policy is that quality of entrepreneurship differ between different regions and that means that we have different type we can expect to have different types of firms in, as I mentioned Silicon Valley or Ohio or Stockholm or Lund regions and and we should understand not only how the firms themselves act and what they need but also the system they are in the ecosystem they are in, so policy makers should not only stimulate the entrepreneurial firms, but also understand the whole system and address bottlenecks in that system,
That’s really really important indeed and thank you very very much for for that paper for all your valuable insights and of course for having the time to chat with me and I wish you Janna all the best and those were all my questions and hope to see you soon in a coffee break.
My pleasure thank you very much for having me.
Thank you for watching if you’re interested in more details about this academic publication you can find here the link below. Find us on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube or listen to our podcast on Spotify, see you next time bye!
Hi, welcome to coffee break with researchers. Today we are at the Geography of Innovation Conference in Stavanger in Norway and I’m having a coffee break with Kevin Morgan. He is a Professor of Governance and Development and he is also the Dean of Engagement at the Cardiff University. Coffee Break with Researchers presents you with cutting-edge insights on regional development and innovation. We ask researchers directly in a personal manner about their work. We make scientific knowledge accessible to all. Kevin thank you very much for accepting this invitation to have a coffee break with me.
How are you doing?
It is a pleasure, I’m doing fine, thanks.
I want to talk with you today about a paper you wrote in which you investigate the debate about the role of and competence of the state of innovation and development, could you please tell me what the paper was about?
Well the paper was an attempt to explore the debate about the role in nature of the state in innovation and regional development in the light of new contributions to this new debate what we call new industrial policy and the major contributions to that debate people like Dani Rodrik, Charles Sabel, Mariana Mazzucato, who have made significant contributions to this debate and we wanted to look at that debate and draw out the implications for regional development.
It sounds very interesting. And I see the key notion of your paper is smart specialization strategy. Could you please define it for me?
Well smart specialization is a is a unfortunate Brussels buzzword for regional innovation policy and the core idea is to encourage regions to try to find their comparative advantages and to try to invest in those comparative advantages that’s putting it at its simplest. And the article tried to make two contributions, one to the theory, where we said these grand theories of industrial policy were fine but they had one great problem and that was that they neglected to think about state capacity and the problems that the public sector has in general dealing with things like failure, feedback and learning, and this is crucial to public sector capacity and that capacity problem is most acute in Europe’s less developed regions.
I can imagine that. So based on this notion, which ones would you say are the main findings of the paper?
I think the main findings were really twofold really. On the theory side we said that theorists needed to pay much more attention to the capacity of the state, the skills of the public sector, the organizational capacity. You know things that were important for implementing policy. So theoretically we needed to address these problems of the public sector. Secondly on the policy side we showed that these problems in less developed regions, the main problem was institutional capacity and smart specialization really exposes this like never before because it makes more demands on the public sector than any regional policy has ever done before and therefore it creates this paradox the demands on the public sector are increasing but the capacity of the public sector is decreasing because of ten years of austerity budgets and we explored that paradox. I can perfectly understand that, thank you for clarifying it.
And I am very interested also in knowing your personal motivation in writing the paper, what drove you to do it?
I hope Pedro agrees with this, he is my co-author, my own personal motivation for doing it was to try to change the way we think and talk about the state and the public sector. For 40 years this conversation has been conducted through the lens of neoliberalism and the talk has always been about how to shrink the state how to privatize it deregulate it or outsource it and has never thought positively or creatively about the state, and therefore we think that at a time of grander societal challenges for climate change, food security, dignified elder care, these big challenges that face all our societies, we really need a smart state, not a shrunken state and that’s the motivation to try to create a more positive view of the state if we can get the capacity of the state right.
Thank you, how inspiring is that, and finally I want to ask you about the
policy implications of your paper.
Well I think there are a number of policy implications. The first one is of course the need to invest in the capacity of the state particularly at the regional level in less developed regions, building public sector skill-sets as I’ve said, building organizational capacity. The second implication is to treat implementation seriously. You know policy implementation I think has been the Cinderella of regional innovation policy, people are focused on the design of policy because that’s where the high status stuff goes on, but implementation is a creative act, it’s not a passive act you know, local agents are not worker bees and thirdly I would say to recognize that smart specialization is a multi scalar strategy not just a regional strategy. Therefore we need extra regional support from the European level, from national level, but also we need more autonomy at the regional level to allow regions the space and the power to experiment.
Very important for regional policy making, Kevin. Thank you very much for these insights, it was a real pleasure for me to have you here in a coffee break and I hope to see you again soon.
Tags: experimental governance, new industrial policy, regional innovation paradox, Smart specialisation
Thanks for having me. Thank you very much for watching, if you’re interested in more details about this academic publication, you can find here the link below and thank you and see you next time, bye bye.