In May and June 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in an ESRC/AHRC funded project “Entrepreneurial and Innovation Ecosystems in the UK and Japan” aimed at exploring place-based ecosystems. Taking place in Glasgow, UK and Tokyo, Japan, I was invited to present at both symposia along with many ecosystem experts and practitioners from both the UK and Japan. You can read about some of the discussions on Twitter under the hashtag #EcoMetricsGLA here and #EcosystemsUKJapan here.
The Glasgow symposium predominantly focused on the topic of measuring entrepreneurial ecosystems and the metrics. What particularly resonated with me was a presentation by Chantale Tippet from NESTA who emphasised the importance of clearly articulating what it is we are trying to understand in the first place and only then identifying the metrics necessary to accomplish this. In other words, the end goal should be the starting point, not what data are readily available. You can read the main reflections written up by Colin Mason, Fumi Kitagawa, and Ben Spigel here [pdf].
As part of the symposium, I was invited to highlight how I approached mapping entrepreneurship support provision in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Glasgow and the main takeaways. Given that the audience comprised not only academics but also practitioners and policy-makers, I spend a lot of time on designing the most effective format of the presentation so that I could offer both theoretical and practical implications of my study. My presentation was very well received so it is about time I publish my findings in a more accessible format!
A few weeks later, we reconvened for the Tokyo symposium, which focused more on showcasing the Japanese entrepreneurial ecosystems and we heard from representatives of Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka. What I found particularly interesting about this workshop was the heavy presence of government and municipal authorities and the active role they undertook in their local ecosystem. Although I am not closely familiar with any of the local ecosystems, it seemed that it was the government taking on a leading role in the ecosystem. In contrast, Brad Feld’s famous book on Startup Communities argues that, actually, the government should be a ‘feeder’ or a facilitator for the ecosystem and not a leader. For a while, I have been wondering how culture affects the role division among ecosystem actors and how that impacts ecosystem governance so I think there is definitely some potential to explore this further.
This also brings me to my presentation. At the end of the Tokyo symposium, I was asked to present my reflections on both Glasgow and Tokyo workshops and the emerging research questions based on our discussions. We already know that ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to building ecosystems doesn’t work, but we still do not know what ecosystem configurations exist, how effective they are, and what their implications are!
I would therefore like to call fellow ecosystem researchers to pay closer attention to this issue and by studying ecosystem configurations from a systemic view. For example:
What configurations of entrepreneurial ecosystems exist?
Do some actors/factors play a more important role than others?
What value do ecosystem actors add and does their contribution vary in different configurations?
What are the implications?
Overall, both symposia were a brilliant opportunity for me to meet fellow ecosystem researchers, learn about the latest developments in conceptualizing and measuring ecosystems, and, perhaps most importantly, I feel reassured that we still do not have answers to any of the questions that I have been grappling with myself!