Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 1053–1080 | Cite as

Systems of innovation and innovation ecosystems: a literature review in search of complementarities

  • Nihad Faissal BassisEmail author
  • Fabiano Armellini
Regular Article


This paper aims to clarify to what extent the emerging theory of innovation ecosystems (IE) and the theory of systems of innovation (SI) are complementary and then identify how its communities could benefit from cross-fertilization. We performed a critical literature review of both topics using meta-synthesis as method to identify, analyze and compare the two theories. Using a framework, this paper explores the elements belonging to each theory’s domain, in order to identify the key factors necessary to compare the two theories. The results of this analysis show that both theories involve the assessment of three key aspects: the understanding of innovation activities, the role of the agents involved, and the interaction and resulting networks among them. A similarity was found showing that these two different theories are applications of System Thinking approach. Another finding, which has not been mentioned in previous research on the topic, is that the construction of the initial concepts of the IE theory was originally rooted in several SI elements. Finally, we found key factors that may be the cross-fertilization link between the two communities that represent each theory.


Innovation ecosystems Systems of innovation Technology innovation 

JEL classification

B52 O32 O35 P13 P51 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematics and Industrial EngineeringPolytechnique MontréalMontréalCanada

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