The triple helix thesis is an important basis for innovation that the European Union supports.
Starting point for the triple helix thesis, or the knowledge triangle as it is also called, is that collaboration between academia, industry and government is a good precondition for fostering innovation (Etzkowitz, 2002; Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, Lissenburgh and Harding, 2000). Triple-helix is a thesis, a perspective on innovation, where the emphasis is on:
- Commercialization (Asheim & Coenen, 2004; Leydesdorff, 2005; Leydesdorff & Etzkowitz, 2001; Shapira, 2002)
- Collaborative research (Best et al., 2003) and;
- Significance of the region (De Bruijn, 2004).
There is much research that supports that this type of cooperation will improve conditions for innovation, productivity and prosperity in a knowledge society (Campbell, 2005; Campbell, Koski, & Blumenthal., 2004; Etzkowitz, 2002; Leydesdorff, 2003; Shapira, 2002; Sutz, 1998).
The assumption is that a triple-helix-research partnership is best if you want to establish long-term organizational structures that allow short-term intensive collaborative experience. It is also supported by much research (Campbell, 2005; Etzkowitz, 2003; Langford, Hall, Josty, Matos, & Jacobson, 2005; Leydesdorff & Fritsch, 2005).
Regions has in research been identified as central to theories of innovation and economic development (De Bruijn, 2004). The idea is that the region as a place can become a local environment, where many of the “input” is available and where to share the work stimulated (Fritsch, 2002).
Doloreux and Parto (2004) argues that there are three key elements for regional innovation:
- That there are regional “communities” that share a knowledge and local resources of eg special skills in the labor market, suppliers, local learning processes, local traditions to work together and so on.
- That innovation is embedded in social relationships that develop over time according to culturally defined structures. It is often informal social relationships that determine a particular image and sense of belonging, which promotes the synergy and collective learning processes.
- That innovation occurs when a geographical concentration and proximity are present.
Regional innovation also occurs in what can be called urban clusters. They will provide access to the maximum flow of information and ideas, provide opportunities for cooperation, access to specialists, subcontractors and suppliers, the effectiveness of specific local services, the development of a local pool of specialized labor, lower risk and, more options and customer choice (Harmaakorpi , 2004).
In order to promote regional innovation lateral relationships across borders are required, rather than traditional hierarchical bureaucratic structures (Etzkowitz, 2001). Knowledge should flow and be available at the organization and industry level and also geographically.
Successful innovation also requires organizations that have the capacity to absorb, perceive bring in opportunities (Greve & Salaff, 2001). A large pool of ideas is preferrable (Aharonson et al., 2004).
There are many difficulties in creating triple-helix cooperation that meets all these criteria.
One challenge is that the triple helix thesis can be said to be contrary to academic freedom (Bekelman, Li, & Gross, 2003). It could also be that triple-helix affect education and learning in a problematic way (Gluck, Blumenthal, & Stoto, 1987). It is also important to know that the triple-helix collaboration can bring and carry financial
conflicts of interest (Campbell et al., 2004).
Within academia, there is growing opposition to research to be ordered from above. August 1, 2009 Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter writes about scientists in rebellion to eminent British scientists. I is published as an appeal to defend the freedom of research, because of a new policy from the British research councils, which required the researcher presents the future benefits of their projects. It is insisted on that such measures are not reflected in real break-through, measured in number of Nobel Prizes.
Triple-helix is also a theory that links to more scientific research, that is to say that cooperation also will take place between two or more disciplines. The key is to prevent institutions to promote the isolation of disciplines (Dauphinée and Martin, 2000).
In the collaborative world of crowdsourcing and open innovation, grass roots innovation etcetera, triple-helix seems to be a a sensemaker of an infrastructure, aiming for a certain pluralistic and inclusive approach to differences to achieve innovation. Macro levels are well researched, but the micro practices are not. The value of the coming publications from this project is providing some glimpses of those micro practices.