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What can we learn from knowledge-intensive innovative firms?


More than 50 people attended a seminar about extreme entrepreneurship, where three leading researchers talked about knowledge-intensive innovative entrepreneurship (KIE) in a digital and creative economy. Together with Lars Hjälmered, member of the Swedish parliament and chair for the committee for industry and Anna Nilsson-Ehle, chairperson for Sweden’s innovation agency, Vinnova, they constituted the expert panel.

KIE firms are more extreme than other types of entrepreneurial firms: In order to compete, they develop and combine different types of advanced knowledge. They are vital in renewing the economy, providing social value, and stimulating the creation of new jobs. KIE impact existing tech companies, specifically in the servitization of the manufacturing industry.

Lars Hjälmered, Elmar Konrad, Astrid Heidemann Lassen, Maureen McKelvey, Anna Nilsson-Ehle.
Lars Hjälmered, Elmar Konrad, Astrid Heidemann Lassen, Maureen McKelvey, Anna Nilsson-Ehle. Photo: Magnus Aronsson

The speakers were Associate professor Astrid Heidemann Lassen, Aalborg University, Denmark, Professor Elmar Konrad, Mainz University of Applied Sciences, Germany, and Professor Maureen McKelvey, Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Maureen McKelvey compared the KIE entrepreneurial firms in the creative and manufacturing industries. KIE firms have more female entrepreneurs with high levels of education, but they innovate within services and tend not to scale up. KIE firms are highly dependent upon their ecosystem such as large companies and universities, to develop long-term knowledge relationships. Elmar Konrad discussed how creative firms must balance commercial pressures with artistic expression. He stressed that educations in the arts should include entrepreneurship courses, providing examples from his work in Mainz. Based on a survey of 4000 KIE firms, Astrid Heidemann Lassen showed that patents are not important because they are too slow in the digital economy. Instead, she showed that KIE firms stimulate digital disruption, and how these KIE firms initate changes across economic sectors.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion and questions from the audience. Moderator was Magnus Aronsson, Esbri. The panel debated how and why the Swedish higher education system and society need to support knowledge-intensive innovative entrepreneurship. Lars Hjälmered stressed the need for more knowledge within politics on this subject. Politics should work with more specific issues, such as how to stimulate education and competences. Anna Nilsson-Ehle pointed out that society needs to use this knowledge in order to reach a sustainable future society. She stressed the importance of relationships and alliances, as well as how to combine different educations in relation to the societal needs. Transportation and e-mobility for examples need to function as optimally as possible, and therefore, this type of entrepreneurship can be very important to be able to adapt to new opportunities.

- It was very inspiring and motivating that so many people from industry – both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs – attended the seminar to listen about what leading researchers know about KIE firms. I’m really looking forward to the next seminars!, says Viktor Ström. PhD student at the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The seminar was part of the open seminar series Estrad, which Esbri has organized in Stockholm for many years. On November 11, the concept came to Gothenburg in collaboration with the Institute of
Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at the University of Gothenburg. The topic is important to IIE and Erik Gustafsson defended his doctoral thesis earlier in the week on KIE firms in the Swedish fashion industry. Link to the doctoral thesis “Fashioning a Knowledge Intensive Entrepreneur?”.

On ESBRI’s web-TV, you can watch the film of the event.