There is a need for a conceptual approach that, with reference to explicit micro-level mechanisms and processes of industrial dynamics, articulates the role and function of entrepreneurial experimentation in innovation systems.
This paper develops the concept of ‘entrepreneurial systems of innovation’ to address this gap in the literature. We argue that entrepreneurial experimentation comprises both ‘technical’ and ‘market’ experimentation, and that entrepreneurship must be conceptualized in terms of its function in innovation systems rather than as an outcome.
At the systems level, the central function of entrepreneurial experimentation is to foster creation, selection and scaling-up of innovations. Spinoffs and acquisitions are proposed as examples of micro-mechanisms that give rise to system-wide entrepreneurial experimentation.
Interaction between established organizations and new innovative entrants, through spinoffs and acquisitions, is an important characteristic of vibrant entrepreneurial systems of innovation.