The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

A Critical Evaluation of Generating Digital Entrepreneurship in Innovation Clusters of Franconia: An Embedded Case Study

Simon Kiesel, École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées Business School (France)

Annette E. Craven, University of the Incarnate Word (United States)


While many studies have discussed innovation clusters and regional innovation systems from a general perspective, relatively little is known about why young entrepreneurs build on external support and what are the most needed support factors for success [1]–[13]. To answer this, the expectations of individual young entrepreneurs were identified, using qualitative techniques. The general research question was, which support from a local innovation cluster is useful for startups and which is less important. In 2017, the new Center for Digital Innovation Franconia was founded in Würzburg, Germany [14]. Local companies, universities, cities, the Bavarian government, and organizations like the chamber of commerce and business incubators formed a founding support ecosystem to increase the start-up activity in the field of digitization. It was the umbrella structure for several business incubators and co-working spaces for entrepreneurs in different stages, the science park with laboratories, entrepreneurship lectures, networking events, contests, startup coaching, and funding or legal advice [14]. Furthermore, regular workshops were organized to connect the various groups of students, founders, entrepreneurs, and public institution representatives. Topics included design thinking, funding sources, digital innovation, and digitization intellectual property rights [14]. However, for the first time in Franconia the authors of this study questioned the target group itself about activities, interactions, and interests with regard to external resources and support for early stage innovators. A qualitative, embedded case-study approach was implemented [15]. First, background material was examined, notably reports from the local center of digital innovation, business plan competitions, chamber of commerce records, and documents describing the services and intentions of the innovation center. Second, a workshop was organized at the Center for Digital Innovation. Several startups and representatives of local supporters within the startup network discussed how to improve cooperation. Third, using semi-structured in-depth interviews with startup companies (n = 10), multiple sources could be used as evidence. The analysis showed a significant dissonance between the resources required by entrepreneurs and the services offered by innovation clusters. The results of the study also provide insight into the increasingly digital Franconian startup culture and essential indications for private and public stakeholders of innovation centers to optimize support factors for business startups. Although the results are limited to startups founded by German entrepreneurs and the network within a local innovation cluster, a comparison with other areas and (less digital/service-oriented) industries is the logical continuation of this research. Furthermore, the findings may be helpful for decision-makers to understand that digital startups need different and faster support than in the past. This paper describes the lessons learned from identifying gaps between needs and offers and the transformation of the research process into an embedded case study.

Keywords: Innovation Cluster, Franconia, entrepreneurship, embedded case study, start-ups.

References: (partial list)

  1. R. Brown, G. Gregson, and C. Mason, “A Post-Mortem of Regional Innovation Policy Failure : Scotland’s Intermediate Technology Initiative (ITI),” Reg. Stud., vol. 50, no. 7, pp. 1260–1272, 2015.
  2. J. S. Engel, “Global Clusters of Innovation: Lessons from Silicon Valley,” Calif. Manage. Rev., vol. 57, no. 2, pp. 36–65, 2015.
  3. A. Thomas, R. Passaro, and I. Quinto, “Developing Entrepreneurship in Digital Economy: The Ecosystem Strategy for Startups Growth,” Strateg. Behav. Digit. Econ., pp. 1–20, 2019.
  4. C.-L. Tsai and H.-C. Chang, “Evaluation of critical factors for the regional innovation system within the HsinChu science-based park,” Kybernetes, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 699–716, 2016.
  5. K. Uzlov and T. Li-chun, “Indicator evaluation of regional innovation system according to the cluster approach,” Sch. Int. J. Bus. Policy Gov. ISSN 2394-3351, vol. 3, no. 12, p. 178, 2017.

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