Innovation Ecosystems and Innovative Networks

Innovation networks

Tidd & Bessant (2009) define various types of innovation networks. The cases from VRI2 presented in appendix 1 span across several different types:

Entrepreneurs’ networks: A combination of formal and informal mechanisms, centered on the idea’s owner. It often depends on the energy and enthusiasm of the idea’s owner (the entrepreneur) in getting people interested to join in and stay in. Provides access to both knowledge and financial resources (BJ, MSF from VRI2).
Internal networks and project teams: These are often cross-disciplinary and resemble to entrepreneurs’ networks quite a bit. The difference is that these develop within one organization. This requires that the individuals have time, motivation and incentive to speak to together (IT-F from VRI2).
Communities of practice: Centered on one specific kind of knowledge, often has both internal and external participants (IT-F from VRI2).
Spatial clusters: These develop as a consequence of participants being located in close geographic proximity, such as in Silicon Valley (BJ, FBN from VRI2).
Sectoral network: These have members located within the same industry or technology sector, and have as their purpose to improve competitively in the specific sector (BJ, MSF, ESF, FBN from VRI2).
New product or process development consortium: Knowledge sharing to develop new products, technologies and processes. The challenge here is to find partners that can contribute with ideas and be good collaboration partners (FBN, MSF from VRI2).
Emerging standards groups: These are centered on developing new industrial standards.
Supply chain learning: Learning and development of best practices that occur in a value/supply chain (BJ, MSF, ESF, FBN from VRI2).

Much of the research literature points to collaboration between industry/trade, research and development, and the public sector as a means to increase value creation. The Triple helix model (THM) describes three spirals twisted around each other. These spirals represent industry, the public sector and research – or action, financing and knowledge –three factors that are essential for innovation.

However, the THM with three equally large sectors is not easily applied in rural areas like Sogn og Fjordane County. This county is not only sparsely populated buts also “organizationally sparse”. In other words, we have many small businesses, few R&D agencies, and vast distances. Typically, public organizations in Sogn og Fjordane County will always be large compared to most businesses. Network collaboration around development in Sogn og Fjordane County may be considered to be a complex but dynamic innovation ecosystem. Participants in this ecosystem are groups within research and higher education, private and public agencies, and these exist on a local, municipal, regional and national level. In a network such as an innovative ecosystem, the participants will be equally dependent on each other. When they interact, and one party is successful, the other parties will be successful too – at least in the long run.

Moreover, a recent study from Norway suggest that the ideal THM not always is realized, as the public engagement in the different networks varied with the life cycle phase of the network and the public sector’s position in the value chain. The balance between the public and private sphere may vary from as little engagement as possible (laissez-faire) to being an equal triple helix partner (Larsen, Nesse & Rubach, 2018).

Lastly in section, we want to mention that there could be good reasons to expand the THM to a multi helix model, where e.g. the following five stakeholders are highlighted as most critical in an innovative ecosystem: Public sector, business organizations, academia, investors (risk capital) and the entrepreneurial community 3. If some of these stakeholders are missing or not actively participating it could be a bad sign for a business network.

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