Theoretical framework

The Triple Helix concept comprises three basic elements: (1) a more prominent role for the university in innovation, on a par with industry and government in a knowledge–based society; (2) a movement toward collaborative relationships among the three major institutional spheres, in which innovation policy is increasingly an outcome of interaction rather than a prescription from government; (3) in addition to fulfilling their traditional functions, each institutional sphere also “takes the role of the other” performing new roles as well as their traditional function. Institutions taking non-traditional roles are viewed as a major potential source of innovation in innovation.

Initially, industry operates in the Triple Helix as the locus of production; government as the source of contractual relations that guarantee stable interactions and exchange; the university as a source of new knowledge and technology, the generative principle of knowledge-based economies. The increased importance of knowledge and the role of the university in incubation of technology-based firms have given it a more prominent place in the institutional firmament. Universities, heretofore primarily seen as a source of human resources and knowledge, are now looked to for technology as well. Many universities have developed the internal organizational capabilities to formally transfer technologies rather than relying solely on informal ties. Universities are also extending their teaching capabilities from educating individuals to shaping organizations in entrepreneurial education and incubation programs. Rather than only serving as a source of new ideas for existing firms, universities are combining their research and teaching capabilities in new formats to become a source of new firm formation, especially in advanced areas of science and technology. Universities increasingly become the source of regional economic development and academic institutions are re-oriented or founded for this purpose. New organizational mechanisms, such as incubators, science parks, and networks among them become a source of economic activity, community formation, and international exchange. New modes of interdisciplinary knowledge production, involving Triple Helix partners, inspire research collaboration and firm-formation projects.

The entrepreneurial university takes a pro-active stance in putting knowledge to use and in broadening the input into the creation of academic knowledge. Thus it operates according to an interactive rather than a linear model of innovation. As firms raise their technological level, they engage in higher levels of training and in sharing of knowledge. Government acts as a public entrepreneur and venture capitalist, in addition to its traditional regulatory role in setting the rules of the game. The interaction between linear and reverse linear dynamics results in the emergence of an interactive model of innovation. Globalization becomes decentralized and takes place through regional networks among universities as well as through multi-national corporations and international organizations. As universities develop links, they can combine discrete pieces of intellectual property and jointly exploit them. In current international competitive circumstances, innovation is too important to be left to the individual firm, or even a group of firms, the individual researcher or even a cross-national collaboration of researchers. Innovation has expanded from an internal process within and even among firms to an activity that involves institutions not traditionally thought of as having a direct role in innovation such as universities.

Triple Helix Conference I Amsterdam, 1996 II New York, 1998 III Rio de Janeiro, 2000 IV Copenhagen, 2002 V Turin, 2005 VI Singapore, 2007 VII Glasgow, 2009 VIII Madrid, 2010 IX Stanford, 2011 X Indonesia, 2012 XI London, 2013
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