Christian Lechner, Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship at the Free University of Bolzano (South Tyrol, Italy) made a presentation titled “Entrepreneurial ecosystems: the interplay of institutions and actors”. Insights into the topic and practical examples taken from some experiences made in South Tyrol were presented.

The premise of the presentation was that an entrepreneurial ecosystem is composed of many actors: policy makers and public leaders, financial actors, culture impactors, support organizations and events organizers, educators and developers of human capital and corporations. All these actors contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship, which is in turn a potential driver for economic growth. For these to be fostered different elements are needed. To show this, Lechner brings the example of competitive regions, which also have competitive universities; it is in fact difficult for a region to borrow competences from universities of other regions and it has also been analyzed that tech start-ups cluster around universities.

It is not always the case that a context displays all the elements, rather, in most contexts some of them are missing. So, what to do in order to develop those missing elements? The missing element cannot be simply set up, because this is also a matter of coordination of the present elements, in order to avoid redundancy.

To better show these arguments, Professor Lechner reported some interesting examples of the Province of Bolzano, where three actors, namely the Free University of Bolzano, the NOI Techpark and the Province as public administration were collaborating on many activities in order to foster entrepreneurship: they set up a pre-incubation programme and recently a founder’s grant.

Moreover, the University and the Province collaborated on the set up of a call addressing start-ups: the call “start-up capitalization”. The measure aimed also at involving business angels and at making them known to start-ups because in the territory they were not that visible. The involvement of the business angels, who, as provided for in the call, have to invest first, allowed also the Province to make professional decisions without professional costs. With time, business angels have started to be interested in the call and in the South-Tyrolean context and finally, a new Tyrolian Business Angels association was created, thereby becoming another relevant actor of the ecosystem fostering entrepreneurship.

Professor Lechner concluded his speech by reminding that entrepreneurship is experimentation. Some entrepreneurial ecosystems may not display all elements, most of all the emerging ones. Even if this is the case, elements should collaborate, because they are not independent; rather, their interplay can create value and may attract the missing elements in the ecosystem. In this process, also the public administration can play a central role in fostering innovation processes, by setting up a coordination and bottom-up approach.


See Slides of Prof. Lechner: