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1.8 National Innovation Systems for Entrepreneurs

The development of national innovation systems was also a result of Birch’s findings. These are governmental initiatives on a macro level aimed at institutions. It has always been claimed that national innovation systems are for the benefit of individual entrepreneurs, but research results are not conclusive here. In many cases national innovation systems remained abstract and distant to the everyday entrepreneurs. It is important that we as individuals realize and recognize that entrepreneurship significantly impacts our lives, not just about job creation but also as a source for developing effective and innovative solutions for environmental and social problems. In many countries cultural institutions such as libraries and concert halls, universities, and foundations carry the names of successful entrepreneurs who have been significant donors to these organizations.

It is also important to understand that entrepreneurship is not only about small firms. In fact, large organizations can be extremely entrepreneurial. This is often called corporate entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur may be missing, but usually the champion is then called an innovator. In that context entrepreneurship and innovation—or entrepreneur and innovator—have come to mean the same. Yet, following Kirzner (1973) and different from Schumpeter’s (1934) ideas, entrepreneurship does not always require what most people would think of as innovation.

Since the publication of the study by Birch, entrepreneurship and firm growth have been firmly on the agenda, be it government policy, academic research, or public press. There are those who firmly believe that entrepreneurship and growth are synonyms. They are not, as we show in our book (Brännback et al. 2014), and which we discuss later in this book. They are not synonyms and neither entrepreneurship nor growth is always good or successful.

What we have shown in this discussion is that entrepreneurship is a critical element for the economic improvement of an individual, a family, a firm, a region, and a nation. To us this means that entrepreneurship can exist in small firms as much as in large organization. It exists in for-profit firms and in nonprofit social ventures. Growth and innovation are often associated with entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial firms, but not always. As we show in the following text, personal wealth creation is not always what drives an entrepreneur. It can be a desire to work independently, but also more altruistic ambitions like solving social problems.

1.8.1 Incubators and Accelerators

At this point we want to make some comments on the role of new venture incubators and accelerators. Both of us have been involved with these programs and have worked with firms in these programs in a number of countries. We have seen incubators aimed at wireless technology, cell phone apps, biotechnology, agriculture, and even new food products. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these organizations exist all over the planet. Every major research university either has one on campus or there is one located nearby. Just look at Silicon Valley or Route 128 outside Boston to see evidence of such activities. Cities with a desire to attract or retain technology talent have fostered these activities which may be either for-profit or not-for-profit in form. One only need to look at the American television shows like Shark Tank and its spin-offs in Canada and elsewhere to see the desire to have both financial and professional support that these institutions can provide.

However, the evidence to day is at best inconclusive if incubators really help new ventures become successful. The same outcome may well be true of accelerators. Certainly, many of these groups can claim successful firms among their graduates, but many successful firms are generated without any such supporting organization. It really is a matter of hard work on the part of the entrepreneur. We are trying to say that it takes more than just being in a program like a new venture incubator. Being accepted is not a guarantee of success. Be aware there are scams even in this industry.

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