By Mehmet S. Tosun, Professor and Director of International Programs, The College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno
Have you ever heard of the triple helix? If you are a biologist, you will probably think of DNA and cell biology. The triple helix (or triple helix model) is also used to describe a model of university-government-business collaboration. It is actually an innovation model for municipalities and regions. Charles U. Lowe mentioned this in relation to the biomedical field in an article entitled “The Triple Helix – NIH, Industry, and the Academic World” published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in 1982. Very interestingly, Lowe notes “…the need to balance the intellectual independence of the scientist with industry’s appetite for commercial opportunity tames the partners in the triple helix” (Lowe, 1982:239). A good working relationship between the three partners of the triple helix can lead to a productive research environment and promote innovation and economic development in a region.
Henry Etzkowitz and Loet Leydesdorff published their 1995 paper The Triple Helix — University-Industry-Government Relations: A Laboratory For Knowledge Based Economic Development, in which they present a theoretical framework for the triple helix. Book by Etzkowitz from 2002 MIT and the rise of entrepreneurial science also influenced our understanding of the relationship between university, government and business. As the three components of this model evolve, Etkowitz and Leydesdorff envisioned “hybrid institutions” and the rise of an “entrepreneurial university.” Route 128 in Boston (with MIT as a key player), Silicon Valley in California (with Stanford University and the defense industry), and North Carolina’s Research Triangle (with North Carolina State, Duke, and UNC Chapel Hill as the three major research universities), are three visible examples of triple helix collaborations.
Also, we have established an internationalized triple helix here in Reno through the College of Business International programs and the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. Our international collaborations typically involve universities, entrepreneurship centers, research labs, and government agencies in Nevada and other countries. Our participation in trade and educational missions organized by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) is another good example of triple helix activity. These international missions include educational institutions, including universities, corporations that need to reach international markets, and Nevada government agencies. It is also very important that they involve our colleagues from other countries. Through these trade and education missions we have met a number of international partners. The relationships we have forged have resulted in interactions between students, faculty and entrepreneurs and have produced a variety of research outputs including grants, symposia and publications.
I will also draw attention to the importance of research labs in the triple helix. Labs can help build a bridge between academia, business, and government. Our new international laboratory initiative, the Nevada Global Business and Economics Lab (NVGLOBE-L) brings together faculty and students from UNR and partner institutions in different countries in applied and policy-oriented research projects. The lab has already established formal partnerships with the New Economy Lab at SGH Warsaw School of Economics in Poland and Koc University Entrepreneurship Research Center (KWORKS) in Istanbul, Turkey. NVGLOBE-L works closely with the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). As part of the lab, we established the Global Entrepreneurship and Public Policy Working Group, which is a joint effort of NVGLOBE-L, Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship, and the International Division of GOED. We plan to generate more policy-relevant research that we believe will significantly complement the components of the Triple Helix model.