Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and the Role of Place: Foundations, Policies, and Dynamics

Session organisers:
  • Ben Spigel (University of Edinburgh, UK)
  • Erik Stam (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)
  • Frank van Rijnsoever (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)
  • Bernd Wurth (University of Strathclyde, UK)

Entrepreneurial ecosystems (EEs) consist of “all the interdependent actors and factors that enable and constrain entrepreneurship within a particular territory” (Stam and van de Ven 2019). EEs are a widely-used approach by policy makers to promote innovative entrepreneurship in the form of founding and growth of startups. This innovative entrepreneurship in turn stimulates regional economic development, and contributes to tackling societal challenges at the regional, national and global level. Further, the concept increasingly attracts scholarly attention from geography, entrepreneurship, economics, innovation studies, sustainability science and other fields. Each of these fields brings their own ideas and approaches to the debate, which leads to a rich and diverse set of approaches to the concept of EEs. Hence, there is a need for an ongoing, transdisciplinary dialogue on EEs (Wurth, Stam and Spigel 2021).
The concept EE itself follows a long history of territorial models of innovation and entrepreneurship, including regional innovation systems, and clusters. There is a growing consensus regarding what an EE is, yet many questions remain unanswered. How do different ecosystem ‘configurations’ lead to different outputs, in terms of the founding and growth of various types of startups? How are EEs shaped by ‘place’-based characteristics? How do they link regional entrepreneurial activity to innovation ecosystems and platforms that transcend geographic boundaries? How do ‘bottom-up’ dynamics and ‘top-down’ interventions interact and shape entrepreneurial activity? This special session is positioned at the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship, economic geography, and regional studies. Therefore, it complements the regular sessions with a focus on how regions support entrepreneurship as a means for socio-economic development and the resulting feedback effects.
Possible topics to be addressed in this session are:

  • Further development and integration of different theoretical approaches to EEs
  • The interplay between micro-level activities in EEs and system level outcomes
  • Examples include universities, government agents or large firms
  • The role of (entrepreneurial) networks in EEs
  • The role of support services and regional policies in the development of EEs
  • Configurations of EEs for the emergence and growth of innovative scale-ups
  • Configurations of EEs for the emergence and growth of enterprises for grand societal challenges
  • The interdependencies between different EEs
  • The role of non-regional elements that support entrepreneurship in addition to EEs
  • Methodological innovation for studying EEs


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