Triple Helix Model of International Collaboration

September 22, 2022

 Mehmet S. Tosun headshotBy Mehmet S. Tosun, Professor and Director of International Programs, The College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno

Have you heard of the triple helix before? If you are a biologist, you will likely think of DNA and cell biology. The Triple Helix (or triple helix model) is also used to describe a model of collaboration between university, government and business. It is actually a model of innovation for communities and regions. Charles U. Lowe mentioned this in regard to the biomedical field in an article entitled “The Triple Helix – NIH, Industry, and the Academic World,” that was 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 the industrial appetite for commercial opportunity tempers 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 enhance innovation and economic development in a region.

Henry Etzkowitz and Loet Leydesdorff, published their paper “The Triple Helix---University-Industry-Government Relations: A Laboratory For Knowledge Based Economic Development,” in 1995 where they present a theoretical framework for the triple helix. Etzkowitz’ 2002 book MIT and the Rise of Entrepreneurial Science also became influential in our understanding of the relationship between the university, government and business. As the three components of this model evolve, Etkowitz and Leydesdorff envisioned “hybrid institutions” and the rise of “entrepreneurial university.” Route 128 in Boston (with MIT as a key player), Silicon Valley in California (with Stanford University and defense industry), and Research Triangle from North Carolina (with North Carolina State, Duke and UNC Chapel Hill as three major research universities), are three visible examples of triple helix collaborations.

We have also 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 include universities, entrepreneurship centers, research labs and government agencies in Nevada and other countries. Our participation in trade and education missions organized by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) is another good example of triple helix activity. These international missions involve educational institutions including universities, businesses that are in need of reaching international markets, and government agencies from Nevada. What is also very important is that they involve our counterparts from other countries. We have met a number of international partners through these trade and education missions. The relationships we established have led to interaction between students, faculty, and entrepreneurs, and generated a variety of research outcomes including grant projects, symposia and publications.

I will also bring attention to the importance of research labs in the triple helix. Labs can help build a bridge between academia, the business world and government. Our new international lab initiative, the Nevada Global Business and Economics Lab (NVGLOBE-L), is bringing 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 affiliations with the New Economy Lab in the 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 created the Global Entrepreneurship and Public Policy Working Group, which is a joint effort between NVGLOBE-L, Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship and GOED’s International Division. We plan to generate more policy-relevant research that we think will add significantly to the components of the triple helix model.