I&E Conversation 2017: Ecosystems for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Venue: The Royal Society, Carlton Terrace, London
The third Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conversation was held on 22-23 June at the Royal Society organised by Dmitry Sharapov, Anu Wadhwa and Erkko Autio. In what has become an established annual event, this year the focus was on Ecosystems for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, showcasing the department’s research and dissemination activity in this area, and welcoming expert scholars from across Europe and the USA for two days of cutting-edge debate, discussion and knowledge-sharing.
The conference was organised into 6 sessions across the two days, examining ecosystem theory, complementor strategies, resource acquisition, ecosystem construction, management and evolution, and digital business models. Overall 12 papers were presented, 10 of which were from external presenters coming from as far afield as the University of Texas, Stanford and Aalto University, and each paper had a designated discussant to challenge the presenter and generate debate amongst the audience.
The conference was opened by Erkko Autio, who got the first session underway with a scene-setting paper about the distinctive characteristics of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Michael Jacobides from London Business School then presented a paper defining business ecosystems, and explained how a greater understanding of their structures and influence could contribute to the field.
In the second session, Stanford’s Riitta Katila presented her co-authored work with Henning Piezunka on video game developers and sellers, exploring the role of intermediaries, competition and collaboration in business ecosystems. As discussant on this paper Anil Doshi from UCL commented on the trade-off between firms getting attention and actual market access, and asked whether the experience is the same if the product itself is new or something already familiar to the market? Dmitry Sharapov’s presentation revealed the strategies used by app developers in the smartphone application market and provided some preliminary evidence regarding the effectiveness of these approaches.
Ben Spigel from Edinburgh presented his regionally-focused work on Scotland in the third session on resource acquisition, arguing that “firm survival and competitive advantage are helped by access to resources in the ecosystem.” Examining firms in Edinburgh and Glasgow, he demonstrated that “entrepreneurs learn about entrepreneurship from other entrepreneurs,” while in the same session University of Pisa’s Andrea Mina considered the link between innovation investment and the firm finance in his early-stage work.
The final session on Day One welcomed back former Imperial academic Annabelle Gawer to present her work on the launch of 12 game-based technologies in a platform-based ecosystem, identifying a new “dilemma” for platform owners when introducing performance-enhancing products that would benefit users but disrupt practices for intermediaries (or complementors) beforehand. Discussing this work, Robin Gustafsson from Aalto highlighted the levels of changes in the games industry in recent years in development and digital distribution, as well as the balance between changes in individual firm behaviour and the market as a whole. The last presentation of the day, given by Joost Rietveld from the Rotterdam School of Management, used data from the video game industry to examine the antecedents and effects of a platform owner choosing to promote a complementary product.
After a successful conference dinner, delegates returned to the Royal Society for Day Two, which opened with a paper from Dough Hannah on the influence of founder identity in ecosystem construction and evolution, discussed in imitable style by former I&E researcher Brice Dattee. The second paper in this session was presented by Bilgehan Uzunca from Utecht and co-authored by conference organiser Dmitry Sharapov and by former business school PhD student Richard Tee (now at LUISS in Rome). This work suggested that governance arrangements established in the early stages of an ecosystem’s development may be difficult to alter as the ecosystem evolves, potentially leading to situations in which being in a bottleneck segment is neither necessary nor sufficient for value capture.
The final session of the conference brought Information Systems research into the conversation with presentations on competitive logics behind the forking of software platforms and the responses of the platform owner to this activity by Robin Gustafsson, and on the fundamental changes to business models brought about by digitalization by Youngjin Yoo from Case Western Reserve University. The setting of the Royal Society once again fostered interesting conversation and debate amongst participants ensuring the annual Innovation & Entrepreneurship Conversation remains a valuable forum for sharing novel ideas and building community engagement.