Beyond the 'triple helix' : examining the implementation process of knowledge-based innovation in the North East of England
The capacities of innovation have been widely recognized as central to the knowledge economy. The notion of interactive innovation based on collective knowledge has broken the traditional view of innovation which is focused on individual firms and industries. There is an increasing trend towards collaboration not only between different academic disciplines, but also between academics, business practitioners and government. Such a trend is manifested in the emerging concept of Triple Helix relations of universitygovernment- industry, which has been seen as the key driver and strategic model for creating knowledge-basedin novation. However, critically reviewing the literature reveals that the appropriateness and effectiveness of implementing Triple Helix remain problematic. This research aims to examine and evaluate the processes of creating knowledge-based innovation through successful implementation of Triple Helix relations of universitygovernment- industry to generate innovation capacities in the North East of England. The TH in this thesis is regarded as a heuristic model of creating knowledge-based innovation and a guide to innovation policy making. Following the establishment of a theoretical framework for analyzing the process whereby innovation capacities are generated and enhanced, a pilot study was conducted with the involvement of the regional government agency and sub-regional partners. Furthermore, a main study was carried out and data were collected from 48 in-depth semi-structured interviews with senior government officials, business managers from local support organizations, regional firms, technology transfer centres, spin-off companies and academics from universities in the North East of England. The research findings suggest that while recognizing the significance of its strategic thinking, the strategic intention of Triple Helix for knowledge-based innovation has been challenged from a number of perspectives during the process of implementation. First, the cooperative relations of university-government-industry remain fragmented due to diverse self-interests and different perceptions of the roles performed by innovation actors. Second, the loosely coupled partnership relations between university-governmentindustry created confusion at different levels in coordinating and leading projects related to knowledge creation. Furthermore, the Triple Helix is also challenged by the preconditions such as institutional norms and culture gaps between university and industry, originating from the historical context of the region, which have hindered the development of new ideas and innovation. Finally, despite limited evidence of academics, business managers and government officials interacting across institutional boundaries and learning each other's roles, the effectiveness of such interactions for knowledge creation is still strongly affected by their traditional roles and institutional values. Triple Helix, as a heuristic concept emerging from the dynamic knowledge economy, has certainly offered strategic value that reinforces the understanding of the importance of university-government-industry relations in generating knowledge-based innovation. However, empirical evidence from the research indicates that the totality of the Triple Helix concept is facing challenges in practice and needs to be further validated in a much wider context. The distinctiveness of this research lies in contributing to the existing theories of Triple Helix by highlighting the importance of redefining the strategic intentions and roles of key actors in building up knowledge-based innovation. The research findings also have significant implications for government policy makers, business practitioners and university academics when addressing the existing deficiencies in the implementation of knowledge-based innovation strategies in the regions. This may enable innovation actors to think beyond Triple Helix, taking into consideration the preconditions, institutional dynamics and complex networking processes for the success of knowledge-based innovation. Future research is suggested to investigate Triple Helix networks during the implementation of the new knowledge-based initiative - Science City in the North East of England.