Looking inside the spiky bits: a critical review and conceptualisation of entrepreneurial ecosystems

Ross Crawford Brown*, Colin Mason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

450 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of entrepreneurial ecosystems has quickly established itself as one of the latest ‘fads’ in entrepreneurship research. At face value, this kind of systemic approach to entrepreneurship offers a new and distinctive path for scholars and policy makers to help understand and foster growth-oriented entrepreneurship. However, its lack of specification and conceptual limitations has undoubtedly hindered our understanding of these complex organisms. Indeed, the rapid adoption of the concept has tended to overlook the heterogeneous nature of ecosystems. This paper provides a critical review and conceptualisation of the ecosystems concept: it unpacks the dynamics of the concept; outlines its theoretical limitations; measurement approaches and use in policy-making. It sets out a preliminary taxonomy of different archetypal ecosystems. The paper concludes that entrepreneurial ecosystems are a highly variegated, multi-actor and multi-scalar phenomenon, requiring bespoke policy interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-30
JournalSmall Business Economics
Issue number1
Early online date2 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Entrepreneurship
  • High growth
  • Entrepreneurial ecosystems
  • Entrepreneurship policy


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