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Beyond territorial conceptions of entrepreneurial ecosystems: The dynamic spatiality of knowledge brokering in seed accelerators

Andreas Kuebart and Oliver Ibert


In spatial terms, entrepreneurial ecosystems are mostly conceptualized as confined to a specific territory. At the same time, the growing relevance of entrepreneurship in digital fields is underlined. This paper argues that this is contradictory since territorial thinking underestimates the disruptive qualities of new entrepreneurial practices in the digital economy. Using process-based, qualitative case studies on seed accelerators from four regions: Amsterdam, Berlin, Detroit and Hamburg, this study seeks to explore knowledge brokering in entrepreneurship ecosystems and analyzes the corresponding spatial dynamics. Our findings imply that startups in digital fields share knowledge about business models and technologies in a way that is unattainable in classical knowledge clusters. Moreover, we show that most of the observed entrepreneurial practices in seed accelerators crucially rely on extra-regional resources and thus remain only incompletely embedded into the respective regions. Against the background of these results, we suggest that entrepreneurial ecosystems should not be primarily viewed as territorial phenomena. Instead, we suggest that the territorial view on entrepreneurship ecosystems should be complemented with a topological view that foregrounds entrepreneurship as a trans-locally shared practice that is tangent to different regions in different ways.


This paper emerged out of the project institutionally funded lead-project “Local anchors of translocal knowledge communities: New focal points of knowledge generation and their territoriality” conducted from 2015 to 2018 at the Leibniz-Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) in Erkner, Germany. As member of the Leibniz-Association the IRS is co-funded by the National Government and the Federal States of Germany. The authors are grateful to their colleagues and project collaborators Suntje Schmidt, Verena Brinks and Steffi Brewig. Further, we would like to thank Jörg Sydow, Carolin Auschra and Alice Rettig for helpful comments on an earlier draft. Furthermore, earlier versions have been presented at the AAG Annual meeting 2017, GeoInno 2018 and EGOS 2018. We would like to thank the convenors (Elisabeth Mack, Heike Mayer, Murray Rice, Sami Mahroum, Koen Frenken and Erik Stam as well as Issy Drori, Jochen Koch and Mike Wright) and all participants of the respective sessions. Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to four anonymous referees of the Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie.


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Received: 2018-03-27
Accepted: 2019-05-07
Published Online: 2019-11-13
Published in Print: 2019-11-01

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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