In the 1990s different countries at different level of economic growth find that they share a mutual interest in fostering knowledge-based economic and social developments requiring the creation of boundary-spanning mechanisms (Leydendorff and Etzkowitz, 1996). Recent decades have seen a shift from innovation sources confined to a single institutional sphere, whether new product development in industry, policy making in government or the creation and dissemination of knowledge in academia, to the interaction among these three institutional spheres as the source of new and innovative organizational designs and social interactions (Leydesdorff, 2012).
This shift entails not only various mechanisms of restructuring of the sources and development path of innovation, but also a rethinking of our main models for conceptualizing innovation (for example, national, regional, sectoral, technological innovation systems, the Triple Helix) that may often fail to capture important innovation dynamics because of issues such as diffuseness and loose definition, methodological or performance measurement gaps (Leydesdorff, 2012).
The metaphor of a Triple Helix of universityindustrygovernment relations emerged in a discussion at a workshop in Sweden in 1995 and the first triple helix conference was held in 1996 in Amsterdam (Leydesdorff, 2012).
The triple Helix is commonly explained with the following elements of a:
(1) Components, consisting of the institutional spheres of university, industry and government, each with a wide array of actors, among whom a distinction is made between: (a) individual and institutional innovators; (b) R&D and non-R&D innovators; and (c) single-sphere and multi-sphere (hybrid) institutions.
(2) Relationships between components (technology transfer, collaboration and conflict moderation, collaborative leadership, substitution, and networking).
(3) Functions, in the sense of competencies of the system components that determine the systems performance. The main function of a Triple Helix system is seen in a broader sense, that of generation, diffusion and utilization of knowledge and innovation.
This function is realized not only with the techno-economic competencies described in innovation system theory, but also with entrepreneurial, societal, cultural, and policy competencies that are embedded in what we call the Triple Helix spaces: the knowledge, innovation and consensus spaces (Raga and Etzkowitz, 2013). Triple Helix systems accommodate both institutional and individual roles in innovation and explain variations in innovative performance in relation to the development of and articulation between the knowledge, innovation and consensus spaces (Raga and Etzkowitz, 2013).
Triple Helix literature has been developed over the last two decades that can be broadly viewed from two complementary perspectives i.e. the neo-institutional perspective and the neo-evolutionary perspective. The (neo-) institutional perspective, which examines the growing prominence of the university among innovation actors through national and regional case studies (Etzkowitz, Mello and Almeida, 2005). According to Raga and Etzkowitz, (2013) the (neo-) institutional perspective distinguishes between three main configurations in the positioning of the university, industry and government institutional spheres relative to each other: (1) A statist configuration, in which government plays the lead role, driving academia and industry, but also limiting their capacity to initiate and develop innovative transformations (as, for example, in Russia, China, and some Latin American and Eastern European countries); (2) A laissez-faire configuration, characterized by limited state intervention in the economy (such as in the USA and some Western European countries), with industry as the driving force and the other two spheres acting as ancillary support structures with limited roles in innovation universities acting mainly as providers of skilled human capital and government mainly as a regulator of social and economic mechanisms; and (3) A balanced configuration, specific to the transition to a Knowledge Society, in which university and other knowledge institutions act in partnership with industry and government and even take the lead in joint initiatives (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 2000).
The balanced configuration offers the most important insights for innovation, because the most favorable environments for innovation are created at the intersections of the spheres (Raga and Etzkowitz, 2013). This is where creative synergies emerge and set in motion a process of innovation in innovation, create new venues for interaction and new organizational formats, as individual and organizational actors not only perform their own role, but also take the role of the other when the other is weak or underperforming (Etzkowitz, 2003, 2008). Through this creative process, the relationships among the institutional spheres of university, industry and government are continuously reshaped in an endless transition (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1998), in order to enhance innovation by bringing forth new technologies, new firms and new types of relationships.
University-industry-government institutional Spheres
R&D and Non R&D innovators
Single sphere and Multi sphere (hybrid) institution.
Individual innovators & institutional innovators
Technology transfer/ acquisition
Collaboration and conflict moderation
Generation, diffusion, and use of knowledge and innovation
Realized through articulation of:
– The knowledge space
– Collaboration space and
– Consensus space
On the other hand, the (neo-) evolutionary perspective state that university, industry and government are co-evolving subsets of social systems that interact through an overlay of recursive networks and organizations that reshape their institutional arrangements through reflexive sub-dynamics, such as markets and technological innovations (Leydesdorff, 1996, 1997). These interactions are part of two processes of communication and differentiation: a functional one, between science and markets, and an institutional one, between private and public control at the level of universities, industries and government, which allow various degrees of selective mutual adjustment (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1996, 1998). In addition, internal differentiation within each institutional sphere generates new types of links and structures between the spheres, such as industrial liaison offices in universities or strategic alliances among companies, creating new network integration mechanisms (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1998). A synthetic representation of triple helix systems as represented in (Raga