Hierarchical and relational governance and the life cycle of entrepreneurial ecosystems

Abstract

In this paper, we explore the way the evolution of entrepreneurial ecosystems is shaped by different governance designs. We propose a theoretical framework in which we discuss what type of governance design would best fit the needs of an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout its evolution. We also provide argumentations concerning the mechanisms that may explain the evolution through the different governance configurations. The conceptualization of a new framework has allowed us to specify a set of propositions, which we have tested on one single empirical setting, represented by Turin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The paper introduces some important policy implications. It highlights the need for a more complex relational form of governance for the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, which could be obtained by means of a systemic and participative approach rooted in shared cooperative norms and informal routines.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be pointed out that the empirical exercise has had the primary objective of testing a set of propositions that are the outcome of our conceptual framework, which, however, is sufficiently general to allow it to be employed in other contexts and on a set of multiple cases, by means of comparative analyses, in future research.

  2. 2.

    Today, Turin is one of the most entrepreneurial and innovative cities in Italy. In fact, it is the fourth Italian province, after Rome, Milan, and Naples, in terms of new firms created in 2015, and the third Italian province, after Milan and Rome, in terms of number of innovative start-ups. It counts a total of 268 innovative start-ups registered at the Chamber of Commerce between 2012 and 2015 over a total of 5143 in Italy (Italian Chamber of Commerce, Registro Imprese). Turin is one of the 30 top European metropolitan areas, second in Italy only to Milan, in terms of total patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO): the city counts 195 new patent applications and 87 patent applications per million inhabitants in 2012, while the European average for NUTS3 regions is 73 and 72, respectively (Eurostat, online datacodes pat_ep_mtot and pat_ep_rtot).

  3. 3.

    We dropped three institutions: one is a patent consultancy company that offers professional services to support the patenting process of private firms, the second one is a consortium of cooperatives, and the third one is a private foundation, which has the broad objective of helping people at the margin of society. The activities of these organizations are quite different from the aim of supporting innovative start-ups.

  4. 4.

    Torino Strategica is the public association that promotes and develops the strategic plan of the metropolitan area of Turin (www.torinostrategica.it).

  5. 5.

    I3P is the main university-based incubator and one of the best at a European level: in 2014 it ranked fifth in Europe and fifteenth in the UBI (University Business Incubator) world ranking, the Global Benchmark Report annual ranking of the best academic incubators.

  6. 6.

    The underlying idea of the Strategic Plan, initially devoted to the urban requalification of the city, was to progress beyond a city centered on FIAT, to promote the growth in new sectors, by starting a process of diversification, and to attract new international players. The two pillars of this phase were “culture” - to make Turin an attractive touristic location - and “technological innovation” - to start a process of economic and industrial renewal. The proponents’ original idea was that these two attributes should have developed in tandem so that they could influence one another.

  7. 7.

    Città Metropolitana di Torino is the governing body of the metropolitan area of Turin. Following the drawing up of “Delrio” Law, no. 56 (2014), it has substituted the Province of Turin as the governing body since January 2015.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to all of the interviewees for having given up their time to talk to us. We wish in particular to thank Valentino Castellani and Anna Prat (Torino Strategica) for having shared their profound knowledge of the history and strategy of Turin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem with us. We are also grateful to Silvio Aime (University of Turin), Marco Cantamessa (I3P), Andrea Casalegno (Top-IX), Barbara Graffino (YES4TO), Giancarlo Rocchietti, Marco Lingua, and Silvano Bernardi (Club degli Investitori), Stefano Molino (Innogest), Nicoletta Marchiandi (Camera di Commercio di Torino). We are indebted to the Fondazione Human Plus for having provided us with the questionnaire data. The authors are responsible for all of the views and opinions expressed in the paper.

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Correspondence to Elisa Ughetto.

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Colombelli, A., Paolucci, E. & Ughetto, E. Hierarchical and relational governance and the life cycle of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Small Bus Econ 52, 505–521 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9957-4

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Keywords

  • Governance
  • Entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • Local stakeholders