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Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and the Catalytic Role of Universities

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As there is already a common understanding that economic development can be seen where entrepreneurial activity flourishes, governments became also interested to understand if entrepreneurial ecosystems can be built from scratch like an artificial ecosystem. Many of the local areas (cities, regions or small countries) that received an entrepreneurial label developed to this status mostly through a natural process. Silicon Valley is in this respect the well-known success story. Researchers started to get interest in conceptualizing entrepreneurial ecosystems in the last two decades. They were able to define and identify the key drivers for a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem making analogies with natural ecosystems. This paper aims to synthetize the most important findings in the research in this domain, summarizing the key factors needed to be in place in order for an ecosystem to be considered entrepreneurial with a significant economic, technological and societal impact. The models developed are useful for practitioners and policymakers. Central to such an ecosystem we consider to be higher education and research institutions, as they bring to the ecosystem the elements that are crucial for its success: talented and innovative people, innovations and research outcomes with high potential of commercialization, valuable networks.