Journal of the Knowledge Economy

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 25-35

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Triple Helix, Quadruple Helix, …, and an N-Tuple of Helices: Explanatory Models for Analyzing the Knowledge-Based Economy?

  • Loet LeydesdorffAffiliated withAmsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam Email author 


Using the Triple Helix model of university–industry–government relations, one can measure the extent to which innovation has become systemic instead of assuming the existence of national (or regional) systems of innovations on a priori grounds. Systemness of innovation patterns, however, can be expected to remain in transition because of integrating and differentiating forces. Integration among the functions of wealth creation, knowledge production, and normative control takes place at the interfaces in organizations, while exchanges on the market, scholarly communication in knowledge production, and political discourse tend to differentiate globally. The neo-institutional and the neo-evolutionary versions of the Triple Helix model enable us to capture this tension reflexively. Empirical studies inform us whether more than three helices are needed for the explanation. The Triple Helix indicator can be extended algorithmically, for example, with local–global as a fourth dimension or, more generally, to an N-tuple of helices.


Triple Helix N-Tuple helices Innovation system Overlay Model Measurement