The inevitable but altered roles of universities within an innovation ecosystem


  • Linde Baaijens
  • Maria Freidel
  • Denice Groenen
  • Antonios Matzakos Chorianopoulos
  • Jordan Vasseur
  • Matthijs Zwemmer
  • Emőke Takács
  • Toon Abcouwer University of Amsterdam



innovation, business ecosystem, resilience, partnership, IT


It is evident that for an organisation, the most successful way for operating is being part of business ecosystems and creating more value than on its own. Universities play a specific role in this field. We undertook this research to verify the universities’ role in an innovation ecosystem where they work together with businesses to create and share new cutting-edge knowledge. Our theory-based research offers scientifically underpinned suggestions for innovators and entrepreneurs in developing innovation ecosystems with a specific focus on the altered role of universities. The article focuses on the roles of universities to discovers how it can become more resilient to adapt to the ever-changing demands of an innovation ecosystem. How can it provide professional knowledge sharing on an equal base within the ecosystem whilst remaining its leading role in innovation and knowledge development? This approach breaks with the traditional view of universities as the primary source of knowledge in society.

Universities take several roles in a business ecosystem, which we conclude in this paper. To let universities stay strong in innovation, they must adapt their traditional role to suit to the ever-changing demands presented by the ecosystem. They need to focus on knowledge sharing instead of knowledge delivery to achieve a sustainable growth. The changing approach fits better the innovation and entrepreneurship by working within a knowledge ecosystem. Additionally, organisations must stay proactive by evaluating partners better, building meaningful relationships, and adopting a business-like mentality.

Organising such a knowledge ecosystem will stimulate innovation and facilitate entrepreneurs in searching for new markets in an increasingly sustainable and circular world.