Indispensable fictions? Unpacking the entrepreneurial ecosystem metaphor

Richard T. Harrison, Augusto Rocha

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Biological analogies and images are not altogether novel in entrepreneurship and can be powerful vehicles for carrying and communicating meaning. Nowhere is this seen more clearly or extensively than in the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ metaphor, used increasingly over the past fifteen years to refer to regional (and other) agglomerations of economic activity. However, it is being argued that research to date fails to explore to the fullest potential the application of the ecosystem metaphor. In this chapter we examine these claims within the context of a wider discussion of the epistemic power of metaphor as the creation of meaning by seeing one thing in terms of, or as if it were, another, recognizing that in seeking to explain the unfamiliar we inevitably resort to the familiar and everyday, as new concepts do not come to us ‘ready-made’. We argue that much of the entrepreneurial ecosystems literature is characterized by a naive descriptive empiricism and that the concept itself is more a chaotic conception than a rational abstraction. We distinguish among a number of categories of metaphor and conclude that much of the extant literature is characterized by pedagogical and constrictive metaphors, the superficiality of which will constrain the development of the field. We conclude with a discussion of the multidimensionality of the ecosystem concept itself and the different ways this can be used as meaning, model, and metaphor, and discuss the implications for future research on entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEntrepreneurial Ecosystems in Cities and Regions
Subtitle of host publicationEmergence, Evolution, and the Future
EditorsRobert Huggins, Fumi Kitagawa, Daniel Prokop, Christina Theodoraki, Piers Thompson
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780191957055
ISBN (Print)9780192866264
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2024


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