SS4: Geography of University Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Actors, Outcomes, Evolution

Name and affiliations of the session organisers

  • Daniel Prokop (Cardiff University)
  • Shiri Breznitz (University of Toronto)
  • James Cunningham (Newcastle University)
  • Chiara Marzocchi (Newcastle University)
  • Fumi Kitagawa (University of Birmingham)


The concept of university entrepreneurial ecosystems (UEEs), as ‘a unique set of ties with local, regional, and national actors that a university builds and utilises for its commercialization activities’ (Prokop 2021:1), and their contribution to the place they inhabit has gained momentum in recent years (Lawton Smith, 2016; Fetters et al., 2010). Place can shape and imbue some of the distinctive characteristics of UEEs: for instance, it can enhance their competitive positioning and address the needs of entrepreneurs across the stages of entrepreneurship. Place can also constrain UEEs from developing and flourishing, therefore limiting their evolution.
Within and beyond their organisational boundaries, universities have tried to address different critical functions: from knowledge creation to talent production, to academic and graduate entrepreneurship (Breznitz and Zhang 2019; Marzocchi et al. 2019) to being entrepreneurial intermediaries (Cunningham et al. 2022). UEEs are typically portrayed as sub-ecosystems (Prokop and Thompson 2022), with potentially coexisting yet separate existence of multiple UEEs in a single city or region. As such, they show unique characteristics, reflecting the entrepreneurial nature of their regions and stakeholders (Prokop and Kitagawa 2022; Prencipe et al. 2020), different actors and their compositions (Prokop 2022; Hayter et al. 2018), spatiality and performance (Prokop 2021; Lawton Smith et al. 2014), and impact on local and regional growth (Kitagawa et al. 2022; Miller and Acs 2017). While it is acknowledged that university entrepreneurial ecosystems have emerged across different contexts, their conceptualisation has been approached with relatively little variety, neglecting the role diverse geographies, stakeholders internal and externaland  social communities have on UEEs. 

The objective of this session is to devote attention to the emergence of diverse forms of UEEs, with their evolution and geography. It aims to contribute to the UEE concept theoretically, empirically and methodologically focusing on actors, outcomes, and evolution of the UEEs. The session invites work that explores one or more of the following and related questions, for example: 


  • What are the UEE actors and how do they relate to their entrepreneurial outcomes? 
  • How do UEEs support social entrepreneurship and creative enterprise? Are there differences between the entrepreneurial architecture and support offered for those? 
  • How do university actors and policies contribute to the creation of a UEE? 



  • How could we study UEEs and measure their outcomes differently? 
  • How does the diversity of UEEs and types of HEIs influence UEE outcomes? 
  • What is the role of the spatial context, embeddedness and boundary of UEEs on their configurations?
  • What role can policy play in organisation and performance of UEEs?  



  • What are the factors that influence and drive the evolution of UEEs?  
  • Do UEEs differ depending on university research capital infrastructures? Do universities sharing research or entrepreneurial infrastructures develop synergies in their UEEs and among entrepreneurs?  
  • In what ways do UEEs in the global south and north differ in their support of entrepreneurship? Is it about composition of the ecosystem or the role played by universities? 
  • What UEE activities in urban versus non-urban geographies influence choices of entrepreneurial entry? 


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