Embedding entrepreneurial regional innovation ecosystems: reflecting on the role of effectual entrepreneurial discovery processes
European Planning Studies
The encouragement of collaboration between regional stakeholders is increasingly emphasised in innovation policy as a way to activate the inherent agency in a regional innovation system. Partnerships of diverse stakeholders have been identified as critical, being able to envisage and implement future pathways that in turn bring change to a region. Thus, knowledge concerning the regional assets and possible future pathways is supposed to be discovered through cooperation between diverse
... ers. Nevertheless, it has been recognised that these agency activation approaches often fail to deliver consequential transformations, agreed by partners in terms of a long-term vision. Sotarauta argues that partners may find themselves falling into a 'black hole' when subsequent policy cycles repeat earlier successes rather than consolidating those successes into more systemic change. Accordingly, understanding the conditions under which regional stakeholders can, through a process of constructive dialogue, build realistic and adaptable strategies that can shift regional development trajectories still remains a substantial challenge in innovative regional development theories. In this paper, we argue there is an issue arising from the way these agency activation strategies are supposed to develop long-term plans, as partners' mind-sets may be too causal and lack the flexibility to reorient strategies in their implementation phases. Focusing specifically on one of these agency activation approaches, namely smart specialisation, we reflect on whether there are also the possibilities for more effectual (opportunistic/flexible) approaches to entrepreneurial discovery. We use a qualitative case study approach comparing entrepreneurial discovery processes in three less successful regions, namely Twente (Netherlands), Aveiro (Portugal), and Lincolnshire (UK), drawing on interviews with key stakeholders as well as analysis of process reports and policy documents.