To read this content please select one of the options below:

Enablers of explorative and exploitative intellectual capital in entrepreneurial ecosystems

Simona Grande (Department of Management, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy) (School of Business and Law, Universitetet i Agder, Kristiansand, Norway)
Alberto Bertello (Department of Management, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy)
Paola De Bernardi (Department of Management, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy)
Francesca Ricciardi (Department of Management, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 19 December 2022




This study aims to investigate the intellectual capital (IC) dynamics in entrepreneurial ecosystems (EEs) by conceptualizing EEs as systems whose purposes include the (re)generation of the intangible resources needed for effective entrepreneurship. The study proposes a taxonomy of the key enablers of IC and develops a model that captures the unfolding interdependencies across the enablers of explorative and exploitative human, relational and organizational capital in EEs.


The authors purposefully selected a successful EE around an entrepreneurial university in Latin America as empirical case. Specifically, they investigated the IC dynamics of the EE in the context of a series of internationally awarded hackathons and related activities organized at the ecosystem level over three years (2019–2021). The research leveraged participant observations, in-depth interviews with multiple EE actors and archival documents. For the data analysis, this study combined the Gioia method with an abductive approach.


First, the study identified 27 operationalizable enablers of IC at the EE level clustered into human, relational and organizational capital and further differentiated these enablers considering the explorative and exploitative facets of IC. Second, it determined that the dynamic interplay across IC enablers is critical for an EE to flourish and evolve adaptively. This study concludes that assessing IC enablers and their dynamics can aid the understanding, evaluation and management of EEs.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to conceptualize EEs as systems whose purposes include creating the conditions for an effective interplay of explorative and exploitative IC at the system level. The resulting taxonomy of IC enablers provides formative constructs that will benefit both scholars and practitioners investigating the crucial role of intangible resources in EEs and guide managers, entrepreneurs and policymakers in their decision-making processes.



The authors would like to thank the guest editor of the special issue Tachia Chin and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable and constructive feedback during the review process. Furthermore, the authors are grateful to the entrepreneurial ecosystem actors for their contribution and the participants involved in the IEEE International Conference on Technology Management, Operations and Decisions 2020 and the EURAM Doctoral Colloquium 2021 and 2022 for their encouraging comments on earlier versions of this study.


Grande, S., Bertello, A., De Bernardi, P. and Ricciardi, F. (2022), "Enablers of explorative and exploitative intellectual capital in entrepreneurial ecosystems", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles