Achieving smart, sustainable, inclusive growth – the main priorities of Europe’s 2020 strategy – requires innovative forms of entrepreneurship. One form expected to play an important role in Europe’s economic development is knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship (KIE). Findings from the AEGIS research project suggest KIE should be regarded as one potential means to obtain economic growth and societal well-being.
The AEGIS project worked with a definition of knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship that includes four basic components. Their definition applies to new firms that are innovative, have significant knowledge intensity in their activity and exploit innovative opportunities in diverse sectors. Fleshing out this definition, Figure 1 (below) identifies some of the highlights of knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship:
Figure 1 – Knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship: key characteristics
Source: AEGIS deliverable 1.1.1 (2010), ‘Conceptualizing knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship: Concepts and models’1
AEGIS was a large-scale project involving 20 partners from 12 European countries plus China, India, and Russia, so its findings reflect a broad international perspective. Conceptually, the project focused on knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship as an agent of change mediating between the creation of knowledge and innovation, and its transformation into economic activity and well-being. On the basis of extensive field research, numerous case studies and multi-layered analysis, AEGIS produced a valuable set of messages and policy recommendations.
Among the project’s main messages are the following four asserting that public policy for knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship should:
- Be systemic.
- Include socio-economic incentives as well as individual ones.
- Stimulate knowledge competencies.
- Reflect that KIE involves the application of knowledge to new activities.
The consortium concluded that knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship is a very broad-based phenomenon that is affected not only by the decisions of public policy, but also by NGOs, businesses and individuals. KIE can emerge in all sorts of sectors - regardless of whether they are considered high-tech or low-tech - and it is also found in the service sector.
Knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship is an inherently systemic policy issue, the consortium concluded, one that must be tackled from various angles simultaneously for long-term results. Because KIE is so systemic, the AEGIS researchers recommend that public policy instruments aimed at promoting it should consider the ‘demand’ side (e.g. lead markets and public procurement) as well as the ‘supply’ side (i.e. education, risk financing and developing science and technology).
The AEGIS researchers stress that policy makers seeking to foster KIE should take into account wider processes determined by the socio-economic context. Given that the Europe 2020 strategic policy plan is oriented more towards the long term, the researchers identified a need for intermediate policy goals aimed at KIE-related development.
In terms of specific policy recommendations on knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship, AEGIS offers the following:
- Policies in favour of KIE should support the creation of new knowledge and the building of knowledge infrastructure that will enable the creation and commercialisation of knowledge in various ways and forms. This means the support of basic research, allowing for the migration from science to the commercial sector and back, improvement of the quantity and quality of both scientific and managerial education, fostering the governance of higher education institutions to promote academic entrepreneurship and improve the effectiveness of intellectual property rights (IPR) retention by universities.
- Because networks are key for the creation and survival of KIE (competencies and resources are likely to be widely distributed) policies should facilitate access to knowledge resources and stimulate interfaces with the market. Policies should support not just individual entrepreneurs but also networks.
- Policies must take into account the context in which knowledge intensive entrepreneurship takes place. Sectors differ very much, so conditions affecting knowledge-based entrepreneurship could be radically different as well. Policy intervention is especially important when knowledge-intensive entrepreneurs innovate in new (emerging) technological areas that do not reinforce, but rather overturn, incumbent firms’ asset values.
- The importance of the institutional setting cannot be overemphasised. This means that New Member States in particular need support, and that open standards may be important in complex environments (decreasing uncertainties).
1 See: http://www.aegis-fp7.eu/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=93&Itemid=12
AEGIS - Advancing knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship and innovation for economic growth and social well-being in Europe (duration: 1/1/2009 – 30/9/2012). FP7 Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities, Activity 1 “Growth, employment and competitiveness in a knowledge society”, Research area 1.1 “Changing role of knowledge throughout the economy”. Large scale integrating project.
Contact: Dr. Ralph Koumeri, firstname.lastname@example.org