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‘Back to basics’: Triple Helix (English)

There are different definitions for the term ‘back to basics’. It can mean, for example: back to the beginning, back to nature, or ‘starting all over again’.

‘Back to basics’ indicates that there has been a development in the past that, at the time, was impactful or important. It also indicates that the original development has been pushed somewhat to the background or has been eclipsed by other developments.

Fortunately, collective memory reminds us that the original notion was a good one. And there is obviously a good reason or occasion to go ‘back to basics’, and reexamine the developments of that time.

Triple Helix model

Recently I read some articles that referred to the article by Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff: The Dynamics of Innovation: from National Systems and “Mode 2” to a Triple Helix of University-Industry-Government Relations. In this article, the authors laid the foundation for current thinking on the cooperation between government, education and businesses.

I would like to examine this model (the development of the past) on a somewhat basic level with the aim of developing an understanding of many of the current evolutions in our knowledge economy. In fact, I would like to go ‘back to basics’ by studying this core model.

Three parties involved

The Triple Helix model is based on the cooperation of three parties. A brief description of each of their primary purposes follows in parentheses:

  1. Government (exercising legislative control)
  2. Education (‘production’ of new knowledge)
  3. Entrepreneurs (generating economic growth and prosperity)

In the Triple Helix model these three parties work together as demonstrated in this figure:



The nice thing is that synergy does occur as a result of this collaboration. Both as a result of the collaboration between two of the above parties, and of course, the cooperation of all three parties simultaneously. These partnerships are identified and characterized as follows:

  1. Government – Education: knowledge infrastructure. Parties cooperate in order to develop an infrastructure in which everyone can develop knowledge in an optimal way. Government invests a significant portion of its budget in education. And education not only creates new knowledge, but knowledge is also transferred to students through seeking and application of innovation.
  2. Government – Businesses: political economy. In this context, an optimum business environment is created, in which innovation and sustainable developments can prosper. The government facilitates, and seeks to simplify regulation. Tax payments allow the government, in turn, to invest in education, innovation and de-regulation.
  3. Education – Businesses: innovation. By using knowledge developed in collaboration with universities or or institutes of higher learning ,(Research & Development) businesses are able to innovate and, as a result, drive economic development and growth.
  4. When education – government – businesses work together, conditions emerge for a knowledge-based economy. Here, synergy (the so-called ‘sweet spot;) works at its best. The result is, of course, much more than the sum of its parts.

The Triple Helix model has been further developed scientifically. The role of higher education, especially, has gotten a lot of attention. This is referred to as the second academic revolution. The first revolution took place when conducting research was added to the primary task of universities: knowledge transfer. The second revolution will add the role of converting knowledge into economic development (‘the entrepreneurial university’).

Higher education is not the only party to research and publish based on this model. Government and businesses have taken on their responsibility and implemented the Triple Helix model in a practical way. Government implements it by facilitating in the broadest sense of the word, and businesses implement it by picking up and investing a lot of time and money in Research & Development. All with the aim of creating sustainable economic growth and development.

Triple Helix Conferences

The science around the Triple Helix model is subject of the Triple Helix Conferences. The papers presented at the London Conference in 2013 are available on the Big Innovation Centre website. This year’s conference will be held in Tomsk, Russia.

Edited by two points copy.

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