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.
In the face of reduced public funding of science and increased demands for ‘value for money’, academic researchers find themselves hard pressed to produce relevant research and demonstrate their utility to society. These pressures are particularly prominent in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) where practical value is frequently questioned. This article investigates how HSS can be made ‘relevant’ through the qualitative case study of a funding instrument fostering immersive collaboration between HSS researchers and non-academic actors. The research is a qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews with the funded researchers and representatives of the funding agency. The paper provides insights into the motivations and experiences of HSS researchers embarking on the quest for relevance and the difficulties they encounter. In particular, the study finds that the key challenge for HSS researchers lies in balancing the level of engagement required to be relevant with the requirements of an academic career.
Professor of Research Policy at the Business Administration Department
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!
Merle, thank you very much for accepting this invitation to have a coffee break with me, how are you doing?
I’m doing fine and it is great to be here. I’m having a delicious Colombian black coffee, as usual, are you having any coffee? Yes, I’m having some Nespresso Coffee and I have a nice new coffee cup so it is good. Nice.
Merle, I want to talk with you about your paper, being there in the flex. Could you please tell me what the paper was about?
The paper is about a research funding instrument that funds researchers from the humanities and the social sciences to work from two to three years in a firm or in a non-governmental organisation, or even a government agency. And they work both on a research project of their own design as well as they work part time in the firm. I think they spend one day a week working on tasks as an employee in the firm and they spend the other the time in the firm doing research.
And could you please elaborate more on this concept of flex, why you think this concept is so fitting to the paper?
I borrowed it from the name of the instrument, the instrument is called flexit and I tried to spin out from that and see the whole experience of the researchers as being in a kind of a flex situation, one day being reflexive about their collaboration with non-academic actors as well as being reflexive about their own sort of condition of whether they want to stay at the University of whether they want to spend the rest of their careers working in the non-academic setting. So there is a lot of play on their concept of flexing to pick up on different aspects of the researchers experience being outside of the academy.
I find this concept personally fascinating, could you please tell us the main findings of your paper?
What we found was start to the most researchers who did this who had this experience felt that they identified skills that they had that they hadn’t thought they had until they were in the flex, as so many of them usually think of themselves as being experts on the issue they do their research on and focus on the empirical sort of expertise they have but, when one does a PhD one acquires a whole range of other kinds of skills, which are much more useful out there in the flex, that they are sometimes at the University and and those skills are often very difficult for researchers, even people in mid-career to identify so next the experience of being in the flex help people to identify other kinds of skills that they possess that they hadn’t really picked up on.
I can relate to that too so could you share some parts of your personal experience or motivation that you had when you wrote the paper?
I am a researcher who works with understanding how to research funding shapes researchers careers and how it changes their research trajectories o strengths them and creates opportunities for further development, so for me the instrument is a special instance of collaboration, we have not had any similar kinds of instruments in Sweden before, so it was a chance to have an intensive look at people who have done this, find out their motivations and find out how it impacted on their careers afterwards.
That’s great to know thank you so much for clarifying it and that finally I’m asking you about the police implications of your paper.
Mainly the main policy implications should be directed toward research funders, research councils as we call them here I think is the most surprising finding is that true and instrument like flexit what happens is that the research funder provides opens the doors to organisations who don’t usually commissioned research and give them access to research funders, infrastructure for funding and their expertise to commission research and and they do the selection on behalf of this organisation so that most of the transaction cost of learning how to commission research, the non-academic host organisation doesn’t have to to spend time and the resources on that. So the collaboration than becomes not just a collaboration between the researcher in the host organisation but also between the host organisation and the research Council and that is an aspect of collaborate and funding research that many people miss and particularly policy-makers because it’s often not understood that in order to commission research one has to have certain types of skills and organisations that need research may not always have those skills or even the resources to acquire those skills, so there are two kinds of enabling factor that this instrument provides.
Sounds great, win-win for everybody, both policy makers and researchers, I’m really happy about that, it was really nice to read your paper, thank you once again for your time and for those valuable insights. I wish you all the best in your future research and hope to see you again in a coffee break.
Thank you, bye bye. Thank you for watching, if you are interested in 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- bye.