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Growing entrepreneurial ecosystems: Public intermediaries, policy learning, and regional innovation

Allison Bramwell (Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Nicola Hepburn (Ministry of Finance, Toronto, Canada)
David A. Wolfe (Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy

ISSN: 2045-2101

Article publication date: 2 September 2019

Issue publication date: 11 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to illustrate experimentation over time in Ontario, Canada with place-based innovation policies to support the development and coordination of entrepreneurial ecosystems on a regional basis across the province.


Tracing the policy learning process and successive adaptations in program design over time, the authors provide a detailed case study of the evolution of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) from 2003 to the present.


The authors find that the program has evolved in response to regular program reviews that include broad input from ecosystem actors operating at multiple levels within the network, and that intermediaries are key facilitators of inter- and intra-ecosystem linkages. However, program complexity and coordination challenges suggest that place-based innovation policies, such as the ONE, should focus specifically on innovation-intensive entrepreneurship.

Research limitations/implications

These findings make three contributions to the theory and practice of place-based innovation policy. First, these policies are by nature experimental because they must be able to flexibly adapt according to policy learning and practitioner input from a wide variety of local contexts. Second, multilevel interactions between provincial policymakers and regional ecosystem actors indicate that place-based innovation policy is neither entirely driven by “top down” policy, nor “bottom up” networks but is rather a complex and variable “hybrid” blend of the two. Finally, publicly funded intermediaries perform essential inter- and intra-ecosystem connective functions but system fragmentation and “mission creep” remain enduring policy challenges.


The paper makes an original contribution to the literature by analyzing the development of entrepreneurial policy support framework and situating the case study in the context of the policy learning process involved in place-based innovation policymaking in North America.



Bramwell, A., Hepburn, N. and Wolfe, D.A. (2019), "Growing entrepreneurial ecosystems: Public intermediaries, policy learning, and regional innovation", Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 272-292.



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