SPIRAL: A Platform for Idea Sharing, Mentoring and Collaboration

SPIRAL is a new and innovative approach to the sharing of research ideas, preliminary findings, and establishing collaborations and contacts within the Triple Helix community. In developing SPIRAL we have responded to several issues we see in the current set-up with regards publication in academia:

The publication process can be long and bureaucratic, with papers finally emerging often years after the research has been conducted: SPIRAL publishes work in preliminary or potential stages, quickly, and with little administrative burden on authors and reviewers. It is a fast-moving forum focusing on new ideas rather than publishing established and polished work.

Relatedly, there is often little opportunity to present new ideas, receive feedback and find collaborators from around the world: SPIRAL aims to be a platform where researchers and practitioners can reach out to the Triple Helix community with new ideas or interesting case studies and find people to collaborate with.

Especially in the early career stages, it can be difficult to find support and mentorship to help us develop our ideas and refine our research questions: through using an innovative discussion and response format, SPIRAL matches up researchers and practitioners at different stages in their careers to give feedback and help push forward each other’s ideas through the publication of a new idea or question, and a response, with an open discussion (via reader’s comments) underneath each piece to “crowdsource” ideas from the community.

Through these three novel approaches – fast and open platform, focus on new ideas, or potential research projects, and discussion format of the pieces – we aim to provide something different, and useful to the community beyond what traditional publishing routes are providing already. As co-chairs of this new initiative, we ask you: why not share your good research ideas, which might otherwise be stored as drafts or notes in your PC for ages, and invite others who are interested in your proposal to further develop them, or join you to collectively carry out corresponding research?

This is the main motivation driving us to initiate SPIRAL – a new form of publication of the Triple Helix Association – an open innovation platform for exchanging and growing research ideas, as well as expanding research collaboration. Thematically, we will focus on the issues in the context of Triple Helix interactions between university, industry and government, and also with engagement of citizens. The first article of SPIRAL you’ll find below is a demonstration on how idea sharing could be possible formulated and disseminated in the platform of SPIRAL.

We encourage those interested in publishing their ideas, or in acting as a discussant or mentor.


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To publish your ideas in SPIRAL and/or comment on the
Research Proposal given below please visit:



Title Towards a socially responsible entrepreneurial university: conceptual and analytical framework building
Author Yuzhuo Cai
Affiliation Faculty of Management, University of Tampere, Finland
Email *email address protected*
Type of Idea X Conceptual/theoretical framework
Collaboration envisaged  Yes

Research Question
How can the nature of universities in contemporary society be re-conceptualised to better understand the dynamics between innovation in the university and innovation in society and guide empirical related investigations?

Towards a Socially Responsible Entrepreneurial University:
Conceptual and Analytical Framework Building

Faculty of Management
University of Tampere
*email address protected*

In studies addressing various issues in the knowledge-based society, there is an increasing attention on two intricately interrelated transformations, namely societal transformation (or innovation in society), and university transformation (or innovation in the university) (Cai, 2017).

Contemporary societal changes have been recently described as transformation from knowledge society 1.0 to knowledge society 2.0 (Rutten and Boekema, 2012). Coupled with the growing importance of the public sphere or civil society (Carayannis and Campbell, 2012) and the ‘triple helix’ of science, industry and government (Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff, 1997), knowledge society 2.0 is fostering an innovation ecosystem. In such a system, a university is not merely serving as a primary engine for economic growth through knowledge transfer (Etzkowitz, 2008), but is required to be more socially responsible. As recently put by UNESCO’s chief for Higher Education, Peter J Wells, “Perhaps never before in recent history has the role of higher education been so intricately tied to the economic, social and environmental fabric of the modern world” (Wells, 2017, p31). The societal changes demanding broad roles of university also calls for, and leads to, substantial changes within the internal fabric of the university. The innovations in both the society and universities call for our renewed understanding of universities in society.

The existing studies share a common consensus on the crucial role of university in the knowledge based economy or innovation system, but mainly emphasise its economic contribution (Audretsch, 2014; Leisyte and Horta, 2011; Pinheiro et al, 2015), seeing universities as economic entities, commoditised knowledge producers, shapers of human capital, and crucial actors in networks (Boucher et al., 2003). For instance, a few key concepts in the literature of higher education research and innovation studies, including academic capitalism (Slaughter and Leslie, 1997), mode 2 knowledge production (Gibbons, 1998), the third mission of universities (Etzkowitz et al, 2000), to varying extents, tackle these economic functions of university, the conditions influencing the universities performance of their economic roles, as well as emerging internal challenges and changes within universities. The notion of entrepreneurial university (Clark, 1998; Etzkowitz, 1983) more comprehensively embraces all these issues and the interactions between the university and innovation system on an economic dimension. Since the concept of entrepreneurial university overemphasises the business/economic dimension of higher education, it may constrain the utilisation of the full potential of universities for sustainable economic, social and environmental development.

As a response, have raised some new concepts, such as “civic university” (Goddard et al. 2016; Goddard and Vallance, 2013), ideas of a university ecology (Wright, 2016) and “responsible research and innovation” (Monsonis-Paya et al, 2017) in higher education. The concept of the civic university has become a meaningful model for developing mutually beneficial engagement with a community or region of the socially responsible university. The idea of the university as continually negotiating its interactions with an ecology of myriad governing, economic, and civil organisations conveys the complexity of universities’ contemporary challenge to generate sustainable and resilient societies. The civil society and ecology models also provide useful insights into how citizens can engage in developing responsible research and innovation (RRI) (Monsonis-Paya et al, 2017) in higher education. RRI “seeks to bring issues related to research and innovation into the open, to anticipate their consequences, and to involve society in discussing how science and technology can help create the kind of world and society we want for generations to come” (RRI Tools, 2017). In sum, the state-of-the-art of research on university’s societal engagement reflects a shift from a narrow focus on university’s economic functions to its broad social and cultural roles (Cai and Liu, 2016).

In spite of a clear tendency of addressing broad roles of university in the contemporary society with invention of new terms and concepts, there has been a lack of more concrete conceptual framework sand analytical tools which could effectively guide empirical investigations into innovation in universities and their role in the innovation eco-system. To narrow the research gap, I ask the research question: How can the nature of universities in contemporary society be re-conceptualised to better understand the dynamics between innovation in the university and innovation in society and guide empirical related investigations?

To address the research question, I propose the concept of socially responsible entrepreneurial university, which tried to integrate the aforementioned concepts, such as entrepreneurial university, civil university and RRI etc. Specifically, I try to extend the economic role of university by consulting the notions of “the third academic revaluation”(Etzkowitz and Viale, 2010) and “mode 3 knowledge” production (Carayannis and Campbell, 2012), both of which stress the role of university in social transformation and engagement of citizens.

When constructing an analytical framework for guiding empirical investigations, I will initially propose three roles of university in innovation ecosystem: 1) producing and transferring knowledge across national borders (mainly explained by spatial theory and the insights of knowledge management), 2) fostering institutional change (concerning norms and values) in transnational innovation ecosystems (mainly explained by institutional theory), and 3) building trust between transnational actors in the systems (mainly explained by social network theory). The three roles are intertwined with each other. Knowledge transfer or the commercialisation of knowledge between countries is not merely a spatial issue; it also involves social interactions and social networking (Choi et al, 2017), which are concerned respectively with institutional change and trust building.

While I will continue my research on constructing the conceptual and analytical frameworks of socially responsible, I welcome potential collaborators who are interested in the topic, especially with complementary disciplinary knowledge, for instance, on social network and knowledge management. I am also expecting to collaborate with those who would like to use the concept and analytical frameworks in empirical investigations.


Audretsch, D B. (2014) From the entrepreneurial university to the university for the entrepreneurial society. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 39(3), 313-321.
Boucher, G, Conway, C and Van Der Meer, E. (2003) Tiers of engagement by universities in their region’s development. Regional studies, 37(9), 887-897.
Cai, Y. (2017) From an analytical framework for understanding the innovation process in higher education to an emerging research field of innovations in higher education. Review of Higher Education, 40(4), 585-616.
Cai, Y and Liu, C. (2016, 15-17 June) The entrepreneurial university as an institutional entrepreneur in regional innovation system development: the case of Tongji creative cluster in Shanghai. Paper presented at the UNIKE Conference Copenhagen, Denmark.
Carayannis, E G and Campbell, D J. (2012) Mode 3 knowledge production in quadruple helix innovation systems Mode 3 knowledge production in quadruple helix innovation systems (Vol 7, pp1-63): Springer New York.
Choi, J, Kim, B, Hahn, H, Park, H, Jeong, Y, Yoo, J and Jeong, M K. (2017) Data mining-based variable assessment methodology for evaluating the contribution of knowledge services of a public research institute to business performance of firms. [Article] Expert Systems with Applications, 84, 37-48.
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Leisyte, L., & Horta, H. (2011). Introduction to a special issue: Academic knowledge production, diffusion and commercialization: Policies, practices and perspectives. Science and Public Policy, 38(6), 422-424.
Monsonis-Paya, I., Garcia-Melon, M., & Lozano, J. F. (2017). Indicators for responsible research and innovation: A methodological proposal for context-based weighting. [Article]. Sustainability, 9(12), 29.
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RRI Tools. (2017). Rri in a nutshell Retrieved 24 March, 2017, from https://www.rri-tools.eu/about-rri
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Wells, P. J. (2017). Unesco’s introduction: The role of higher education institutions today. In F. X. Grau, J. Goddard, B. L. Hall, E. Hazelkorn & R. Tandon (Eds.), Higher education in the world 6. Towards a socially responsible university: Balancing the global with the local. Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi).
Wright, S. (2016). Universities in a knowledge economy or ecology? Policy, contestation and abjection. Critical Policy Studies, 10(1), 59-78.

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