The Quadruple Helix – Citizen Engagement in local innovation
I am currently researching a number of Open Innovation and Social Networking hypotheses using a specific Tech Cluster as the research vehicle. This work is at a very early stage, but I did want to share some interesting resources related to emerging thinking.
The Triple Helix model, designed by Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff (2000), focuses on the relations of universities, industry and governments. CLiQ promotes a Quadruple Helix innovation approach which essentially adds the citizen engagement dimension to the Triple Helix of universities, industry and government.
This sets a challenge for public authorities and the design and provision of future public services. I wrote in mid December (2011) about the possibility of community led Corporate Social Responsibility within ‘smart clusters’. CSR Lippe (run by the GILDE Business and Innovation Centre Lippe-Detmold) is looking at this in terms of:
consolidating the social commitment of individual companies and to motivate them to work together with other organisations and stakeholders to find solutions to regional challenges, such as the anticipated lack of skilled labour. The objective is to help companies to create a win-win situation, engaging with civil society in places such as schools, kindergartens, universities. Companies cooperate on a range of themes including:
- Improving the transition from education to employment
- Developing proposals for reconciling family and work
- Improving the integration of employees with a migrant background
- Safeguarding the employment potential of older employees
- Improving the visibility of CSR activities
I believe there is great potential in local (and cluster driven) CSR. Innovation networks can act as catalysts, leadership is needed to drive consensus, and this could come from social enterprise, not-for-profits, think tanks, or Venture Capitalists (perhaps with seed funding from the Big Society Bank).
In the creation of dynamic Open Innovation ecosystems, matchmaking is a key function. The Sussex Innovation Centre New Product Network is an interesting example of this pattern in action:
Sussex Innovation Centre’s New Product Network actively seeks out and matches potential buyers for the products of its tenant companies. The Centre staff has to understand the portfolio of SME products and think laterally about how to sell them. They identify and even create a demand from a network of established businesses by asking ‘What are your problems/challenges?’ When the team successfully matches what a larger business needs to expertise in the start-ups, there is a potential route through to the market. For example, in a meeting with British Airways it emerged that the airline was seeking IT solutions for baggage handling processes and social networking for the Executive Club. This intelligence was passed on to start-ups on site and introductions were made. These links enable start-up companies to get feedback on products at an early stage from potential buyers and even engage in joint development to adapt the product exactly to the buyers’ needs.
SINC staff find ways to open doors in bigger companies. The Centre’s credibility means companies in the network will listen, give a window and take the call, which may not happen for an unknown SME. Connecting start-ups to supply chains and getting the first customer is the biggest difference incubators can make to an SME.
There are undoubtedly interesting business models for dedicated matchmaking, and ‘ad hoc’ matchmaking. I am interested in how we can stimulate ‘serendipity’ either through virtual interaction, or Open Innovation spaces.
Open Innovation Spaces
Munktell Science Park in Eskilstuna provides a case study about the ‘importance of physical space’ for Open Innovation. This makes for an interesting hypothesis as to whether virtual clusters are ‘innovation disadvantaged’.
In Munktell Science Park in Eskilstuna the starting point for innovation is environment, culture and attitude. The people who rent space in the building are called “heroes”, not tenants. As well as providing space, the Science Park runs a range of different innovation initiatives including idea competitions, business training, and 24-hour races for new business ideas. The onsite incubator helps growth-oriented companies, for instance by plugging them in to business coaching, a Business Angel network and a new internationalisation forum.
The Science Park is based in a converted factory, which has been beautifully re-designed to reinforce the open innovation ethos and to serve the function of a welcoming, interdisciplinary place that creates interactions and networks. Around 30,000 citizens and visitors are welcomed each year. The features of the physical space itself contribute to the culture inside. Open innovation spaces lead to open participation, open experience, open deliver.
I take the view that ‘online relationships’ amplify offline relationships and trust is more easily established through face-to-face networking and proximity. Is the creation of a shared space in an innovation cluster critical to the success of Open Innovation? An interesting study would contrast pure-virtual, versus physical clusters and their Open Innovation outcomes.
The Quadruple Helix focuses on citizen engagement in the innovation ecosystem. This is critically important in terms of the localism agenda, citizen empowerment, personal choice, infrastructure and broadband services improvement, and as the technological sophistication of citizens continues to increase.
Government often acts as a enabler of innovation clusters, supporting their creation and helping to establish best practice and governance. Agile government recognises regional variation and at the same time the need for centralised shared services. The role of government in successful innovation clusters is important, and maximising innovation potential is an interesting topic in terms of delivering maximum value for money for tax payers. The citizen is often the ‘expert user’, underpinning the importance of this dimension of the Quadruple Helix.
CliQBoost is an interesting approach to mapping out the innovation ecosystem and using this as a guiding factor in the stimulation of further relationships. There is overlap potential with Social Network Analysis and innovation outcomes, possibly driven by developments such as the Tech City Map (the Tech City cluster in Shoreditch, East London)
Insight Strategy Stakeholder (ISS) maps are a tool to describe the key innovation related features of a city or region to allow comparative analysis. They provide a quick snapshot of other partners for each of the CLIQ members. The Insight section includes a profile, strengths and the unique selling point, sector specialisation and other defining characteristics. The Strategy section succinctly defines the main goals. The Stakeholder section maps the main stakeholder relationships in a diagrammatic representation, including stakeholders and other local actors who play a key role in innovation and entrepreneurship but with whom the partner has no (or only minimal) relationship. In essence, the stakeholder map aims to illustrate the local innovation ecosystem.
The ISS maps are a good tool to summarise key factors of the innovation systems in a readily understandable and comparable format, and to improve and drive forward connections between key stakeholders groups.
A comparison between CliQBoost analytics and the Tech City Map analytics (as one example) would provide interesting insight in best practices for profiling innovation cluster participants and potential. Maximisation of this potential (in terms of innovation and business success) would undoubtedly be of great interest to Business Angels and government ‘investors’.
I see a lot of potential for the use of the VPEC-T systems thinking framework in the Quadruple Helix. Citizen Engagement is fascinating to explore through the lenses of Values and Trust.
Stay tuned for “VPEC-T meets the Quadruple Helix”…