Triple Helix ‘Innovation System’ format

The concept of the Triple Helix of University-Business-Government as triadic relationships needs to replace Business-Government dominated dyads of Industrial Societies to unfold Knowledge Societies’ full potential. The concept already initiated in the 1990s by Etzkowitz (1993) together with Leydesdorff (1995), encompasses elements of precursor works by Lowe (1982) and Sábato with Mackenzi (1982). Its vision embraces the creative destruction defined as a natural innovation dynamics (Schumpeter, 1942) as well as creative renewal arising within each of the three institutional spheres of University-Business-Government and at their intersections. The Triple Helix thesis is that the potential for innovation and economic development in a Knowledge Society lies in a more prominent role for the Universities and its hybridization with Industry and Government to generate new institutional and social formats of productivity, knowledge transfer and its applications always creating further new knowledge. Triple Helix provides a broadly applicable framework for exploring complex innovation dynamics and how to inform national, regional and international relevant policy-makers.

While Russia, some Latin American and Eastern European countries rather perform a statist configuration, where government plays the lead role, driving Academia and Industry limiting their capacity to initiate and develop innovative transformations, the US and most European Union countries run the laissez-faire configuration, characterized by limited political intervention, with the Industrial Business sectors as the driving force using the other two spheres just as ancillary support structures with limited roles in innovation. Universities acting mainly as providers of skilled Human Capital, and government as a regulator of social and economic mechanisms mainly. A balanced configuration, specific to the transition of an Industrial- to a Knowledge Society offers the most important insights for innovation. It creates the most favorable environments for innovation at the intersections between Universities-Business-Government spheres. Although the Helix concept has been around for quite some time, only China endeavors the balanced configuration for its Comprehensive Development of its Society’s Human Capital towards a Knowledge Society in an Organic Way at the moment.

Helix as a balanced configuration of University-Business-Government sees each sector as co-evolving sub-sets of social systems that interact through an overlay of recursive networks and organizations which reshape their institutional arrangements through reflexive sub-dynamics (e.g. markets and technological innovations) (e.g. Leydesdorff, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2008; Leydesdorff and Meyer, 2006; Dolfsma and Leydesdorff, 2009). Such interactions divide into two communication and differentiation processes:      A functional one, between Academia and Markets, and an institutional one, between Private and Public control at the levels of Universities-Business-Government spheres allowing various degrees of selective mutual adjustment (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1996, 1998). Further internal differentiation within each institutional sphere generates new types of links and structures between the spheres, such as industrial liaison offices in Universities or Strategic Alliances among Businesses, creating new network integration mechanisms (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1998). Institutional spheres are also seen as selection environments, and the institutional communications between them act as selection mechanisms, which may generate new innovation environments and ensure a ‘regeneration’ of systems (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000; Leydesdorff, 2000).

The Triple Helix envisages an Entrepreneurial University as central concept by taking a pro-active stance for making knowledge productive by putting it into use. It operates as an interactive rather than a linear model of innovation. That raises the technological level of Businesses by engaging them in higher levels of training and knowledge sharing. Government acts as public entrepreneur and development sponsor in addition to its traditional regulatory role of just setting rules. Such sponsorship develops Universities’ links, enabling them to combine discrete pieces of Intellectual Property to jointly exploit them with Businesses. The Entrepreneurial University also has an enhanced capacity to entice students for new ideas, provide new skills and foster entrepreneurial talent. Students are not only the new generations of professionals in various scientific disciplines, business, culture etc., but they can also be trained and encouraged to become entrepreneurs and firm founders, contributing to economic growth and job creation needed by developed societies more than ever. Entrepreneurial universities spawn their capabilities of educating individuals best towards adaptive organizations through entrepreneurship and incubation programs with new training modules at venues such as inter-disciplinary centers, science parks, competence centers and clusters, academic spin-offs, incubators within supportive venture capital frameworks. In a Knowledge Society Universities must increasingly be seen as roots of regional economic development – at least founding Competence Centers with the support of academic institutions should be envisaged for this purpose. While the Industrial Society brought the work to where the people were, Knowledge Societies do primarily have to bring Knowledge evolving Institutions to where the people are.


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