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This book is a crowning achievement by an undisputed maestro of innovation

studies. It is as rigorous as it is inspirational. The book is an indispensable re-

source for academics, students, and policy makers.
Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International
Development, Harvard Kennedy School, USA
Since the triple helix concept was introduced in the early 1990s, it has received
considerable international recognition. Few recent models demonstrate such an
impact on theory and practice in the fields of tech transfer and regional develop-
ment. The new book gives the reader unique insights into the triple helix con-
cept, both its origin and further development as well as ideas for future helixes.
Magnus Klofsten, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Linköping
University, Sweden
The triple helix framework has emerged around the seminal role played by entre-
preneurial universities. It has inspired policies across the globe, but is it sufficient
to meet new global challenges like idle brainpower and underutilized financial
capital? Attention now shifts to possible roles of governments in ­innovation –
from (failed) European austerity policies to China’s R&D spending and invest-
ments in knowledge infrastructures. This books conveys the confidence that the
dynamics of the triple helix framework is such that it can even push innovation
to innovate.
Helga Nowotny, Professor Emerita, ETH Zurich and Former
President of the European Research Council, Switzerland
The powerful idea of the “triple helix” has been inspiring universities to become
more entrepreneurial, firms to make their boundaries more porous, and govern-
ments to establish innovation-friendly environments. The new expanded edition
of The Triple Helix provides an accurate and colorful insight into the dynamics of
knowledge-based societies and reinforces a mainstay of the conceptual structure
that supports the contemporary development policies of nations and regions.
Guilherme Ary Plonski, Deputy Director of the Institute of
Advanced Studies, University of São Paulo, Brazil
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The Triple Helix

The triple helix of university–industry–government interactions is a universal

model for the development of the knowledge-based society, through innovation
and entrepreneurship. It draws from the innovative practice of Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) with industry and government in inventing a re-
gional renewal strategy in early 20th-century New England. Parallel experiences
were found in “Silicon Valley,” where Stanford University works together with
industry and government. Triple helix is identified as the secret of such inno-
vative regions. It may also be found in statist or laissez-faire societies, globally.
The triple helix focuses on “innovation in innovation” and the dynamic to
foster an innovation ecosystem, through various hybrid organizations, such as
technology transfer offices, venture capital firms, incubators, accelerators, and
science parks.
This second edition develops the practical and policy implications of the triple
helix model with case studies exemplifying the meta-theory, including:

• how to make an innovative region through the triple helix approach;

• balancing development and sustainability by “triple helix twins”;
• triple helix matrix to analyze regional innovation globally; and
• case studies on Stanford’s StartX accelerator; the Ashland, Oregon Theater
Arts Clusters; and Linyi regional innovation in China.

The Triple Helix as a universal innovation model can assist students, researchers,
managers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to understand the roles of university,
industry, and government in forming and developing “an innovative region,”
which has self-renewal and sustainable innovative capacity.
Henry Etzkowitz is Visiting Lecturer of Science, Technology and Society,
Stanford University, USA; Visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University of London,
UK; CEO/President, International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI), Palo Alto,
California, USA; President, Triple Helix Association (THA), Rome, Italy; and
Distinguished Expert, Shandong Academy of Science, Jinan, China.

Chunyan Zhou is Director of International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI,

www.triplehelix.net), USA; leading researcher, Institute of Science and Technol-
ogy for Development of Shandong, and co-director of Innovation and Entrepre-
neurship Research Center, Academy of Science, Jinan, China.
The Triple Helix
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Second Edition

Henry Etzkowitz and Chunyan Zhou

Second edition published 2018
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
and by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
© 2018 Henry Etzkowitz
The right of Henry Etzkowitz and Chunyan Zhou to be identified
as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with
sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced
or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other
means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and
recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publishers.
Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks
or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and
explanation without intent to infringe.
First edition published by Routledge 2008
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A catalog record for this book has been requested

ISBN: 978-1-138-65948-3 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-1-138-65949-0 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-1-315-62018-3 (ebk)
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List of figures ix
List of tables x
Preface xi

Introduction 1

The triple helix concept 19

1 A universal triple helix: Silicon Valley’s secret 21

2 Triple helix in Civil Society 38

3 The entrepreneurial university in a triple helix 55

4 The firm in a triple helix 79

5 The optimum role of government 99

The triple helix innovation model 121

6 Triple helix region 123

7 The incubation of innovation 143

viii Contents

8 Triple helix technopolis 161

9 Venture capital in the triple helix 180

10 Triple helix twins: balancing development and

sustainability 202

11 Triple helix matrix 220

Case studies 237

12 The triple helix in Silicon Valley 239

13 StartX: filling the gap in Stanford University’s

entrepreneurial development 256

14 A teaching university’s civic entrepreneurship: Ashland

Oregon theater cluster and renaissance as a humanities town 275

Conclusion 299

15 Innovation in innovation: an endless transition

toward the triple helix 301

Index 317

1.1 The statist model 25

1.2 The laissez-faire model 27
1.3 Social structure of triple helix 30
2.1 The linear model of innovation 47
2.2 “Chain-linked model” by Kline and Rosenberg (1986) 48
2.3 Non-linear model of innovation 50
3.1 The evolution of university technology transfer institutions 64
4.1 Venture capital investment (Silicon Valley and San Francisco) 82
6.1 Previous Linyi “innovation” system 138
6.2 Current Linyi triple helix innovation system 140
8.1 The distribution of national high-tech industrial
development zones 176
9.1 The revised venture capital system 196
10.1 Triple helix twins Yin-Yang Taiji: innovation and sustainability 208
10.2 (Left) University–industry–government triple helix
for innovative development; (right) university–public–
government triple helix for sustainability 210
10.3 Triple helix twins coupling model 211
11.1 Core-field model of a triple helix sphere 221
11.2 Cored triple helix model 222
11.3 Relative independence and overlap of cored institutional spheres 223
11.4 Core-field model in functional spheres perspective 225
11.5 Current CTH as institutional spheres evolve 232
11.6 The GDP comparison of the P.R.China and the US 234
14.1 Mapping civic entrepreneurship 278
14.2 Economic impact of OSF 288

I.1 Comparison of triple helix and innovation systems 6

6.1 Characteristics of triple helix spaces 130
8.1 Key development indicators of the national HIDZs in 2013 177
11.1 Triple helix matrix 226
11.2 Number of postgraduate HEIs in 2014 227
11.3 The unique functions of the spheres 229
11.4 S&T papers (indexed by SCI and EI) and invention patents
(IPs) of some countries 230
11.5 The shared functions of the spheres 231
13.1 Silicon Valley originated Fortune 500 firms 246
13.2 Colleges and universities in the Boston Area and SF Bay
Area—the top eight 252
14.1 Classification of entrepreneurship 277

Two classic instances, Silicon Valley and Boston (Route 128), exemplify the
effect of a University–Industry–Government (U–I–G) triple helix innovation
dynamic. The original triple helix identified in 1920s New England was a classic
university–industry–government exercise of lateral cooperation; Silicon Valley
was based on a series of university–industry and industry–government double
helices that eventually coalesced into a triple helix relationship. The Governors
of the New England States involved all three actors from the outset in designing
a regional innovation strategy that led to the invention of venture capital and
the emergence of a new knowledge-based industrial infrastructure. In Silicon
Valley, the triadic dynamic began from academia but soon became a university–­
industry and industry–government series of parallel double helix interactions.
Then an invisible government–industry double helix was revealed and eventu-
ally a ­university–industry–government triple helix was established.
Silicon Valley’s triple helix is a relatively unacknowledged substrate to the dou-
ble helix interactions that generated venture capital firms, angel networks, technol-
ogy transfer offices, intellectual property attorneys, accounting firms, immigrant
entrepreneur organizations and other intermediaries. A series of entrepreneurship
support structures came to be viewed collectively as an innovation “ecosystem,”
similar to the dynamic interactive evolving natural environment from which it
took its name. The social configuration was covered by an ideology of libertarian
entrepreneurship that obscured the Valley’s deep university–industry–­government
roots. Proponents of the innovation succession to the triple helix came to believe
that it was a motive force, infused with a “secret sauce” that made it an independ-
ent entity with the ability to find a “fix” for any problem generated by the increas-
ingly malnourished roots of the innovation ecosystem.
Thus, the 1970s California ballot initiative, proposition 13, reducing business
and residential property taxes, eventually impoverished all but the most affluent
xii Preface

of local educational systems. A business leader reminded an early 2010s annual

meeting of Joint Venture Silicon Valley that, “we took care of that problem,” by
supporting private schools for children of the elite. It was further suggested that
firms were movable in the face of a surfeit of local difficulties. Silicon Valley’s
biggest problem in recent boom years has been a shortage of qualified technical
personnel. To date, however, this problem has been solved by taking advantage
of the output of other country’s educational systems. Lobbying for expansion of
visa programs to import technical personnel has substituted for supporting the
development of a broader range of local universities. However, should immi-
gration policy change significantly, insufficient tertiary academic strength is the
Achilles heel of Silicon Valley.
On the other hand, a virtual “Katrina effect” similar to the response to the
hurricane that removed low income residents form New Orleans, is driving out
families with an income in the $100,000 range, the contemporary Silicon Valley
definition of “low income.” The recent so-called “good problem” of escalating
housing prices threatens the social viability of communities. Relatively low-­
salaried public employees, like teachers and police, can less afford to live in the
communities where they work. The alternatives of firm departure and less drastic
shifts of specific units or individual positions abroad, versus local collaborative
initiatives to address issues, remain in the balance.
Collaborative efforts for housing development, like the Joint Venture Silicon
Valley effort that addressed the 1990s innovation recession or federal blockage
of stem cell research funding that inspired the proposition 70 ballot initiative,
funding regenerative medicine R&D, may solve Silicon Valley’s innovation
efflorescence-generated social problems. In recent decades, Boston raised its
academic level supporting the development of a biotech industry attracting large
pharmaceutical firms in its wake, recently overtaking the Bay area in this field.

Triple helix is the secret of Silicon Valley formation and development; it is a

continually developing process; its consequence is a sustainable innovative ecosystem.

The Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem may hardly be duplicated as its natural
and social conditions may not easily be found elsewhere. Nevertheless, we can
learn Silicon Valley’s “secret,” and create a triple helix dynamic anywhere that
has academia, industry and government (or functional substitutes such as research
institutes, NGOs and international organizations). Through improving the ca-
pacities of the actors, even in the absence of functions from one or more spheres,
a triple helix can be formed (for example the Linyi case in Chapter 6). This book
will show how to create a triple helix in a region, highlighting the role of the
entrepreneurial university in the process.
A “triple helix” for innovation and entrepreneurship, formed by university–­
industry–government interactions, is the key to knowledge-based economic
growth and social development. A triple helix is an invisible institutional tool
and dynamic mechanism, driving regional innovation. It is also a universal
Preface  xiii

approach to maintaining an innovation ecosystem’s and economic sustaina-

bility in a region. Triple helix takes place through interactions among uni-
versity, industry and government and integration of related actors’s roles
in various societal circumstances. We identify a common model of draw-
ing upon existing knowledge resources and creating new ones—making a
“knowledge space”; convening relevant actors that have the ability to assess
regional strengths and weaknesses and generate strategies to fill gaps and
take new initiatives—making a “consensus space”; and then adapting exist-
ing organizational formats and inventing new ones, utilizing the resources
to achieve innovation objectives that have thus far been defined and agreed
upon—making an “innovation space.”
The triple helix process may occur even though the relevant actors may be
present in various degrees and strength, or even with gaps: a double or even a
single rather than a triple helix. In such circumstances, especially in develop-
ing country or declining industrial region circumstances, other actors may fill
the gap: NGOs, political parties, new innovation initiatives and social move-
ments arising informally from Civil Society. A vibrant civil society is an under-
lying condition for the achievement of an innovation strategy, providing social
venues, physical and virtual, to freely meet and discuss, and generate trust and
Innovation, the reconfiguration of elements into a more productive combi-
nation, takes on a broader meaning in increasingly knowledge-based societies.
Formerly the development of new products in firms, innovation also includes the
creation of organizational arrangements that enhance the innovative process. Thus
only a small group of specialists in industry and academia were interested in
innovation when it was limited to the analysis of product improvement. In recent
years the appropriate configuration of relationships between firm-­formation, high
technology, and economic growth has become a matter of public concern and
Triple helix occupies a leading position in the innovation and entrepreneur-
ship academic and policy arenas. A series of international conferences discusses
research and practice on such topics as the future location of research; breaking
boundaries and building bridges across national, institutional and policy divides,
engaging with proponents of alternative innovation approaches such as the “mode
2” interdisciplinary framework and the thesis of Industry 4.0, the digitalization of
mechanical industries, the debate over Civil Society as a parallel fourth helix or,
perhaps, more importantly, as the foundation of an optimum triple helix.
Universities and governments act as entrepreneurs, demonstrating that
innovation and entrepreneurship is not limited to business. Entrepreneurial
universities play a key role in the triple helix through technology transfer,
incubating new firms, and taking the lead in regional renewal efforts and
development. Envisioning new initiatives, and drawing together the resources
to create them, is no longer limited to a narrow range of organizational, ethnic
or gender actors.
xiv Preface

This book follows the first edition published in 2008 to continue the triple
helix study, including its concept, model and practice in regional innovation;
especially new to this edition, practical cases in China are added to exemplify
the application of triple helix theory. A series of research projects on innovation
mechanisms, conducted from the early 1980s and mostly sponsored by the US
National Science Foundation, provide the empirical base for this volume. These
studies have been supplemented by visits and research projects in various coun-
tries typically sponsored by universities, think tanks, and regional and national
development agencies that allowed us to make this analysis comparative. We
hope that it is helpful for practitioners in academia, industry and government,
such as policymakers, government officers, academic researchers, inventors,
managers, entrepreneurs, as well as faculty and students.

Henry Etzkowitz
Chunyan Zhou
Palo Alto, 29 April 2017
Triple helix: a universal innovation model?

An evolving knowledge and innovation infrastructure is constructed from ele-

ments of the triple helix. For example, university research centers adopt indus-
trial models of research management to provide a support framework for several
academic research groups. Similarly, start-up firms are a hybrid creature, embod-
ying academic, industrial and government elements rather than a pure business
model, even though legally constituted as firms. Indeed, the social space taken
up by the overlaps may become greater than that occupied by single and double
helix organizations in the future.
As the ability is developed to move across technological trajectories, from one
technological paradigm to another, a “triple helix region” is attained. For exam-
ple, Massachusetts developed the capacities, in government technology agencies,
academic research centers and high-tech associations, to assist the transition from
a minicomputer to a biotechnology industry. There were fewer painful gaps than
the previous transition from traditional manufacturing industries to the com-
puter era. Thus, new industries, typically at a more advanced technological level,
replace those lost. Creative reconstruction follows creative destruction in a triple
helix-driven dialectic.
Over time, university–industry–government interactions become taken for
granted, and obscured by an ideology of the heroic individual entrepreneur re-
flecting prevailing cultural biases. Thus, in order to better understand how the
most highly productive innovation ecosystems have been created, it must often
be uncovered and retrieved from obscurity that the triple helix is a dynamic pro-
cess. These various dynamics are sometimes dissipated and revived, as in the case
of Boston’s Route 128, before becoming institutionalized.
2 Introduction

The origins of the triple helix of

Nobelist Linus Pauling proposed a triple helix to model deoxyribonucleic
acid (DNA) in a paper, in early 1953. However, the “double helix” model,
mooted by James Watson and Francis Crick after “Lucky Jim’s” sneak peek at
Rosalind Franklin’s iconic photograph 51 of its crystallographic structure, was
sufficient to explain DNA. Society, however, is more complex than biology.
University–­Industry–Government (U–I–G) interactions and relationships
provide an optimum methodology for entrepreneurship and innovation, moving
research/knowledge into practice/use.
The triple helix emphasizes the role of the Regional Innovation Organizer
(RIO), whether individual or organizational, in providing leadership to bring
diverse actors together in a common project. In nature and human society many
phenomena are self-organized; but innovation is the result of a conscious and
creative human collaborative effort driven by intentionality and imagination,
exemplified by the Jobs and Rowling commencement addresses, Stanford 2005
and Harvard 2011, respectively.
The triple helix model was derived from New England university–­industry–
government efforts, from the 1920s, to renew a declining industrial economy,
convened by the region’s political leadership. An academic leader with national
presence, MIT’s President Compton, played a key role in inventing a novel
pro-bono venture capital organization, with support from the New England
business and political communities. A parallel set of double helices: university–­
government and industry–university converged in Silicon Valley in the early
1990s. Bill Miller, some time Stanford Provost, computer scientist and en-
trepreneur, convened an academic-inspired, local government and business
leadership-supported organization, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, that has pro-
duced the most dynamic version of the model to date. Nevertheless, Silicon
Valley is at risk, not only from competitors who will not surprisingly “raise
their game,” learning from the Valley and each other, but also as an unintended
consequence of its very success!
Identifying the generative source of knowledge-based economic and social
development is at the core of the triple helix Innovation project—to en-
hance innovation, entrepreneurship and regional development. Originating as
a metaphor, it was inspired by an early 1990s Conference, sponsored by the
Centro para la Innovacion Tecnologica, Autonomous University of Mexico
(UNAM), on university–industry links that openly recognized government as
a key player. In the Mexican context, the proverbial “light bulb” turned on.
Explicitly identifying the key actors in Boston’s Route 128, an iconic regional
innovation system, the triple helix has developed into an internationally recog-
nized model, with predecessors (Sabato’s Triangle) and variants (quadra-helix,
N-tuple helix, etc.) Expanding from an analytic to a normative concept, triple
helix is at the heart of the emerging discipline of Innovation Studies, and a
Introduction  3

guide to pioneering policies and practices at the local, regional, national and
multinational levels.
Government and industry, the classic elements of public–private partner-
ships, have been recognized as primary institutional spheres since the 18th
century. The triple helix thesis is that the university is moving from a second-
ary, albeit important societal role in providing higher education and research,
to a leading role on a par with industry and government, as a generator of new
industries and firms. The Entrepreneurial University, exemplified by MIT and
Stanford, superseding and incorporating the Ivory Tower model, is an increas-
ingly significant academic format, globally. As industrial society is superseded
by a knowledge-based era, advanced knowledge is more expeditiously trans-
lated into practical uses, due to its polyvalent nature as simultaneously theo-
retical and practical.
These virtual phenomena paradoxically increase rather than substitute for
personal contacts and face-to-face collaboration. The growth of “landing
sites” and co-­working spaces in iconic innovation venues, like Silicon Valley,
Berlin and London’s “Roundabout,” to host newcomers, is one indicator
of the velocity of interaction. Moreover, processes of technology transfer
from theoretical findings that formerly took generations to accomplish now
occur within the work life of the inventors, allowing them the possibility of
participating in the invention and innovation dynamic, as well as the research
and publication process.
The growing participation of highly educated persons and knowledge-­producing
organizations in invention is a key argument for involving knowledge-creating
institutions and their personnel more closely in the innovation process. Forged in
different academic and national traditions, the university is arriving at a common
entrepreneurial format that incorporates and transcends its traditional educational
and research missions.
From the mid-19th century, an ongoing Academic Revolution legiti-
mized research as an academic mission ( Jencks and Riesman, 1968). A Sec-
ond Revolution arises from the confluence of several tributaries, including
(1) the identification of useful as well as commercially valuable properties in
the results of academic research; (2) the internal development of higher ed-
ucation institutions e.g. the development of research groups as “quasi-firms”
and (3) external influences on academic structures, like the US Bayh-Dole
Act of 1980, encouraging universities to take concrete steps to put research
findings to use.
The Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act (Pub. L. 96-517) insti-
gated by the US university technology transfer profession, legitimized and
clarified the legal foundation for their enterprise. Moreover, it made explicit
the tacit contract between the federal government and academia, instantiated
in Vannevar Bush’s 1945 Endless Frontier Report, commissioned by President
Roosevelt, at his instance. Policies, practices and organizational innovations,
like the country agent two-way flow model from practitioners (farmers) to
4 Introduction

academia (agricultural researchers), built upon the 1862 Land Grant Act, sup-
porting universities oriented to agricultural and mechanical innovation, as well
as the liberal arts.
Indeed, one-third of the Massachusetts land grant was devoted by that state’s
legislature to support the development of the Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
nology (MIT) as a public/private hybrid. MIT’s founding purpose was to infuse
regional industry with scientific expertise. The founding of New York Univer-
sity, a privately-financed public good initiative, promoted commercial training
in that quintessential business locale. Such initiatives to translate knowledge into
economic activity as well as addressing problems from society, posed to aca-
demia, have spread globally.
The lesson of the triple helix is to examine strengths and weaknesses and
fill gaps in “Innovation Systems,” whether publicly recognized as highly
successful, declining or emergent. It provides clear guidelines and focuses
attention and effort. The common objective is to develop an innovation
strategy that neither rests on previous accomplishments nor fails to take action
even in the face of parlous conditions and strenuous opposition to change.
Knowledge, technology and organizational transfer that formerly occurred
through publications, both academic and popular; visits of varying length
for advanced degrees; temporary positions that may last for most of a career;
or professional tourism and migration are now driven by Internet and social
media exchanges.
Triple helix focuses on “overlapping” spaces, cross-cutting the boundaries
of the institutional spheres. Actors with the ability to encompass multiple logics
may perform various functions, individually and collectively. For example,
capital may come from a variety of university, industry, government and other
sources. They may create a public, private or mixed venture capital entity (like
Israel’s Yozma project, later transferred to Brazil by FINEPE on the sidelines
of the 2000 Second International Triple Helix Conference in Rio de Janeiro),
institutionalizing the arrangement.
Variants of the triple helix include a laissez-faire version with institutional
spheres strictly demarcated. However, this is largely a US ideological model that
obscures a reality of U–I–G interactions at national, regional and local levels. In
a statist version that is government-, military- or Party-directed, Civil Society,
to the extent that it exists, is an oppositional force to an authoritarian regime.
For example, after the demise of Brazil’s military regime, some of the academic
opposition became innovation organizers, instituting entrepreneurship training
programs and innovation support structures, like the incubator, into Brazilian
Nevertheless, large-scale one-off efforts, like the Manhattan project to
construct the atomic bomb, have been accomplished through this top-down
format. In the historical instance, even this military controlled project was in-
spired by academics and proceeded with voluntary industry participation, putting
Introduction  5

aside anti-government ideology for the duration of a national emergency. The

temporary wartime triple helix transformed US universities, making large-
scale research enterprises that were an anomaly in the pre-war into a common-
place in the post-war. More importantly, academic scientists, who had opposed
government funding of research even in the depths of the depression, fearing
government control, reversed field after the war. Having led the establishment
of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) Agency,
scientists realized that if they were basically in control of its research enterprise
offshoots and dispensation of funds, they had little to fear from government and
changed their attitudes and behavior. They henceforth saw government as an
ally of a Science that could “deliver the goods,” whether for military victory or
peacetime objectives. The subsequent goal of the US, and indeed global inno-
vation policy proponents, has been an attempt to recuperate and/or realize that
The triple helix started from observation of the win–win development
of university and its region in a co-evolving relationship. It is not a “system”
conception but is an “open” innovation concept, per se. Therefore, while an inno-
vation ecosystem that arises as the result of a particular triple helix configuration
cannot be duplicated in its precise format, for example, Silicon Valley, a triple
helix with three primary actors and multiple secondary actors can be replicated
worldwide as a universal innovation model.

Beyond Innovation Systems Theory

Innovation Systems Theory delineates, “the flow of technology and information
among people, enterprises and institutions,” with the key elements i.e. actors,
capital, and innovation platforms on the same level (Edquist, 2005). This may
produce confusion in setting development strategy, for example, constricting
actors who are presumed to be constituted according to a single logic, to a self-­
limiting role (Cai, 2014). When some elements’ capacities are not strong enough
to reach a “critical mass” or if the system does not meet the four conditions
(openness, imbalance, non-linearity and fluctuation) for a self-organized evolu-
tion, innovation may not happen.
Opening up the innovation system to a broader focus on the internal and
“overlapping” spaces of the boundaries of the institutional spheres, allows for a more
flexible, and arguably more productive, innovation model. Triple helix actors may
take a further step, inventing, adapting or replicating a hybrid organization, such as
a public, private or mixed venture capital entity, to institutionalize the innovative
Innovation System Theory orders its elements in sequence to facilitate the
passage of technology and information among enterprises, capital, innova-
tion platforms, etc. An innovation (eco)system and technology development
are the results of a complex set of relationships among actors in the system,
6 Introduction

which includes enterprises, universities and government research institutes.

Although current innovation system theory has some terms that are the same
as the triple helix, e.g. actors, relationships and interactions, its root concept
is from “systemology or general systems theory,” including formal sciences
such as complex systems, cybernetics, dynamical systems theory, dissipative
science, synergetics, catastrophe theory and applications in the field of the
natural and social sciences and engineering, such as operations research, so-
cial systems theory, systems biology, human factors, systems ecology, systems
engineering and systems psychology.
An innovation system is expected to evolve by self-organization, which usu-
ally relies on three basic ingredients: (1) strong dynamical non-­l inearity, often,
though not necessarily, involving positive and negative feedback; (2) balance
of exploitation and exploration; (3) multiple interactions (Bonabeau, Dorigo,
and Theraulaz, 1999). In addition, self-organization arises and is maintained
under the following four conditions: open system, far from equilibrium,
­fluctuation and nonlinear interactions. Innovation is, “… the result of an in-
tellectual effort by an ‘innovative entity,’ …” in other words, a human collab-
orative effort driven by intentionality and imagination (Ponchek, 2016). We
argue that in nature and human society many phenomena are self-­organized,
but it needs an organized acceleration process and innovation organizers
to fulfill innovation-driven economic development strategy. The essential
differences between triple helix and Innovation Systems are shown in the
Table I.1.

Table I.1  Comparison of triple helix and innovation systems

Innovation system Triple helix

Origin UK, Christopher Freeman’s US, Henry Etzkowitz’s

analysis of post-war Japanese research on MIT’s role
innovation and enterprises in regional innovation in
(1986). early-mid-20th-century
New England (1993).
Primary actor(s) Firm as primary actor, taking Interaction among
lead in product and process university–industry–
innovation, with various government (U–I–G) is
supporting actors: academia, key to the invention of
government, intermediaries, new innovation formats
financial institutions, in no with hybrid logics. An
special order. Each operates ecosystem superstructure
according to its special of venture capital,
institutional logic. incubators, science parks
etc., with Civil Society
as a substrate, encourages
bottom-up initiatives.
Academia’s roles Views academia as a significant Views the entrepreneurial
supporting actor to other university as a leading
elements in the innovation actor in a knowledge-
system. Highlights university’s based society. Highlights
special responsibility for university’s distinct
intellectual production and roles in innovation and
social reproduction. entrepreneurship.
Operation The system structure (networks) Interaction among relatively
determines the operation of independent institutional
the system as a coordinated, spheres “taking the role of
coherent and stable entity. the other,” produces novelty
in an “endless transition.”
Functions Functions of elements Functions of institutional
Mechanism The system structure (networks) Institutional and functional
formed by the elements spheres are differentiated.
determines the functions of The interactions among
the system relatively independent
institutional spheres bring
in existing complementary
functions (Zhou, 2014).
Boundaries Pays attention to innovation Concern what happens
system’s boundaries, whether in the boundaries
the system is open or closed. of the institutional
spheres, including their
“overlapping” relationship
Dynamics Dynamics for system evolution: Dynamics for growth/
competition and synergetics development: the
interactions among the
institutional spheres,
starting from “innovation
initiator (II),” organized
by “innovation
organizer (IO)”
Organization for Emphasizes “self-regulating”/ Highlights “regional
innovation “self-correcting” process innovation
through feedback, aiming organizer (RIO), an
at “self-organized” evolution individual or organization
with convening capabilities”
Innovation formation System upgrade/evolution Innovation’s formation: triple
Fulfills the four conditions for helix achievement
self-organization evolution Develops interactions among
System upgrade/evolution when relatively independent
it reaches critical mass and institutional spheres
bifurcation points Forms “three triple helix
spaces”: knowledge space,
consensus space and
innovation space
8 Introduction

Innovation from the knowledge base

There is increasing awareness that a knowledge-based society operates ac-
cording to a different set of dynamics than an industrial society focused on
manufacturing tangible goods. Knowledge-based economies are more tightly
linked to sources of new knowledge; they are also subject to continuous trans-
formation instead of being rooted in stable arrangements. Fostering a continu-
ous process of firm-­formation and renovation based on advanced technologies
(often university-­originated), moves to the heart of innovation strategy. This vol-
ume extrapolates nascent trends into a vision of the seminal role of the university
in a knowledge-based society.
As jobs are outsourced, what will be the future engine of economic growth,
especially as “high-tech,” as well as manufacturing positions, are increasingly
relocated to countries with highly skilled persons and lower wages? Is the
university losing its traditional role and independence as it becomes more closely
involved with, and presumably subordinate to, industry and government? Or is
it attaining a higher level of status and influence in society, thereby enhancing its
independence, as it takes on a more central role in society through its contribu-
tion to innovation?
And, of course, not all agree that the university should play an entrepreneur-
ial role. Many academics believe that the university best fulfills its mission by
limiting itself to education and research, eschewing a broader role in economic
and social development. According to this view, the university best fulfills the
third mission by fulfilling the first two (Sorlin, 2002). Nevertheless, there is in-
creasing interest in pursuing the practical implications of research, even among
those academics who were most skeptical of the capitalization of knowledge
(Kornberg, 1996). Dr Kornberg, a Nobel prize-winner and self-described pure
academic, discusses how he became enthralled by the firm formation process.
Moreover, academic institutions increasingly realize the need to span the internal
university “valley of death” and introduce programs and practices that take aca-
demic inventions along further steps to viability. An enhanced role in innovation
transcends the previous practice of licensing an invention that often may not be
put into practice by the licensee despite a technology transfer office’s best efforts
at monitoring agreed-upon milestones.
The triple helix has become internalized within the university even as the
university has become externalized into the larger society. Just as firms, whether
associated with older mechanical or newer knowledge-based industries, move
closer to universities, universities move closer to governments at various levels.
Whether public or private foundations, during economic upturns or downturns,
universities seek out new bases for attracting public support. When subventions
for education and basic research decline, universities manage to increase their
public funding by creating applied research and training programs. The old le-
gitimations are never discarded, they are simply revised to show their efficacy
in supporting a heightened concern for economic and social development. Basic
Introduction  9

research, education and entrepreneurship are the new interlocking academic

triad. The Ivory Tower has not fallen; rather, it has been complemented and
enhanced by being inserted into an innovation dynamic that increases its societal

The secret of Silicon Valley formation and development

The triple helix dynamic from university–industry–government interactions
drove the development, if not the origins, of Silicon Valley. The original source
of the Valley is a university with porous boundaries. The founding leadership,
including Stanford University’s President, David Starr Jordan, encouraged grad-
uates to form technology firms in the late 19th century to electrify the region,
utilizing existing technology. A next generation of Stanford faculty members,
exemplified by Frederick Terman, together with their students, interacted closely
with a next generation of firms, pursuing incremental innovation. In this era, the
firms were often more technologically advanced than the university and aided
its development.
The dynamic was set in motion, drawing technological demand into the
university and sending research results out through cooperative relations with
these firms. Faculty were allowed and even encouraged to have serious dual
roles in firms and on campus. Technical industry existed in symbiosis with the
university, indicated by a significant percentage of faculty recruited for impact
and encouraged to continue extra-academic pursuits, and has done so to this day.
A similar university–industry interaction dynamic occurred at MIT even earlier.
This interactive dynamic is the source of new high-tech conurbations and can
be found in contemporary Pittsburgh in the role of Carnegie Mellon University,
attracting significant federal R&D funds, serving as the progenitor of that city’s
emerging robotics and AI industries.
The key intervening factor in the process of triple helix development in
Silicon Valley was large-scale government funding of academic research,
allowing a small-scale nascent process, exemplified by the founding of Hewlett
Packard from a Stanford research project that had produced an innovative
technology just prior to World War II, to become an efficient breeder of start-
ups in the post-war (Lowen, 1997; Leslie, 1993). Stanford drew government
more tightly into its orbit during the early post-war by establishing Stanford
Research Institute (SRI), dedicated to attracting such funds, including projects
beyond the interest and capacity of individual professors. Although spun off
from the university in the wake of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the Institute
played a key role in transforming Stanford into a federally funded research uni-
versity. The Silicon Valley growth dynamic, based upon silicon chips, was set in
motion by the government transistor procurement policy.
The chain-link innovation model, linking demand-side firm innovation
to supply-side academic invention, captured only part of this dynamic. The
cluster of firms that emanated from this triple helix interaction acquired the
10 Introduction

label of Silicon Valley in 1971. In succeeding decades the essential dynamic was
replicated in other technology domains, supported by an increasingly complex
set of supporting actors, including venture capital firms, technology transfer of-
fices as well as large firms, like Yamaha, seeking advanced technology to remain
at the forefront of their industry (Nelson, 2015). However, the most fundamen-
tal dynamic instantiated in the Valley emanated from the porous boundaries
between university and industry, among firms and between government and
these more visible Silicon Valley actors. Behind the two PhD students who met
at Stanford’s computer science department and became Google’s founders was
a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) program that funded
the research group in which they were members and posed the search problem
that they solved. It is the relationship among the different actors, in this case
university and government that produced the third element, a new industry and
firm, originating from a university spin-off’s wish to remain close to their source
of origin in order to more easily re-infuse the firm with new knowledge and
recent graduates.
It is a classic fallacy of “misplaced concreteness” that a set of buildings or a
formal enclosed institutional format such as a Technopole can substitute for such
an interactive dynamic. Unfortunately, this is the message that is most often
taken away from Silicon Valley by visitors who are looking for a “quick fix” to
achieve a knowledge-based conurbation without serious institutional restructur-
ing, new institution formation, or long-term perspective and commitment. Such
efforts are often informed by an evolving innovation system approach that views
self-organizations as having specialized functions, automatically necessitating
special boundary-spanning organizations or intermediaries to navigate between
the institutional spheres with special purpose logics.
A triple helix with integrative “boundary spaces”, operates according to
hybrid logics, incorporating elements of the special logics of the institutional
spheres on either side, facilitating their mediation. The 1980 US Bayh-Dole Act,
for example, created one such space, legitimating interaction between university
and industry (Etzkowitz and Champenois, 2017). In this regime, institutional
spheres “take the role of the other,” in a spiraling innovation process in which
gaps may be filled by substitution of one actor by another. It is this latter capabil-
ity that makes the triple helix especially relevant to both developing and declin-
ing industrial regions alike. Indeed, the two prototypical US triple helix regions
“Silicon Valley” and Boston, in their early 20th-century conditions, exemplified
these two classic innovation environments’ need for collaborative action and pol-
icy support.
Rather than interactions across porous boundaries, innovation-impeding
boundaries are sustained by an innovation systems approach that is often coun-
terproductive to the very purpose it wishes to attain, that of promoting inno-
vation. The accelerator model, as exemplified by Silicon Valley’s Y-Combinator
and Start-X, is more relevant for start-up growth once a triple helix dynamic is
Introduction  11

in place as its substrate. The key element of such accelerators is a training process
through selection, insertion into a network of fellow start-ups, mentoring by
experienced entrepreneurs and access to seed investment opportunities. The ac-
celerator format rests upon an already developed high-tech environment, replete
with a deep bench of angel investors, venture capital firms and potential start-up
collaborators, all making it possible for the accelerator-supported firms to take
off and flourish. That innovation ecosystem is itself a second order phenomenon,
resting on a first order dynamic of triple helix interactions among institutions
with porous boundaries.
When the “cart is placed before the horse,” as when the Brazilian military
regime constructed science parks in isolated suburban regions during the
1960s, little innovation activity occurred until a smaller-scale model of
incubators and entrepreneurial education within universities was adopted. At
best, branches of existing firms and government laboratories may be attracted
to a stand-alone Science Park. Some decades later when they close or down-
size, their former employees who wish to stay in the area, may generate
a start-up dynamic as in Sophia Antipolis and Research Triangle. A more
direct route is to focus on facilitating university–industry interactions, espe-
cially creating an academic environment that recognizes this work as a valued
activity. The entrepreneurial university, holding a commitment to its region’s
development, with a significant number of faculty members who encourage
their graduates to spin-off technology from their well-funded labs and may
hold dual roles in high-tech firms themselves, are the core of a triple helix

An endless transition
All societies are in transition in the 21st century, with no fixed endpoint to
change in sight. The functional differentiation of institutions in the early mod-
ern era is being displaced by integration and hybridization of functions in the
post-modern era. Although this process begins from a different starting point
of relationships among institutional spheres, a secular trend toward a common
triple helix can be identified. An open Civil Society paves the way for triple helix
actors to organize and overcome blockages to the transformation of knowledge
into innovation. A meta-innovation system is created of bottom-up, top-down
and lateral initiatives in which science, technology and innovation policy are the
outcomes of the interaction among university, industry and government, rather
than a unique state function.
Entrepreneurship is found in academia and government as well as industry.
New hybrid organizations, such as High-Tech Councils, cross cut the institutional
spheres, creating a dynamic element that sparks further organizational innovation.
Out of a variety of possible candidates for a new technological paradigm, a few foci
must be selected to concentrate resources and effort. The entrepreneurial university
12 Introduction

takes in inputs and problems from the local environment and translates the outputs
of academic knowledge into economic activity. After generations of firms are spun
off from the original university start-ups, academic links revert to the traditional
ones of supplying human capital and knowledge in Silicon Valley. The role of
Stanford University as the source of regional innovation is forgotten, even said to
have been a myth. Nevertheless, the university is called upon when an old techno-
logical paradigm is exhausted and a new source of innovation is required.
The triple helix introduces a lateral approach into Innovation Policy,
conceived as collaboration among the institutional spheres. Thus, rather than
solely a “top-down” initiative of national government, innovation policy should
also be seen as the cumulative result of interaction among governments at various
levels, businesspersons, academics and NGOs, comprising membership from all
of these spheres, especially at the regional level. Networks are generated from a
variety of sources, for example, they may emanate from collaborations between
large firms and academic researchers (e.g. Pharmacia and Uppsala University)
that left in place a substrate of ties that became the basis for new firm formation
in biotechnology. It also appears informally among firms in a common area of
activity that then may be formalized into a “valley” through the organization of
an association, e.g. radio valley in Gothenburg Sweden or the effort to organize
a photonics cluster in Recife, Brazil.

1. The Entrepreneurial University is a key engine in a knowledge-based econ-

omy and driver of social development. In a knowledge-­based society, it has
become a primary institutional sphere, on the same level as industry and
government (the key institutions of industrial society). The university is also
a critical actor in developing the knowledge space, and increasingly the in-
novation and consensus spaces, in triple helix.
2. Knowledge-based firm formation and growth are the results of the interac-
tions among the primary/secondary actors of a triple helix. The secondary
actors vary according to local environments even as the primary actors vary
in their strength.
3. Government’s role in the triple helix should be moderate rather than con-
trolling; its goal is to ensure a triple helix works well, including university–
government, university–industry, industry–government double helices, as
well as the three single helices; in some circumstances, government could
be the best candidate to create a “consensus space,” bringing relevant actors
together to brainstorm and implement innovation projects.
4. Venture capital may operate as a partnership or as an arm of a corporation,
government, university or foundation. The US venture industry, currently
consisting of partnerships, was originally created as a pro-bono public cor-
poration, formed by the interactions among all the triple helix actors in
mid-20th-century New England; it continues as an important propeller
of firm formation and growth, increasingly complemented by more recent
Introduction  13

developments in innovation support, such as angel networks and Internet

fund-raising campaigns.
5. Innovation space consists of various innovation support structures such as
the result of an intellectual effort by an “innovative entity,” as well as classic
individual inventors, firm R&D units, government laboratories, private
consulting firms and other entities within and among the triple helix insti-
tutional spheres that translate knowledge into economic activity. They may
operate as an integrated sequence or in isolation from each other, linked
only by the entrepreneurs that seek their support, consecutively or simul-
taneously. Incubators, accelerators and technology transfer offices promote
start-ups and innovative development in a given region, supported by mu-
nicipalities, universities and industry associations, among others.
6. Innovation is an endless process; the triple helix, as a model to sustain and
develop the process, is a universal theory of innovation and entrepreneur-
ship; in the future it not only works for economic growth, but also social
development, encouraging the world to transcend “-isms,” and move toward
a triple helix society.

Is triple helix a universal model?

Skepticism has been voiced as to whether the model derived from success cases such
as Silicon Valley and Route 128 can be generalized into an universal innovation
model, applicable to a diverse set of circumstances. The first point to note is that
these cases of apparent high success are, in themselves, problematic and contingent.
Route 128 disappeared as an innovation hub with the demise of the mini-­computer
industry. However, the innovation support structures left behind, like the venture
capital firm and state government innovation and entrepreneurship support pro-
grams, were instrumental in creating a follow-on biotechnology industry. Silicon
Valley itself is at risk, in part due to overweening success, encouraging a collective
hubris that, until quite recently, mandated willful blindness. With notable excep-
tions, there was a refusal to seriously acknowledge, let alone address, incipient flaws
in the “ecosystem” (Etzkowitz, 2013).
In Ashland, Oregon a Civil Society rooted instance of public entrepreneurship
arose in the context of a town that had a tradition of civic philanthropy, with a local
university as the source of an innovation dynamic. Moreover, the Ashland case shows
that a knowledge-base can be arts as well as science and technology related. A series
of triple helix interactions and relationships over more than a half-century facilitated
the transition of a resource-based town with a superseded railhead into a “humanities
town.” A Shakespeare festival developed into a theatre cluster and then into a broader
arts conurbation supporting a thriving tourist industry (Etzkowitz, 2014).
Generalizing the triple helix is ever more feasible in an era when universities,
the core of the model, are increasingly commonplace. Moreover, the potential
for triple helix interactions and relationships, whether among the classic actors or
14 Introduction

available substitutes, may occur in a broad range of regional circumstances from

“greenfield” developing to “brownfield” declining industrial regions. Although
each regional development project is a unique instance, with its special peculi-
arities, some general elements can be identified such as the triple helix and the
entrepreneurial university. Even if not present in the origins of the project, they
likely appear at a later phase to fill gaps such as those in science parks that have
been developed in a relatively isolated environment such as Kista in suburban
Stockholm and Sophia Antipolis in the exurbs of Nice. Universities or branches
of universities have been started at both of these sites to infuse the project with
new sources of knowledge and potential start-ups.
Universities, heretofore seen as a source of human resources and knowledge,
are looked to for technology and future industry. Many universities, even those
in countries such as Japan that until recently relied almost wholly on informal
ties, have developed the organizational capabilities to formally transfer technol-
ogies. Universities are also extending their teaching capabilities from educating
individuals to shaping organizations in entrepreneurial education and incubation
programs. Moreover, rather than technology transfer existing as an isolated island,
some universities are combining their research, teaching and technology transfer
capabilities in new formats, with each academic mission enhancing the other. This
process is most visible in “Greenfield” sites such as Linköping and Stony Brook,
New York but it is also apparent in “Brownfield” areas like Pittsburgh, Recife,
Brazil, Albany, New York, Newcastle, England and Monterrey, Mexico.
Innovation can no longer be assumed to take a conventional linear path,
whether from research through development or from identification of market
opportunities to product introduction. In some countries, there is a movement
away from an assumption that there is a single starting point of research and an
end point of the economy: an autonomous linear model based on laissez-faire
assumptions in which innovation takes its own course. Innovation was expected
to largely take place within industry with other institutional spheres playing only
a limited contributing role: government, for example, acting only when clear
market failures could be identified. In countries that, to one degree or another,
relied on central planning, it has become accepted that government programs
have an important role to play, not only from the national level—top-down, but
also from the local level—bottom-up, often in collaboration with other organi-
zations in Civil Society.
In contrast to biological evolution, which arises from mutations and natural
selection, social evolution occurs through “institution formation” and conscious
intervention. Knowledge-based economic development can be traced to specific
actors, typically operating in collaboration with each other. The institutional
elements most conducive to success can also be identified as emanating from the
academic, industrial and governmental spheres. When one sphere is lacking, part
of a knowledge-based strategy will be to substitute for that actor and fill the gap.
Due to its special abilities in integrating organizational teaching, group research
and collective entrepreneurship, we suggest that the university will be pre-­eminent
Introduction  15

as the source for new science-based firms. This is not to say that industry cannot
be a source for such firms. Indeed it often is, but such firms tend to be close to the
market companies rather than ones based on emerging technologies.
A relatively few regions have exhibited self-renewing capabilities. A continuous
flow across technological paradigms, moving beyond creative destruction to cre-
ative reconstruction, without sharp downturns, is the ultimate objective. The
triple helix provides a flexible framework to guide efforts, from different starting
points, to achieve the common goal of knowledge-based economic and social
development. The result is an “Assisted Linear Model,” with intermediate mech-
anisms that integrate the traditional starting points of science and technology
policy: the laboratory, the market and a government procurement requirement.
Innovation policy is then directed toward enhancing the interaction between
human needs, research goals and resource providers; science, technology and
society; university, industry and government. Innovation becomes an Endless
A triple helix dynamic identified as the source of iconic innovation conur-
bations in Boston and Silicon Valley have spread more broadly in recent years.
For example, Malaysian triple helix analysis advocates renovating university
teaching, reducing reliance on lectures and encouraging students to be more
active class participants. John Dewey’s “public” principles are to be introduced
in academia as a precursor to academic entrepreneurship (Saad and Zawdie,
2008). Various innovation policies, whether placing government, industry or
the university in leading roles, typically find a place for the others, reweighing
the balance among them in different stages and phases of the innovation process
(Merchán-­Hernández and Leal-Rodríguez, 2016). Indeed, triple helix has be-
come a ubiquitous rubric, like Kleenex, whose basic elements have become part
of the policy mix in regions reaching for high-tech growth.
The verdict is in: it is now well recognized that regions with a university
whose research is oriented to practical as well as theoretical inquiry, with links
to local industry and the ability to produce spin-offs, are better off than regions
lacking such a school. Some of this entrepreneurial activity is based on expecta-
tions that utilization of research will inspire new issues for investigation as well
as create new sources of income for the university. New research ideas may arise
from practical as well as theoretical sources and vice versa.

In ancient Mesopotamia, a triple helix water screw, invented to raise water from
one level to another, was the basis of a hydraulic system of agricultural innova-
tion that irrigated ordinary farms as well as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon,
one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (Dalley, S. and P. Oleson, 2003).
The triple helix as a physical device is succeeded by a conceptual framework,
the Triple Helix of university–industry–government interactions. Its practice has
led to the venture capital firm, the incubator, and the science park. These social
16 Introduction

inventions are hybrid organizations that embody elements of the triple helix in
the “DNA” of their official code.
The “life spiral” critique of the static life cycle human development model
preceded and helped inspire the Triple Helix of Innovation. A spiral model, as an
alternative to rigid stages, allowed for alternative modes of enacting adulthood,
such as the emergence of “singlehood,” in a non-linear sequence (Etzkowitz
and Stein, 1978). Similarly, a cycle model of innovation, even one with dual
cycles, is limited by its restricted definition and in its ability to encompass mul-
tiple non-linear paths of knowledge-based economic and social development in
contrast to a spiral model that encompasses an “endless transition” of enhanced
Universities, firms and governments each “take the role of the other” in triple
helix interactions, even as they maintain their primary roles and distinct identities.
The university takes the role of industry by stimulating the development of new
firms from research, introducing “the capitalization of knowledge” as an academic
goal. Firms develop training to ever-higher levels and share knowledge through
joint ventures, acting like universities. Governments act as public venture capitalists
while continuing their regulatory activities. In contrast to theories that emphasize
the role of government or firms in innovation, the triple helix focuses on the
university as a source of entrepreneurship and technology as well as critical inquiry.

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