This work is part of a regional research project entitled "Innovation ecosystems in the Hauts-de-France region". This project aims to explain how existing local ecosystems can contribute to the transformation of this region in order to provide a scientific base for public decision-makers.
Adaptation process is crucial for sustainable transition and transformation of regions. This process is complex and based mainly on innovation. Today, innovation-based growth policy favors ecosystem approach, emphasizing complex interactions, open innovation, collaboration in a network, co-evolution of actors and institutions, and knowledge exchange (Moore 1996, Russell and Smorodinskaya, 2018).
Innovation ecosystem is a complex adaptive and dynamic system characterized by interactions among interdependent and diverse agents that allow a combination of top-down and bottom-up approach to foster the development of new products and services (Ritala and Almpanopoulou 2017). Innovation ecosystem centers on adaptability, renewal and ecological perspectives (Torre and Zimmermann, 2015) and thus complements the traditional and more deterministic top-down innovation process found in innovation system (Freeman 1987, Lundvall 1992). Innovation ecosystem entails network of multidisciplinary actors and diversity of skills in the creation of value (Adner and Kapoor 2010).
Empirical and theoretical studies failed to explain how existing clusters facilitate sustainable transition (Bergman, 2007). Clusters life cycle is related to the respective technological regime (Zucchella, 2006). During shocks such as technological and market changes, policy-makers and economic actors need new tools and framework to address transition and adaptation issue
Innovation ecosystem, as complex adaptive system, seems to be a relevant concept to address such issues. Therefore, our main research question is : in what way does innovation ecosystem play a role in the explanation of regional resilience, adaptation or transition in order to avoid regional lock-in ?
We developed a methodological framework to study the local Innovation Ecosystems, with particular reference to “Innovation Parks” in Hauts-de-France. Firstly, we center our analysis on the structure and orchestration of “Innovation Parks”, their adaptive capabilities and the quality of interactions between the actors and the ecological dimension. Secondly, we discuss the role - and the economic impact - of these local innovation ecosystems on the territory. We adopted a comprehensive approach to study the transformation process of Hauts-de-France region for the period 2000-2017 and to identify key transition moments related to the development of the “Innovation Parks”.
“Innovation Parks” are institutional and organizational arrangements that bring together and develop complex interactions between a diversity of actors (startups, innovative companies, incubators, research laboratories, academic organisations ...) and third-places (fablabs, coworking space, living labs) in a given physical environment (locality, sites, etc.) around one or more sectors or technological fields.
We conduct a search on published documents and materials, included scientific publications and report of research programs that have observed the evolution of the region, and then cross the results with interviews with resource persons. This documentary work enable us to characterize the process of transformation and adaptation of the region, its industrial past and its repositioning in relation to the development of “Innovation Parks”. We exploit information on web pages and official reports that provide information on the evolution of this region. We analyze three Regional Innovation Strategy documents during the period 2005-2020.
We interview the region representatives, regional stakeholders, companies and management team of five “Innovation Parks”.
We use also a database from the regional innovation agency (HDFID, Haut-de-France Innovation and Development) in order to evaluate through econometric model, correlation between development of innovation Parks and regional resilience, captured by the regional output evolution (2000-2018)
Our previous results show that from 2004, “Innovation Parks” structure the innovation architecture of Hauts-de-France and have been key to its transformation, allowing for example, Lille European Metropolis to become a creative area, the second most attractive metropolis for companies (besides Paris), and the starting point of the “French Tech”. The attractiveness of these Innovation Parks influence the influx of firms and foreign investors into the region to benefit from the innovative business atmosphere. The “Innovation Parks” contributed to create or maintain more than 15,000 new jobs, thus contributing to the regional economic performance and growth. Today, the regional plan for smart specialization (S3) is built based on the competences of these “Innovation Parks”. Furthermore the complex relationship between companies facilitates development of innovation projects, often supported by “Competitive Pole” and accelerator agencies, and exploitation of new products and services. Fablabs, coworking spaces and incubators, on the other hand, reinforce exploration and experimentation of new ideas. These two functions provide the ambidextrous to “Innovation Parks”. Every year, about 200 innovation projects are incubated. Creation of startups helps the ecosystem to be regenerative as these startups are mostly linked to new technological regime.
Contribution to Scholarship
Nowadays, regions and industries are differently exposed to exogenous shocks. Our study shows that diversity, attractiveness , ambidextrous, regenerative capabilities , multiple interactions between formal and informal entities of a local innovation ecosystems are main elements of adaptive dynamic capability that induce coevolution and adaptation. The adaptive capability of innovation ecosystem affects the regional economic resilience and plays a key role in the transformation and sustainable transition of regions (Grandadam, Cohendet, Simon 2013; Sarazin et al., 2017).
Contribution to Practice
Finally, innovation-base policies and the collective strategies of economic actors should focus on promoting adaptive capabilities by developing innovation ecosystem in order to stimulate regional innovation potential for sustainable development
Our work provides a new theoretical perspective based on empirical evidence linking ecosystem innovation and regional resilience. We show that Innovation ecosystem centers on adaptability and renewal and thus complements the traditional and more deterministic top-down innovation process found in “Innovation System” and “Clusters”
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