PhD defence: Entrepreneurial Ecosystems


On Friday 21 June 2024 at 14.15 hrs., Mirella Schrijvers will defend her PhD thesis Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Measurement, Mechanisms and outcomes.

Entrepreneurship is an important driver of economic growth. Entrepreneurs create new jobs, introduce innovations in the market and improve productivity. In addition to increasing economic welfare, entrepreneurs can also contribute to solving important societal challenges. For these reasons, there is much interest in how we can stimulate entrepreneurship.

One of the determining factors is the environment in which entrepreneurship takes place, the so-called entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurs use resources like capital and labour from their environment and act in a specific context shaped by rules and culture, such as taxes on profit and how society values creativity. While there has been a lot of interest in the concept from both policymakers and practitioners, we still lack an understanding of various mechanisms in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurial ecosystem complex and multifaceted

In her PhD thesis, Mirella Schrijvers shows that the mechanisms in the entrepreneurial ecosystem are complex and multifaceted. There is not one type of entrepreneurial ecosystem and what works well in one region may not be successful in another. To develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem one thus needs to combine knowledge of the specific region with an understanding of the general characteristics of an ecosystem, such as the strong interdependency between elements. You can think of how better infrastructure can open up a bigger market or how a university can produce both more highly skilled labour and new knowledge of technology.

The output of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, productive entrepreneurship, also showcases strong diversity. While all of these new firms contribute to economic growth, their impact on societal wellbeing is more diverse. Some companies have an explicit social mission, such as reducing plastic in packaging, while others are mainly focused on producing profits for shareholders. If the goal is to strengthen societal wellbeing, it is therefore important to distinguish between firms based on their social impact. Policymakers can then decide which companies they want to support based on the social impact of companies and design specific interventions to create a good ecosystem for these companies.

Current entrepreneurship policy for fast-growing companies could be improved

The research into the social impact of fast-growing companies ('gazelles') shows that this group of companies is very diverse. This ranges from companies that are purely profit-oriented to companies with a strong social mission. The current entrepreneurship policy, which is aimed at supporting all fast-growing companies, may therefore not be as successful when it comes to improving well-being in the Netherlands. Since the focus is now mainly on creating as many 'unicorns' as possible, companies with a financial valuation of more than 1 billion euros, the emphasis is still on the financial success of companies. Little attention is paid to differences in the impact of companies on other aspects, such as sustainability.

Don't want to be a copy of Silicon Valley

There are different ways to build an ecosystem for entrepreneurship and regions need to build on their own strengths. According to Schrijvers, this is evident from the international comparison she made. This can be a strong internal market, but also a highly educated population or a culture in which relationships are easily built and there is a lot of trust. A region should therefore not try to create a copy of Silicon Valley, but use a realistic analysis of its strengths and weaknesses to determine what is and is not possible and where policy can be deployed. For example, policymakers, but also entrepreneurs themselves, can set up events to improve networks when there is still little contact between the different actors in an ecosystem or the government can step in with loans for start-ups with innovative ideas if a strong financial sector is lacking.

Mirella Schrijvers is post doc at TUM (Munich, Germany) and a PhD student at the Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.).

Start date and time
End date and time
University Hall, Domplein 29 Utrecht and online
PhD candidate
M.T. Schrijvers
Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Measurement, Mechanisms and outcomes
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. F.C. Stam
Prof. N.S. Bosma
Prof. S. Dhondt (TNO)