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Leveraging Complexity for Ecosystemic Innovation

In the context of the growing organizational complexity of economies, driven by their adaptation to high uncertainty, and the central role of collaboration, the authors differentiate the innovation capacity of various types of business networks by the complexity of their internal interactions. Thus, the place of innovation ecosystems in the world of business networks is identified, as well as the place of innovation clusters among other innovation ecosystems.

The authors observe how innovation ecosystems have been viewed in four different research streams: management literature; the inter-firm and business network stream of economic and sociological literature; the innovation policy and competitiveness agenda in economic literature; and the dichotomy of localized and economy-wide innovation ecosystems in policy studies (in economic literature, evolutionary geography, and regional research).

The authors compare complexity thinking of modern economies, deriving from their emerging ecosystem design, with traditional thinking characterized by its system approach conceived for industrial era. Ecosystems differ from traditional systems in that they are open, dynamic, agile, and self-regulated. They are characterized by spontaneous self-organization and internal incentives, while network relationships are essential. The authors conclude that innovation ecosystems constitute special organizational spaces, generated by collaborative activities of their participants. Rather than prioritizing certain groups of businesses, industries or technologies, governments should focus on forming collaborative partnerships and leveraging global interdependencies. Literature review done by the authors highlights the key role of collaboration in generating new ideas and bringing them to market.

The authors suggest a number of practical approaches to be considered by policy-makers. To overcome hierarchic barriers built by the traditional economic thinking of the past, it is necessary to cultivate more complex, ecosystem thinking among decision makers of all levels, increase the number of network nodes, promote quantity and quality of feedback linkages, facilitate faster and more directed removal of inner and outer communication gaps, etc. Finally, the authors note that further study of collaborative networks and innovation ecosystems offers many opportunities for scholarly endeavors and for experimentation with practical applications. To facilitate this, the advancement of the ecosystem approach needs more interdisciplinary research.

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