Triple Helix model of innovation to deal with Covid19 pandemic and future societal crises – Call for papers Triple Helix Journal

Call for papers for a Special issue of the Triple Helix Journal


Is there a need for an innovation response to a medical emergency? In addressing this question we must also ask if we should  look just at a short term NORMATIVE MODEL for policy making or also at long term policy initiatives to stimulate the development of a civic culture for boosting bottom up TH initiatives (like the Taiwan case below)? Indeed,  the triple helix model arose out of a response to emergency, an  economic depression; in New England in the early 20th century (Etzkowitz, 1993).  Secondly, there is strong resistance to government industry coordination in some societies e.g. US Triple Helix points towards the need for lateral coordination  and a strong governmental role   to address  the crisis,  and an innovation response rather than only distribution of existing resources and improving communication, important as these objectives are. Rather than waiting for triple helix responses to emerge, and they already are, our unique distributed Triple Helix  network has the potential to provide comparative analyses of these responses and  propose policy enhancements..


It is just during the pre-second world war era that a novel lateral university led innovation model  was developed into the embryo model of entrepreneurial university. Vannevar Bush on behalf of Roosvelt was the supporter of this integration between university and government to support innovation across the university-government and  business worlds and to create the American military superiority through governmental coordination. Before at the beginning of the XX century something similar happened in Germany in the chemistry industry. So Covid19 crisis might be the catalyst of a new kind of better integrated interaction between  public health university and life sciences industry. This new model might affect also the other research sectors.

Moreover,  the coronovirus pandemic  augurs a broader societal crisis, exposing gaps in both free-market and authoritarian societies, including an inability to recognize a coming crisis in a timely fashion. On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown etiology associated with individuals who visited a wholesale seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, in the People’s Republic of China. The etiologic agent was identified as a novel betacoronavirus, subsequently named SARS CoV-2, that rapidly spread throughout China, sparking concerns for a global pandemic. Now with more cases in America, Europe and Asia outside China, there is a serious concerns whether this can be stopped at all.

The world needs rapid innovation to address the myriad consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden onset of the pandemic and its immense human and economic costs suggests that ordinary processes are not enough. The world also needs innovation and incentives to respond quickly and effectively.

The economic fallout from the pandemic of COVID-19 is likely to be large. Entire portions of the world economy are shutting down, and as a result, many are calling for a large government response, including direct cash transfers to households, a proposal with growing bipartisan support. Analysts estimate the loss in 2020 of 5% of GNP worldwide and two digit  increase of unemployment. Additionally, the COVID-19 shock has accelerated the decline of interest rates to the point that it is impairing the ability of the Central Banks to function. Interest rates were already falling, but the COVID-19 shock simply hastened the decline, leaving the central Banks to become increasingly impotent at the very moment the economy needs it most.

Covid 19 crisis is an occasion to reshape the collaboration between government, academic world and business to face this emergency and to create another model of innovation for the future. As it happened during the Great Depression and second world war these are unique occasion to do an evolutionary innovative leap.

During Covid 19 crisis some examples in the world are showing where is the right track of this cooperation. Taiwan for example is one of the most successful country in facing the pandemic and one of the most interesting example to refer to. The value of Taiwan’s tech-enabled civic culture has become abundantly clear in the current crisis. Bottom-up information sharing, public-private partnerships, “hacktivism” (activism through the building of quick-and-dirty but effective proofs of concept for online public services), and participatory collective action have been central to the country’s success in coordinating a consensual and transparent set of responses to the coronavirus. A recent report from the Stanford University School of Medicine documents 124 distinct interventions that Taiwan implemented with remarkable speed. Many of these interventions bubbled into the public sector through community initiatives, hackathons, and digital deliberation on the vTaiwan digital democracy platform, on which almost half the country’s population participates.

One of the most celebrated examples is the Face Mask Map, a collaboration initiated by an entrepreneur working with government. To prevent the panicked buying of facemasks, which hindered Taiwan’s response to SARS in 2003, the government instituted a national rationing scheme of two facemasks per week per citizen. Anticipating that this national policy would be insufficient to avoid local runs on pharmacies, the government (via its prestigious digital ministry) released an application programming interface (API) that provided real-time, location-specific data to the public on mask availability. Digital Minister Audrey Tang then proceeded to work closely with entrepreneurs and g0v hacktivists in a digital chatroom to rapidly produce a range of maps and applications. These tools showed where masks were available, but they did more than that. Citizens were able to reallocate rations through intertemporal trades and donations to those who most needed them, which helped prevent the rise of a black market.

A second example is a platform that helps citizens work together to reduce exposure to the virus. The work on this platform (which again grew out of a collaboration between a group of entrepreneurs, the digital ministry, and the g0v movement) was motivated in part by the arrival of passengers from a cruise ship with a high rate of infection. Individuals used the platform to share reports, voluntarily and in real time, about symptoms using a variety of media (such as a call-in line and smartphones); this information was quickly verified and collated. The result was then combined with more community-created apps that allowed users to download their smartphone location history to determine if they may have been exposed. It was a common-sense design that encouraged proactive behaviour. Users who worried about exposure limited their subsequent interactions to protect others.

Why has Taiwan succeeded where others have faltered? In theory, China and the United States—“AI superpowers,” as the Taiwanese-born industrial maven Kai-Fu Lee has put it—ought to have better capacity to deal with complex, rapidly evolving problems, given that they have the biggest computers running the most advanced artificial intelligence programs. Yet tiny Taiwan did better than either of them by emphasizing the social inputs to coordination instead of machine learning alone. One problem with technocracies of this sort is that although they are good at crunching and propagating data, they tend to be myopic when it comes to context and motivation. Tech elites in both China and the United States were at first slow to perceive the importance of events in a somewhat removed field of knowledge—medicine. Even once the issue was on their radar screens, the narrowness of the elites led to an initial blindness to the world beyond their immediate experience.

Bottom-up information sharing, public-private partnerships, “hacktivism,” and participatory collective action have been central to the Taiwan’s success.

Different approaches may be identified rooted in social organization and ideology rather than solely on the basis of technical capacity:


China: Social- mass mobilization of human  resources once initial scepticism overcome.

USA: Capital- at the national level, primary response is to protect the economy; state level   improve medical response and slow disease spread

Italy: Responsive, Responsible and Inundated  –Italy was the first  country in Europe to acknowledge the pandemia  – giving transparent info about it inside and outside the country; and to take strict actions (red zones, locked down measures, ect), putting the well-being of its citizens on top of the serious economic consequences. As medical systems were overwhelmed  in some areas, triage was introduced, utilizing the demographic criteria of advanced age .[1]

Social – capitalism: with a mass mobilization of all the TH actors and civic society (i.e. Italian fashion industries stopped to produce clothes and start producing masks; the Alpine force was mobilized to set up field hospitals in order to increase the treatment capacity; fashion and music influencers launched crowd funding campaigns to raise money for new intensive care infrastructures and devices, private makers transformed a scuba diving mask into a portable breathing  devise, ect– in less than 1 months Italy has increased its intensive care beds of almost the 100%); combined with a government plan to sustain the economy:  the government is launching a series of measures to support employees/free lancers and industries.

UK Technological- Coordinated effort to enhance production of medical equipment e.g. ventilators and expand capacity of  medical system


This call for papers on the theme of “Triple Helix model of innovation to deal with Covid19 pandemic and future societal crises” is intended to indicate insights and viewpoints from scholars regarding short term normative model for policy making and  long term policy initiatives to stimulate the development of a civic culture for boosting bottom up Triple Helix initiatives for operations of large-scale systems on this epidemic.

Authors are encouraged to submit their articles addressing the theme of this special issue. This call is coordinated by the Triple Helix Association.

Topics of Interest: The special issue aims to address the following, but not limited to, potential topics in how to University-Government-Business cooperation in R&I may deal with epidemic risk  and resilience:

Triple Helix related research questions:

What is the pattern of response:  bottom-up vs top down

When was the pandemic taken seriously? By whom?

To what extent is there a lateral response crossing institutional spheres?

Who is the convening authority with ability and credibility to mobilize resources?

Is there an innovation response, either technological or social,  to create new  tools to deal with the crisis?

Does the university extend into the larger society in its response or focus on its internal constituency?

Heath care related research dimensions and questions

  • Triple Helix for public health
  • Triple Helix for pharmaceutical innovations
  • Triple Helix for medical equipments
  • Triple Helix for epidemiology
  • Triple Helix for prevention policy

What technologies (including disease treatments and vaccines) could be brought quickly online and under what authorities can approval processes be modified or waived?

How are social networks and civil society responding in communities and what learning can be shared?

How to nudge the increase of  citizen compliance towards public health requirements?

How to boost and to empower adaptive individual decision making to be successful in pandemic environment?

How to increase the behavioural resilience of citizens towards pandemics and natural catastrophe?

Innovation in environmental and health education to cope with pandemics and natural disasters.

How to nudge the increase of trust towards health authorities to strengthen the behavioural compliance towards the health requirements?

Innovative strategies to limit risk of microbial disease propagation

How to mitigate risk in healthcare with advanced analytics?

Global supply chains for healthcare emergencies

Technological, economic and organizational related research dimensions and questions:

  • Triple Helix for AI and new media applications
  • Birth of pandemic crisis driven entrepreneurial university
  • International comparative analysis of the relative success of country’s TH models to face Covid19
  • Historical analysis of the role of war, economic and health crisis in developing and strengthening TH model of innovation
  • IPR and open innovation during pandemic times and after Covid19
  • Foresight of what will happen to research and industrial cooperation after Covid19
  • Role of social institutions and capital in stimulating the Triple Helix coordination

How do federalism and polycentrism inform an optimal approach to pandemic responses, encouraging cooperation rather than beggar-thy-neighbor responses?

What policies are necessary to allow the government to respond appropriately without overreach?

The best fiscal or monetary policy responses and what has not been tried that might be effective

The likely impact on global trade arrangements

What (if any) changes should be made to our trade arrangements based on lessons learned from the crisis?

What will the fiscal impact of COVID-19 be on states and cities? What decisions do they need to make now to address a possible recession and significant downturn in tax revenues (while healthcare costs rise)?

What are the threats to the liberal order that we will need to confront six months from now?

Behavioural Change frameworks and tools to adapt successfully to Covid 19 outbreak

Big data-driven microbial health risk identification

AI-based epidemic network analysis

Estimating the risk of global economic costs of Coronavirus

How to manage risk of future outbreaks (prevention, control and treatment)?

Which response models during epidemic outbreaks?

Which interdisciplinary approaches and decision-making tools in microbial and healthcare risk analysis?

Cloud-based framework for social media analysis

Emergency management of resource allocation

Risk communication for international government and non-government entities

Other topics related to “Triple Helix model of innovation  dealing with Covid19 and future pandemics”


In conclusion: what implications for future societal crises and social organization  may be extrapolated from the coronavirus crisis response. For example:

  • Acceleration of technological trends, e.g.  digitalization  of work, reducing need for travel and related industries;
  • Re-balancing of institutional spheres with a greater focus on heath, economic and social security.
  • Deceleration of social trends such as globalization;
  • Even return to pre-modern oikos of unification of living and work,
    superseding modern separation in factory and office.



Etzkowitz, H. (1993) Enterprises from Science: The Origins of Science-based Regional Economic Development Minerva 31(3): 326-360. .


Paper Submission: Submitted articles must not have been previously published or currently submitted for journal publication elsewhere.

As an author, you are responsible for understanding and adhering to our submission guidelines. You can access them on the Journal online Editorial Manager submission website (submission on the site being mandatory) at

Please read guidelines before submitting your manuscript on Editorial Manger. Each paper will go through a rigorous peer review process. Accepted papers will be published online in Advance Access promptly.

Important Dates: Deadline of Manuscript Submission: 30 November, 2020 Final Decisions: 31 May 2021

Tentative Publication Date: September 2021

Editorial Team:

Riccardo Viale, viale.riccardo2(at)

Henry  Etzkowitz, henry.etzkowitz(at)

Maria Laura Fornaci, mlaura.fornaci(at)


[1]  With a large number of patients in urgent need of assistance, medical staff have the delicate task of deciding to whom to save life and to whom not, in case they lack the resources to treat everyone and there are no alternatives such as the transfer to other hospitals  Triage, introduced by Napoleon’s surgeon for battlefield medical personnel to select those in most urgent need of treatment, irrespective of status, has typically been removed from individual medical practitioners direct purview with guidelines  balancing the ethical and political implications of utilitarianism and darwinian selection of who to save.