Entrepreneurship as an Innovation Driver in an Industrial Ecosystem

  • Markus Hofmann
  • Ferran Giones
Part of the FGF Studies in Small Business and Entrepreneurship book series (FGFS)


Understanding how a new digital technology can translate into a valuable innovation is a challenge for established players and new entrants. For industrial players in an ecosystem, it can be both a threat and an opportunity. Furthermore, the new technologies open collaboration opportunities between corporates and start-ups. But it remains unclear what are the consequences of opening up and whether it has an impact on the innovation dynamics in the industrial ecosystem.

We use the case of the wind industry in Denmark, as a maturing industrial ecosystem, to study when and how the new entrants (technology entrepreneurs) have had an impact on the innovation dynamics. We first combine archival data with interviews to build a historical account of the evolution of the industrial ecosystem; then we incorporate data from the new entrants in the industry to specify the types of innovations that the most recent digital technology entrepreneurs have triggered.

The results suggest differences in the innovation dynamics depending on the value chain position. While some activities have remained rather closed (for instance, the technological development of the core elements in the wind turbines), the operations and maintenance activities have profited from digital technologies introduced by new entrants. Using these insights, we present and discuss suggestions to institutional actors interested in protecting the innovation leadership of their regional industrial ecosystems.


Innovation ecosystem Digital entrepreneurship Wind industry Digital innovation 


  1. Adner, R., & Kapoor, R. (2010). Value creation in innovation ecosystems: How the structure of technological interdependence affects firm performance in new technology generations. Strategic Management Journal, 31(3), 306–333.Google Scholar
  2. Agarwal, R., Audretsch, D., & Sarkar, M. (2010). Knowledge spillovers and strategic entrepreneurship. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 4(4), 271–283.Google Scholar
  3. Andersen, P. H., & Drejer, I. (2006). Danmark som wind power hub – mellem virkelighed og mulighed. København: Vindmølleindustrien.Google Scholar
  4. Andersen, P. H., & Drejer, I. (2008). Systemic innovation in a distributed network: The case of Danish wind turbines, 1972–2007. Strategic Organization, 6(1), 13–46.Google Scholar
  5. Andersen, P. H., & Drejer, I. (2009). Together we share? Competitive and collaborative supplier interests in product development. Technovation, 29(10), 690–703.Google Scholar
  6. Andersen, P. H., & Drejer, I. (2012). Denmark – The wind power hub: Transforming the supply chain. København: Vindmølleindustrien.Google Scholar
  7. Autio, E., Nambisan, S., & Thomas, L. D. W. (2018). Digital affordances, spatial affordances, and the genesis of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 12(1), 72–95.Google Scholar
  8. Boschma, R. (2005). Proximity and innovation: A critical assessment. Regional Studies, 39(1), 61–74.Google Scholar
  9. Brink, T., & Madsen, S. O. (2016). The triple helix frame for small- and medium-sized enterprises for innovation and development of offshore wind energy. Triple Helix, 3(1), 4.Google Scholar
  10. Brink, T., Ole Madsen, S., & Lutz, S. (2016). Perspectives on how operation & maintenance (O&M) innovations contribute to the reduction of Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) in offshore wind parks.
  11. Brown, R., & Mason, C. (2014). Inside the high-tech black box: A critique of technology entrepreneurship policy. Technovation, 34(12), 773–784.Google Scholar
  12. Clayton, P., Feldman, M., & Lowe, N. (2018). Behind the scenes: Intermediary organizations that facilitate science commercialization through entrepreneurship. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 32(1), 104–124.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, B., Amorós, J. E., & Lundy, L. (2017). The generative potential of emerging technology to support startups and new ecosystems. Business Horizons, 60(6), 741–745.Google Scholar
  14. Colombelli, A., Krafft, J., & Quatraro, F. (2014). The emergence of new technology-based sectors in European regions: A proximity-based analysis of nanotechnology. Research Policy, 43(10), 1681–1696.Google Scholar
  15. Danish Wind Industry Association. (2017). The green pages. København.Google Scholar
  16. Dedehayir, O., Mäkinen, S. J., & Ortt, J. R. (2016). Roles during innovation ecosystem genesis: A literature review. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Google Scholar
  17. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research published by: Academy of Management Stable (Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article: Building Theories from Case Study Research, 14(4), 532–550).
  18. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. (2007). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 25–32.Google Scholar
  19. Flyvbjerg, B. (2004). Five misunderstandings about case-study research (pp. 420–434). Practice.Google Scholar
  20. Giones, F., & Brem, A. (2017). From toys to tools: The co-evolution of technological and entrepreneurial developments in the drone industry. Business Horizons, 60(6), 875–884.Google Scholar
  21. Howells, J. (2006). Intermediation and the role of intermediaries in innovation. Research Policy, 35(5), 715–728.Google Scholar
  22. Jensen, I. K. (2003). Mænd i modvind:et dansk industrieventyr. København: Børsens Forlag.Google Scholar
  23. Karnøe, P. (1999). When low-tech becomes high-tech: The social construction of technological learning processes in the Danish and the American Wind Turbine Industry. In Mobilizing resources and generating competencies: The remarkable success of small and medium-sized enterprises in the danish business system (pp. 85–139). Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.Google Scholar
  24. Klaassen, G., et al. (2005). The impact of R&D on innovation for wind energy in Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. Ecological Economics, 54(2–3), 227–240.Google Scholar
  25. Klepper, S. (1997). Industry life cycles. Industrial and Corporate Change, 6(1), 145.Google Scholar
  26. Leech, N. L., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2007). An array of qualitative data analysis tools: A call for data analysis triangulation. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(4), 557–584.Google Scholar
  27. Li, L. (2013). Technology designed to combat fakes in the global supply chain. Business Horizons, 56(2), 167–177.Google Scholar
  28. Lucas, H. C., & Goh, J. M. (2009). Disruptive technology: How Kodak missed the digital photography revolution. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 18(1), 46–55.Google Scholar
  29. McMullen, J. S. (2018, June). Organizational hybrids as biological hybrids: Insights for research on the relationship between social enterprise and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Journal of Business Venturing, 33, 1–16.Google Scholar
  30. Megavind. (2013). The Danish wind power hub. København.Google Scholar
  31. Megavind. (2017). Annual research and innovation agenda. København.Google Scholar
  32. Meyer, N. I. (1995). Danish wind power development. Energy for Sustainable Development, 2(1), 18–25.Google Scholar
  33. Meyer, N. I., & Koefoed, A. L. (2003). Danish energy reform: Policy implications for renewables. Energy Policy, 31(7), 597–607.Google Scholar
  34. Mortara, L., & Parisot, N. (2017). How do Fab-spaces enable entrepreneurship ? Case studies of “Makers” – entrepreneurs. International Journal of Manufacturing Technology and Management, 32, 16–42.Google Scholar
  35. Mulgan, G. (2017). Anticipatory regulation: How can regulators keep up with fast-changing industries? NESTA Blog.Google Scholar
  36. Nambisan, S., & Baron, R. A. (2013). Entrepreneurship in innovation ecosystems: Entrepreneurs’ self-regulatory processes and their implications for new venture success. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 37(5), 1071–1097.Google Scholar
  37. Oh, D. S., Phillips, F., Park, S., & Lee, E. (2016). Innovation ecosystems: A critical examination. Technovation, 54, 1–6.Google Scholar
  38. PwC. (2016). Clarity from above. PwC global report on the commercial applications of drone technology. Warsaw: PwC.Google Scholar
  39. Ravenswood, K. (2011). Eisenhardt’s impact on theory in case study research. Journal of Business Research, 64(7), 680–686.Google Scholar
  40. Renewable Energy Agency, I. (2018). Renewable power generation costs in 2017.Google Scholar
  41. Ritala, P., & Almpanopoulou, A. (2017). In defense of ‘eco’ in innovation ecosystem. Technovation, 60–61, 39–42.Google Scholar
  42. Robinson, O. C. (2014). Sampling in interview-based qualitative research: A theoretical and practical guide. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 11(1), 25–41.Google Scholar
  43. Scaringella, L., & Radziwon, A. (2017). Innovation, entrepreneurial, knowledge, and business ecosystems: Old wine in new bottles? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 0–1 (December 2015).Google Scholar
  44. Simmie, J. (2012). Path dependence and new technological path creation in the Danish wind power industry. European Planning Studies, 20(5), 753–772.Google Scholar
  45. Smith, K. (2011). The Danish wind industry 1980–2010: Lessons for the British marine energy industry. Underwater Technology, 30(1), 27–33.Google Scholar
  46. Spigel, B. (2017). The relational organization of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 41(1), 49–72.Google Scholar
  47. Stam, E. (2015). Entrepreneurial ecosystems and regional policy: A sympathetic critique. European Planning Studies, 23(9), 1759–1769.Google Scholar
  48. Thomas, L., Sharapov, D., & Autio, E. (2017). Linking entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems: The case of appcampus. In G. Alvarez, S. Carayannis, E. G. Dagnino, & R. Faraci (Eds.), Entrepreneurial ecosystems and the diffusion of startups (p. 208). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  49. Woolley, J. L. (2010). Technology emergence through entrepreneurship across multiple industries. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 4(1), 1–21.Google Scholar
  50. Woolley, J. L. (2014). The creation and configuration of infrastructure for entrepreneurship in emerging domains of activity. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 38(4), 721–747.Google Scholar
  51. Zhang, W., & White, S. (2016). Overcoming the liability of newness: Entrepreneurial action and the emergence of China’s private solar photovoltaic firms. Research Policy, 45(3), 604–617.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus Hofmann
    • 1
  • Ferran Giones
    • 1
  1. 1.Mads Clausen InstituteUniversity of Southern DenmarkSønderborgDenmark

Personalised recommendations