Re-conceptualising entrepreneurial ecosystems: a theoretical exploration

Andrew Johnston, Paul Lassalle, Sakura Yamamura

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Entrepreneurial research is increasingly taking an interest in external factors that influence the new venture creation process (see for instance Zahra et al., 2014). This has been formalised in the ecosystems debate, which draws together a variety of factors into a basic conceptual framework. While this sub-field is still in its infancy, the extant literature has begun to demonstrate that the new venture creation process in fact involves interdependent actors and environmental factors, and that promoting them is an important determinant of entrepreneurship (Isenberg, 2010). However, despite these empirical insights the concept of entrepreneurial ecosystem has been described as conceptually 'ad hoc' (Stam, 2015: 1765), emphasising the need for conceptual development.

In order to contribute to this conceptual debate, this paper draws on Giddens’ structuration approach to build a theoretical framework designed to better capture and incorporate the co-constructed and co-evolutionary nature of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Following Sarason et al.’s proposition to apply “the structuration theory as a useful lens through which to view the entrepreneurial process” (2006: 286), we consider the interaction of actors/agents, i.e. the entrepreneurs, and structures, e.g. the socio-spatial and institutional environment, as co-evolving elements. We also make a proposition of integration the dynamic nature of entrepreneurship and action into the model of co-evolution of agents and structures.

Embedding recent development of the ecosystem concept into the proposed framework, we explicitly draw attention to the temporal dimension of the ecosystem dynamics, an aspect which has been so far only roughly implied within the entrepreneurship literature. At the same time, we also suggest that the co-evolution of actors and structures as part of the entrepreneurial ecosystems implicates that the spatial reach of an ecosystem may also undergo changes.

The proposed and refined structuration based framework, thus, contributes to the conceptual development within the emerging field of research on entrepreneurial ecosystems. Instead of proposing that structures impose on agency or relations (hence interdependence), the paper explores the structure-agency as duality (Giddens, 1981). Hence, the framework focuses on (entrepreneurial) action (here entrepreneurial action) and draws attention to resources to be acted upon and on issues of proximity in accessing those resources. We suggest that this lens could be a useful theoretical tool for further research through which scholars can examine the evolution of entrepreneurial ecosystems by considering the co-evolution of actors and structures into their temporal and spatial form.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeography, Open Innovation and Entrepreneurship
EditorsUrban Gråsjö, Charlie Karlsson, Iréne Bernhard
Place of PublicationNorthampton, MA
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781786439895
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2018


  • entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • new venture creation
  • theoretical framework
  • dynamics


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