Entrepreneurial-University Ecosystems

The 2016 McMillan Review of technology transfer recommended developing an ecosystem approach that was specific to the UK to improve the understanding of how universities could contribute to entrepreneurship in their local areas. Whilst the review identified important lessons from international good practice, it highlighted that these comparators were not necessarily directly transferable to a UK context. More recently, policy developments such as the Industrial Strategy have added more importance to the idea of developing ecosystems, for instance through the focus on ‘place’ and the need to capitalise on local innovation assets. Against this background, Research England, alongside partners from several London universities, the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) and the British Business Bank (the Project Group), commissioned SQW to:

  • conduct a literature review on the concept of the entrepreneurial university ecosystem
  • develop a high level conceptual model of a ‘general’ entrepreneurial ecosystem, and one that was tailored to London
  • produce a technical note outlining the options available to compile further evidence to test the framework in London and inform policy-makers.

From the literature review, six key themes were identified based around the entrepreneurial process and the role of place. These were: the roles of universities, leadership, physical space and infrastructure, business support, entrepreneurial finance, and networks. The technical note drew on the literature review to identify key findings regarding London’s entrepreneurial university ecosystem, alongside areas that appeared to be important but were not well evidenced by research. Building on these, a conceptual framework of the ecosystem in London was developed to introduce a systems-based approach, including the parameters that are likely to be important within it, as well as any linkages between them. A long list of parameters was identified as relevant for consideration when developing evidence on the ecosystem in London. The study informed subsequent stages of research, which are to consider how the conceptual model applies to different sector contexts, and the overall scale of opportunity from university-related enterprise and industry creation.

The literature review and technical report, along with the details of the broader study that they are a part of, are available on NCUB’s website.