Focusing on the Triple Helix: Key Messages from over Fifteen Round-Table Discussions

Organized by the THA Chapter of Greece

THAGreecePanayiotis H Ketikidis1,2
Adrian Solomom1,2
Besart Hajrizi2
1The University of Sheffield International Faculty, CITY College
2South East European Research Centre (SEERC)
Thessaloniki, Greece

The concept of Triple Helix has recently emerged in the social sciences and has become a popular concept for illuminating economic change and adaption. Crisis struck economies such as from South East Europe (specifically Greece) are seeking more innovative approaches and enabling environments to trigger (and foster) growth. Continuity based on the core smart specialization areas is the key to successfully benefit from a working Triple Helix ecosystem. While the Triple Helix model and economic growth are distinct concepts, there are considerable synergies between them that have largely been unexplored in the literature to date. In a modern dynamic economy, the Triple Helix is an important engine of economic growth and competiveness.

In this context, this article aims to present, based on empirical data presented at the UIIN2016 Conference, the strategy undertaken by the Triple Helix Association Chapter of Greece (THAG) to enable and sustain a proper ecosystem for growth. To this end, we would like to share with the THA community the following key
messages from the Triple Helix stakeholders comprised by the THAG since 2013 when it was founded through its numerous (more than fifteen) multi-stakeholder roundtable discussions.

The results show that, first of all, the Greek Triple Helix ecosystem (university, industry, government) has to evolve and adapt together in order to properly achieve the co-creation stage with the desired outcomes. Working with the Triple Helix, the need to include society towards ensuring the quadruple helix becomes the next critical step. While academia is keen to develop business orientations towards entrepreneurialism, innovation and technology transfer, industry is less willing to integrate more and more academia in its operations, and government should be trying to provide policies and programmes that would help both academia and industry succeed. The Greek Triple Helix ecosystem should co-evolve institutional policies towards their own established goals, while having in mind successful cases of other countries that undertook this transition.

There are international, national, sectoral and regional levels of intervention by the institutions to assist on Triple Helix interactions.

Additionally, and internal reward system for professors based on entrepreneurial activities can be introduced, however, the main priority should be the employability of students.

Research funding should be allocated according to the commercialization potential of research outputs.

On similar lines, EU funding could follow the idea that public funding should be matched by (equal) private funding.

There is a need to answer SME problems, but there is a lack of communication between academia and SMEs, and there should be coaching provided for all departments on how to commercialize research.

From all these, the most important element that institutional policies must assure, is to pay the due amounts within appropriate time limits so that the efforts of the engaged actors are capitalized.
Some of the main identified barriers on enhancing the cooperation of industry with academia in crisis struck countries are: language barriers (academia and business speak a different language which leads to communication problems); bureaucracy, a lack of cooperative incentives between industry and academia; general incompatibility, adequate intellectual resources for meeting representatives from SMEs.
A good strategy involves first accomplishing the hiring needs of SMEs who are the developers and creative people. Developers move forward product development, while creative people assist the company to move faster as they can convey the message faster. Entrepreneurship cannot be taught but what can be taught are entrepreneurial skills, soft skills, critical thinking, and how to discover opportunities.

So academia needs to develop a more entrepreneurial culture and shift the focus from management studies to entrepreneurship. A good example refers to the Provost of Stanford University that brought entrepreneurs from outside to the university to start creating the entrepreneurial spirit within the university.

Raising awareness of collaboration between academia and industry in Greece can be achieved through online or direct courses at universities promoting knowledge on innovation and entrepreneurship, new vision especially for academia, simplify policies, stability of starting a business procedure, openness of government especially for the student to learn how to establish a business.

So, academia and industry should change roles by having more business oriented profiles.

Academia can pro-actively collaborate/communicate with industry by involving all actors who are willing to change at both the cultural and political level.

We do not need to make academics entrepreneurs, but we need to implement entrepreneurial skills to enable them to identify opportunities. For this, we need different academics for different roles, the right people at the right place and time, and we need to decide which type of industry to contact.

The key domains of the crisis struck economies which have the capacity to offer their competitive advantage in the region and on which the smart specialization strategy should be implemented, are: the agri-food sector, energy, tourism, building materials,
transportation and logistics, information and communication technology, textile industry, sea related industries, green development and last, but not least, the key enabling technologies (KET) such as biology and nanotechnology. In parallel, the government needs to provide a stable political and taxation framework, offering at the same time opportunities to support the entrepreneurs in the strategic planning of their actions and investments.
The Triple Helix ecosystem (university, industry, government) has to evolve and adapt together in order to properly achieve the co-creation stage by investing in excellence. The government should function as an enabler to give incentives for the stakeholders so that they can facilitate academic-business collaboration.

The general view of the panellists was that Triple Helix collaboration is a necessity for receiving funding by achieving a balance between basic research and industry funded research with core societal influence (quadruple helix).

Formulation of a joint strategic plan, which would prove to be essential for the enhancement/development of the region, is an urgent step towards development.

This project would connect universities with industry in a joint venture in order for them to be able to set up new businesses which would operate based on the knowledge of the region.

The term ‘start-up companies’ is not particularly well-known in crisis struck countries. People, and especially young people, have new ideas, but the mistake they make is that they do not go out to present them, to receive advice, and to apply them in practice.

The entrepreneurial culture is still in a primary phase in crisis struck economies.

However, there is a lot of opportune ground, which may be further expanded. Young people have started moving away from the rationale of the public sector that was dominant until recently, and they are not afraid of starting with their own business ideas.