Sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems: an emerging field of research

Abstract

While the concept of entrepreneurial ecosystems is now a prominent topic and an important stream in entrepreneurship research, the question of how ecosystems can specifically promote sustainable entrepreneurship and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations is a neglected issue. With the papers in this special issue, we address this research gap, serving as a catalyst sparking more research at the nexus of contextualization of entrepreneurship and sustainability. This research has, since the 1990s, developed in three waves; the explicit linkage to SDGs and the investigation of impacts of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystems in achieving societal and environmental goals might be considered as the “fourth wave.” We first introduce relevant research streams and concepts for investigating sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems. Then, we explain why this special issue and its articles represent a fourth wave in entrepreneurial research (“sustainability”). Thereafter, we provide an overview of the papers of this special issue and then end with a brief consideration of future research demands.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    The United Nations (2015) outlines, for example, the societal and environmental relevance of intragenerational equality (e.g., issues of social injustice and stratification) and intergenerational equity (e.g., impacts of climate change on future generations),

  2. 2.

    The G-Forum is one of the leading academic conferences exploring entrepreneurship in Europe. The conference is an initiative of the FGF (Förderkreis Gründungs-Forschung), which is the most significant scientific association for entrepreneurship, innovation, and SMEs in German-speaking countries.

References

  1. Ács, Z. J., Autio, E., & Szerb, L. (2014). National systems of entrepreneurship: measurement issues and policy implications. Research Policy, 43(3), 476–494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2013.08.016.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Acs, Z. J., Stam, E., Audretsch, D. B., & O’Connor, A. (2017). The lineages of the entrepreneurial ecosystem approach. Small Business Economics, 49(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9864-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Audretsch, D. B., & Belitski, M. (2016). Entrepreneurial ecosystems in cities: establishing the framework conditions. The Journal of Technology Transfer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-016-9473-8.

  4. Audretsch, D. B., & Link, A. N. (2019). Embracing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: an analysis of the governance of research joint ventures. Small Business Economics, 52(2), 429–436. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9953-8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Autio, E., Kenney, M., Mustar, P., Siegel, D., & Wright, M. (2014). Entrepreneurial innovation: the importance of context. Research Policy, 43(7), 1097–1108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2014.01.015.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Autio, E., Nambisan, S., Thomas, L. D. W., & Wright, M. (2018). Digital affordances, spatial affordances, and the genesis of entrepreneurial ecosystems: AUTIO et al. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 12(1), 72–95. https://doi.org/10.1002/sej.1266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bank, N., Fichter, K., & Klofsten, M. (2017). Sustainability-profiled incubators and securing the inflow of tenants – the case of Green Garage Berlin. Journal of Cleaner Production, 157, 76–83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bergset, L., & Fichter, K. (2015). Green start-ups – a new typology for sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation research. Journal of Innovation Management, 3(3), 118–144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Binder, J. K., & Belz, F. M. (2015). Sustainable entrepreneurship: what it is. In P. Kyrö (Ed.), Handbook of entrepreneurship and sustainable development research (pp. 30–75). http://public.eblib.com/choice/PublicFullRecord.aspx?p=1934338

  10. Bischoff, K., & Volkmann, C. K. (2018). Stakeholder support for sustainable entrepreneurship - a framework of sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, 10(2), 172. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEV.2018.092714.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Brown, R., & Mason, C. (2017). Looking inside the spiky bits: a critical review and conceptualisation of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Small Business Economics, 49(1), 11–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Bruns, K., Bosma, N., Sanders, M., & Schramm, M. (2017). Searching for the existence of entrepreneurial ecosystems: a regional cross-section growth regression approach. Small Business Economics, 49(1), 31–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bugg-Levine, A., & Emerson, J. (2011). Impact investing: transforming how we make money while making a difference. Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, 6(3), 9–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Bull, I., & Willard, G. E. (1993). Toward a theory of entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 8(3), 183–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Calic, G., & Mosakowski, E. (2016). Kicking off social entrepreneurship: how a sustainability orientation influences crowdfunding success. Journal of Management Studies, 53(5), 738–767.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Cohen, B. (2006). Sustainable valley entrepreneurial ecosystems. Business Strategy and the Environment, 15(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Cohen, B., & Winn, M. (2007). Market imperfections, opportunity and sustainable entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(1), 29–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Crutzen, P. J. (2002). Geology of mankind. Nature, 415(6867), 23–23. https://doi.org/10.1038/415023a.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Crutzen, P. J. (2006). The “Anthropocene”. In: Ehlers E., Krafft T. (Eds.), Earth system science in the Anthropocene (pp. 13–18). Springer: Berlin, Heidelberg.

  20. Daly, H. E., & Farley, J. C. (2010). Ecological economics: principles and applications (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Island Press.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Dean, T. J., & McMullen, J. S. (2007). Toward a theory of sustainable entrepreneurship: reducing environmental degradation through entrepreneurial action. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(1), 50–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2005.09.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Demirel, P., Li, Q. C., Rentocchini, F., & Tamvada, J. P. (2019). Born to be green: new insights into the economics and management of green entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 52(4), 759–771. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9933-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Engel, J. S. (2015). Global clusters of innovation: lessons from Silicon Valley. California Management Review, 57(2), 36–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Erina, I., Shatrevich, V., & Gaile-Sarkane, E. (2017). Impact of stakeholder groups on development of a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. European Planning Studies, 25(5), 755–771. https://doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2017.1282077.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Etzkowitz, H., & Klofsten, M. (2005). The innovating region: toward a theory of knowledge-based regional development. R&D Management, 35(3), 243–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Fichter, K., Fuad-Luke, A., Hjelm, O., Klofsten, M., Backmann, M., Bergset, L., et al. (2016). SHIFTing the support of entrepreneurship in eco-innovation. Summary of results and recommendations from the Eco-Innovera project SHIFT. Berlin, Helsinki, Linköping: SHIFT Consortium.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gibbs, D. (2006). Sustainability entrepreneurs, ecopreneurs and the development of a sustainable economy. Greener Management International, 55, 63–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hall, J. K., Daneke, G. A., & Lenox, M. J. (2010). Sustainable development and entrepreneurship: past contributions and future directions. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), 439–448. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusvent.2010.01.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Hanlon, D., & Saunders, C. (2007). Marshaling resources to form small new ventures: toward a more holistic understanding of entrepreneurial support. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31(4), 619–641. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2007.00191.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Isenberg, D. J. (2010). How to start an entrepreneurial revolution. Harvard Business Review, 88(6), 40–50.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Isenberg, D. (2011). The entrepreneurship ecosystem strategy as a new paradigm for economic policy: principles for cultivating entrepreneurship. Dublin: Institute of International European Affairs.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Kanda, W., Hjelm, O., Clausen, J., & Bienkowska, D. (2018). Roles of intermediaries in supporting eco-innovation. Journal of Cleaner Production, 205, 1006–1016. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.09.132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Lehmann, E. E., Schenkenhofer, J., & Wirsching, K. (2019). Hidden champions and unicorns: a question of the context of human capital investment. Small Business Economics, 52(2), 359–374.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Lepoutre, J., Justo, R., Terjesen, S., & Bosma, N. (2013). Designing a global standardized methodology for measuring social entrepreneurship activity: the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor social entrepreneurship study. Small Business Economics, 40(3), 693–714.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Malecki, E. J. (2011). Connecting local entrepreneurial ecosystems to global innovation networks: open innovation, double networks and knowledge integration. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, 14(1), 36. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEIM.2011.040821.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Muñoz, P., & Cohen, B. (2018). Sustainable entrepreneurship research: taking stock and looking ahead: sustainable entrepreneurship research. Business Strategy and the Environment, 27(3), 300–322. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.2000.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Neumeyer, X., & Santos, S. C. (2018). Sustainable business models, venture typologies, and entrepreneurial ecosystems: a social network perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production, 172, 4565–4579. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.08.216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Neumeyer, X., Santos, S. C., Caetano, A., & Kalbfleisch, P. (2018). Entrepreneurship ecosystems and women entrepreneurs: a social capital and network approach. Small Business Economics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-9996-5.

  39. Pacheco, D. F., Dean, T. J., & Payne, D. S. (2010). Escaping the green prison: entrepreneurship and the creation of opportunities for sustainable development. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), 464–480.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Parrish, B. D. (2010). Sustainability-driven entrepreneurship: principles of organization design. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), 510–523.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Parrish, B. D., & Foxon, T. J. (2009). Sustainability entrepreneurship and equitable transitions to a low-carbon economy. Greener Management International, 55, 47–62.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Patzelt, H., & Shepherd, D. A. (2011). Recognizing opportunities for sustainable development. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(4), 631–652. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00386.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Roundy, P. T., Bradshaw, M., & Brockman, B. K. (2018). The emergence of entrepreneurial ecosystems: a complex adaptive systems approach. Journal of Business Research, 86, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.01.032.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Sarango-Lalangui, P., Santos, J., & Hormiga, E. (2018). The development of sustainable entrepreneurship research field. Sustainability, 10(6), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10062005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Schaltegger, S., & Wagner, M. (2011). Sustainable entrepreneurship and sustainability innovation: categories and interactions. Business Strategy and the Environment, 20(4), 222–237. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.682.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Simatupang, T. M., Schwab, A., & Lantu, D. (2015). Introduction: building sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystems. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3161598.

  47. Spigel, B. (2017). The relational organization of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41(1), 49–72. https://doi.org/10.1111/etap.12167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Spigel, B., & Harrison, R. (2018). Toward a process theory of entrepreneurial ecosystems: toward a process theory of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 12(1), 151–168. https://doi.org/10.1002/sej.1268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Stam, E. (2015). Entrepreneurial ecosystems and regional policy: a sympathetic critique. European Planning Studies, 23(9), 1759–1769. https://doi.org/10.1080/09654313.2015.1061484.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Stam, E. (2018). Measuring entrepreneurial ecosystems. In A. O’Connor, E. Stam, F. Sussan, & D. B. Audretsch (Eds.), Entrepreneurial ecosystems. Place-based transformations and transitions (pp. 173–197). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Sunny, S. A., & Shu, C. (2019). Investments, incentives, and innovation: geographical clustering dynamics as drivers of sustainable entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics, 52(4), 905–927. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9941-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Theodoraki, C., Messeghem, K., & Rice, M. P. (2017). A social capital approach to the development of sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems: an explorative study. Small Business Economics, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9924-0.

  53. Uddin, M., Hindu, R. C., Alsaqour, R., Shah, A., & Saba, T. (2015). Knowledge management framework using green IT to implement sustainable entrepreneur ecosystem. Applied Mathematics & Information Sciences, 9(5), 2703–2714.

    Google Scholar 

  54. United Nations (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015. New York: United Nations. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld.

  55. Welter, F. (2011). Contextualizing entrepreneurship-conceptual challenges and ways forward. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(1), 165–184. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00427.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Welter, F., Baker, T., & Wirsching, K. (2019). Three waves and counting: the rising tide of contextualization in entrepreneurship research. Small Business Economics, 52(2), 319–330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0094-5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Wirtz, M., & Volkmann, C. K. (2015). Social entrepreneurial ecosystems as a means for sustainable urban development. In J. Condy & A. M. Cooper (Eds.), Dialogues of sustainable urbanisation. https://isscbookofblogs.pressbooks.com/chapter/social-entrepreneurial-ecosystems-as-a-means-for-creatingsustainable-urban-development/.

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank Prof. Dr. Friederike Welter for her valuable comments on the draft of this paper.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christine Volkmann.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Volkmann, C., Fichter, K., Klofsten, M. et al. Sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems: an emerging field of research. Small Bus Econ 56, 1047–1055 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00253-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Entrepreneurial ecosystems
  • Sustainable entrepreneurship
  • Sustainability
  • Co-creation
  • Co-evolution
  • Collective sustainable innovation

JEL classifications

  • L26
  • M13
  • M14
  • O31
  • O32
  • Q01
  • Q55
  • Q56
  • R11