Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society
Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society
Claire Economidou 0 1 2 4
Luca Grilli 0 1 2 4
Magnus Henrekson 0 1 2 4
Mark Sanders 0 1 2 4
0 M. Henrekson Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) , Stockholm , Sweden
1 L. Grilli Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano , Milan , Italy
2 C. Economidou Department of Economics, University of Piraeus , Piraeus , Greece
3 Utrecht University School of Economics (USE) , Utrecht , Netherlands
4 M. Sanders (
In this paper, we introduce the special issue on Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society in Europe. There are many reasons for Europe to want to make the transition to a more Entrepreneurial Society. And for decades now, policy makers are trying to bring that transition about with variations on the Beducate, deregulate and finance^ approach to entrepreneurship. We argue that more fundamental reforms are required to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem and bring about this transition. We then discuss the 12 contributions that pertain to five different facets of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The first two papers address the most fundamental institutional foundations of the ecosystem. The next three papers discuss the (lack of) access to knowledge and incentives to start innovative entrepreneurial ventures. That is followed by three papers that focus on the institutions that (fail to) channel financial resources to such ventures and two papers that analyze the relevance of labor market institutions. The special issue concludes with two papers investigating how the interplay of institutions and productive entrepreneurship results in economic growth.
Entrepreneurship; Institutions; Reform; European Union; Innovation
The European Union, in its Horizon 2020 program in 2015,
invited researchers to develop evidence-based strategies to
put Europe back on track to a situation of sustainable,
inclusive, and innovative growth. In their call, however,
the word Bentrepreneurship^ was entirely absent. We
believe entrepreneurship is at the heart of this challenge. And
indeed, the European Commission itself intuitively
recognizes the importance of entrepreneurship. At the launch of
the Innovation Union, they state: BWe need to do much
better at turning our research into new and better services
and products if we are to remain competitive in the global
marketplace and improve the quality of life in Europe.^ And
to emphasize the urgency of this challenge, the Commission
continues: BWe are facing a situation of ‘innovation
1 Cited from http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.
cfm?pg=why (accessed November 17, 2017); bold in the original.
This rather stark conclusion followed from the
observation that European member states are gradually
slipping out of the top positions in global rankings on
innovation. The most recent rankings of the top 20
countries, according to the most commonly used
measures for innovativeness, are presented in Table 1. One
can tell two stories with this table. On the one hand, the
USA consistently ranks higher than most European
countries, many Asian countries are rising fast, and
Singapore and Hong Kong already outperform most
EU member states on all rankings. On the other hand,
half the top 20 countries in all these rankings are still
European, and particularly, the Nordic and Western
European countries continue to do well. The table
furthermore reveals the well-known core-periphery pattern
The emphasis on such rankings is without doubt
important, but competitiveness, patents, and innovation
per se will not automatically result in growth and
(Acs et al. 2009; Acs and Sanders
. They are necessary but by no means sufficient
ingredients in the growth process. To transform these
ingredients into inclusive and sustainable growth,
entrepreneurs must exploit the new knowledge and diffuse
the innovations into the marketplace. If good ideas do
not make it to global markets fast enough, knowledge
creation alone will not fuel inclusive and sustainable
Entrepreneurship, broadly defined as the act of
challenging the status quo by introducing novelty into the
economic realm, must then be a central theme.3
Schumpeterian entrepreneurs introduce new products
and technologies and act as conduits of knowledge to
generate innovation and growth
Kirznerian entrepreneurs ensure that these new
technologies, opportunities, and products diffuse, and
thereby, the benefits of innovation trickle down and out
2 The southern and eastern EU member states are absent in most
rankings. Such patterns arguably also exist in the USA and China,
but there, they are obscured by the focus on national averages.
3 We do not want to get bogged down here in a discussion on what
exactly defines and delimits entrepreneurship. As Acs et al. (2014, p.
476) state: BIn spite of years of research, entrepreneurship is a
fiendishly difficult concept to pin down^; and
Anderson and Starnawska
, p. 224) noted: Bmore than two decades of concentrated
endeavor have failed to produce a universally acceptable definition of
entrepreneurship^. Entrepreneurship is a multifaceted,
multidimensional, and contextual phenomenon that is defined almost
tautologically by what it does as much as by what it is. For this introduction, we
define it as broadly as in the text above, but leave it to the different
contributors to possibly provide their own definitions.
to the periphery, making growth inclusive
. Both processes typically need the formation
of new organizations as incumbents have a vested
interest in the status quo and as such are less
likely to lead the transition to a more sustainable
(Aghion and Howitt 1992;
. Productive entrepreneurship makes
transitions happen, but we also know that such
entrepreneurship cannot be taken for granted. If
Europe wants more of it, it will have to change
, it is understood that the
institutional framework, broadly defined as Bthe rules of the
, determines whether the available
entrepreneurial talent is directed into socially productive
activities. The rules of the game must both encourage
effort and direct that effort towards socially beneficial
venturing. In addition, they need to allow for innovative
ideas to challenge the status quo, reward success, and
tolerate failure, thereby fostering the dynamics of creative
destruction. This is the Entrepreneurial Society in a broad
(Audretsch 2007; Audretsch and Thurik 2000)
such a society, entrepreneurship is key in creating the
diverse and open contestable markets that constitute the
selection environment in which innovations can shape the
future. By introducing new varieties into this open
selection environment, entrepreneurs can generate growth,
jobs, prosperity, and opportunities for all. Empowering
entrepreneurs to create new variety under the right
institutional preconditions therefore seems the way forward.
The question then becomes, what institutions matter
most? We propose that entrepreneurs can only fulfill their
function in the Entrepreneurial Society if they have
adequate access to knowledge, labor, and financial resources.
Any challenge to the status quo necessarily starts
with an idea. That idea can come from anywhere, but
it has a much better chance of being sensible, if it brings
together relevant knowledge around a problem that is
also well understood. Access to knowledge is therefore
a precondition for productive entrepreneurship. To then
develop the sensible idea into a venture, an entrepreneur
will need financial and human resources or capital and
labor, broadly defined. Of course, a venture then needs
much more, including no small measure of luck, to
succeed and grow into a sizable firm and global industry
leader. But the functioning of the Entrepreneurial Society
should not only be measured by the number of successful
ventures it boasts at any given point in time. It is equally
important to consider the number of challengers it
*Triadic patent families are a set of patents filed at three of the major patent offices: the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent
Office (JPO), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Patents included in the triadic family are typically of higher
Sources: IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2017; World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018; The Global
Innovation Index 2017—Innovation Feeding the World (INSEAD, Cornell University and WIPO); OECD Factbook 2015–2016: Economic,
Environmental and Social Statistics; OECD Statistics
continuously supports, as that is what drives the process of
creative destruction. And for that, more small,
experimental, young ventures should be able to gain access to the
resources they need.
What institutional reforms could improve that access
was the topic of this special issue and the consortium we
formed with the ambition to develop a strategy for
Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial
Society (FIRES) in Europe. We would argue that assembling
this special issue and working together on the challenge in
a focused and policy-oriented way has furthered our
understanding of the complex relations between the locally
specific, multilayered, often historically evolved
institutions that perform key functions in the
(e.g., Autio 2016; Elert et al. 2017)
understanding is a prerequisite for designing interventions
to (re)shape institutions to promote productive
entrepreneurship. We believe that this special issue will help to gain
new insights and improve our understanding of the issues
involved and, most importantly, motivate scholars to
contribute a piece of the puzzle in future work.
Our special issue consists of 12 contributions that
pertain to five different aspects or facets of the
entrepreneurial ecosystem. The first two papers address the most
fundamental institutional foundations of the ecosystem.
The next three papers discuss the (lack of) access to
knowledge and incentives to start innovative
entrepreneurial ventures. This is followed by three papers
that focus on the institutions that (fail to) channel
financial resources to such ventures and two papers
that analyze the relevance of labor market
institutions. The special issue concludes with two papers
investigating how the interplay of institutions and
productive entrepreneurship results in economic
growth. We acknowledge financial support from
the EU project FIRES (grant agreement number
949378) for making all the contributions to this
special issue available under Open Access.
In the remainder of this introduction, we discuss
these five key aspects and how the individual
contributions relate to each other and to the overall theme of the
special issue. We conclude by discussing the most
important implications for an effective reform strategy
towards a more Entrepreneurial Society as well as for
a future research agenda.
1 The basic institutional framework
An Entrepreneurial Society that generates inclusive,
sustainable, and innovative economic growth rests on
a sound institutional framework that channels society’s
financial resources, knowledge, and talent to productive
. The first paper in this
Dilli et al. (2018)
, maps out the key
institutions that together make up this framework. Based on
the Bvarieties of capitalism^ literature (Hall and Soskice
2001), the authors investigate what clusters of related
and interacting institutions promote entrepreneurship.
They find that different clusters of institutional
arrangements can perform similar functions. The authors
collected and analyzed data on 20 European countries and
the USA and show how a core set of institutions,
governing the exchange between entrepreneurial
ventures and their shareholders, workforces, and R&D
partners, differ systematically across countries and how
these institutional constellations facilitate the
development of different types of entrepreneurship. From this
paper, and several others in the literature
(e.g., Hall and
Jones 1999; Henrekson and Johansson 2009; Bjørnskov
and Foss 2013)
, we may conclude that the rule of law is
a necessary condition for the Entrepreneurial Society.
However, any remedial suggestions must take current
conditions into account. This is illustrated by
in her study of organized crime in Italy. She
shows that the fight against organized crime, and more
specifically the aggressive confiscation of criminal
wealth, may have unintended consequences for
entrepreneurship. Her study demonstrates in a concrete and
specific context how institutions and behavior interact to
shape the Entrepreneurial Society in complex ways.
This study is not a call for facilitating the activities of
organized crime, as that would clearly redirect a great
deal of entrepreneurial effort towards unproductive or
destructive venturing. It does, however, show that
reforming institutions can have unintended
consequences and even the most unlikely institutions may
be tied to entrepreneurial venturing.
A society’s ability to increase its wealth and welfare
over time critically relies on its potential to develop,
exploit, and diffuse knowledge. The role of
entrepreneurship is crucial in exploiting and diffusing the
knowledge created. New businesses in general and innovative
start-ups, in particular, can be regarded as manifestations
of knowledge spillovers from existing knowledge
(Acs et al. 2009, 2013)
. However, there are
considerable spatial differences in entrepreneurship
activity, which tend to be highly persistent over long
periods of time
(Andersson and Koster 2011;
Fotopoulos and Storey 2017; Fritsch et al. 2017)
differences can be attributed to knowledge institutions,
culture traditions, knowledge training, and government
regulations and actions among other factors.
In this special issue, the persistence of spatial
differences in entrepreneurship activity are studied by
and Wyrwich (2018)
, who explore the role of the
historical knowledge base and entrepreneurial culture of a
region on current levels of new business formation in
innovative industries in German regions for the period
1907–2014. Their findings support a pronounced
positive relationship between high levels of historical
selfemployment in science-based industries and new
business formation in innovative industries today.
Furthermore, positive interaction effects are also documented
between the presence of technical universities, founded
more than a century ago, and the general level of
historical entrepreneurship on current start-up activity. The
long-term legacy effect that emerges in their analysis
indicates that the prevalence of historically rooted
institutions is driving knowledge spillovers and
Dilli and Westerhuis (2018)
examine the role of
human capital accumulation by topic and focus on the
importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and
Math (STEM) education and the persistent gender
differences therein for a large panel of European countries
and the USA. The authors find that countries with
greater gender equality in STEM education are
characterized by higher entrepreneurial activity in
knowledgeintensive sectors and high growth aspirations.
Consequently, next to individual-level education, closing the
gender gap in STEM education can be expected to
stimulate innovative entrepreneurial activity. A policy
implication of their analysis is that policies should aim
to close the gender gap in STEM education at the
tertiary level, but to do so, gender differences should
be targeted at earlier stages of the life cycle.
Darnihamedani et al. (2018)
take a more direct
approach to innovative entrepreneurship and investigate
how taxation and start-up costs affect the entrepreneurial
channel for knowledge spillovers. Taxes and start-up
costs (notary charges or registration) may influence
knowledge diffusion by discouraging innovative
(see Blackburn and Schaper 2016 for
an extensive literature review)
. High start-up costs not
only reduce entrepreneurship rates but may also
influence the quality and type of entrepreneurship. To date, a
large literature covers the effects of taxes and start-up
costs on entrepreneurship rates
(Gentry and Hubbard
2000; Djankov et al. 2002; Lundström and Stevenson
2005; Klapper et al. 2006; Braunerhjelm and Eklund
. However, this literature largely overlooks the
quality implications of such barriers. Darnihamedani
et al. (2018) offer additional insights by differentiating
between innovative, knowledge intensive, and
noninnovative entrepreneurship activity. Based on a large
sample of 43,223 entrepreneurs from 53 countries, they
find that corporate taxes are negatively related to
innovative entrepreneurship, while income taxes are found
to have no effect. High start-up costs seem to deter
mainly non-innovative entrepreneurs. As a result,
Darnihamedani et al. suggest that governments can
stimulate innovative entrepreneurship by tying costs less
directly to the rewards of innovation. If the goal is to
promote innovative business activities and growth, taxes
on property and goods are preferred over taxes on
income and profit. When it comes to start-up costs, the
implications are less straightforward. Lowering such
costs can increase the rate of entrepreneurship, leading
to less unemployment and a more dynamic business
environment. But lowering start-up costs may also
decrease knowledge spillovers due to (excessive) entry of
imitative entrepreneurs and lower expected returns on
innovation. Once the right people have become
entrepreneurs and started their ventures with the required
skills and knowledge, their venture needs finance to
grow; thus, we turn our attention to finance.
A vibrant entrepreneurial finance sector is deemed to be a
fundamental precondition for triggering the virtuous
dynamics characterizing an Entrepreneurial Society.
However, innovative startups are often financially constrained,
and the information asymmetry between lenders and
borrowers has led to the establishment of specialized
financial intermediaries called venture capital (VC) firms.
VC firms are reputed to be more capable than other actors
in financial markets to deal with the high level of
uncertainty and the many principal agent problems in the
(Gompers and Lerner 2001)
. Despite the
well-documented relevance of VC, there are considerable
differences in VC activity across countries. The VC
sector is small in continental Europe (notably in France,
Italy, and Spain) and in some countries negligible
(Greece, Poland, Czech Republic, and Romania).
Grilli et al. (2018)
analyze the institutional
determinants of VC in Europe. Based on longitudinal
countrylevel data for 18 European countries during the 1997–
2015, they first explore whether Bthe usual suspects^
mostly represented by changeable formal institutions
(i.e., investor protection laws, tax codes, and labor
market regulations) play a role in the European context.
Then, they investigate whether social capital, a
deepseated informal institutional feature, may also exert a
significant effect. Last, they test how structural formal
institutions (e.g., rule of law and government
effectiveness) influence the development of the VC industry.
Their analysis indicates that social capital does play a
role in explaining cross-country differences in the extent
of VC activity. Moreover, they find evidence that this
role is indirect: the impact of social capital structures on
VC is mainly channeled through their role in
establishing those structural formal institutions which are of key
importance for the development of a VC industry. The
main overall finding of their analysis is that VC is
mostly influenced by hard-to-change informal
institutional features. Based on this finding, the authors
suggest the presence of a sort of European Binstitutional
misalignment^ towards VC as a key reason behind the
endemic lack of this type of finance in most European
countries. The only changeable formal institution that is
found to play a non-negligible role is the tax code. By
contrast, reforms aimed at increasing flexibility in labor
markets or investor protection do not seem to affect VC
These results are condensed into two policy
recommendations. First, although the introduction of more
VC-friendly institutions is advisable given its beneficial
effect on start-ups, European policy makers should also
turn their attention to fintech innovations that in the
medium to long term may dramatically change the
way start-ups will be able to finance themselves. This
may prove to better fit the European Binstitutional
. In this respect, the analysis
carried out by
Estrin et al. (2018)
on the emergence and
characteristics of a thick equity crowdfunding market in
the London area is instructive both regarding the
distinctive features of this new form of entrepreneurial
finance and regarding the regulatory aspects that need
to be taken into consideration.
Second, as far as policy measures fostering VC are
concerned, well-designed and targeted changes in the
tax code appear to be the most promising avenue. This is
supported by the analysis carried out by
. They find a strong correlation at a
worldwide level between the tax treatment of employee
stock options and VC activity. A major advantage of this
tax policy is that it narrowly targets entrepreneurial
startups without requiring broad tax cuts. Accordingly,
they suggest that a well-designed reform of the taxation
of stock options and similar instruments along the lines
of the US reform around 1980 would cost the
government little in terms of foregone tax revenue. It would
therefore be a cost-effective reform for improving the
European ecosystem for new high-growth firms.
In addition to finance, human capital is a second
resource that promising ventures must manage to grow
in line with its potential. Even if the idea is good and
finance is available, joining a startup is a risky career
choice. Moreover, entrepreneurs also face a trade-off
between building a new venture based on their idea or
finding more secure wage employment. If the
opportunity cost of becoming or joining an entrepreneur is too
high, or alternatively, the expected benefits are too low
to compensate for the risk incurred, a person may
rationally decide not to follow up on good ideas, even if
finance and knowledge are available. This brings us to
labor market institutions.
An Entrepreneurial Society requires a flexible labor
market where people are willing and able to engage in
entrepreneurial ventures themselves, or to join the
ventures of others. This is especially relevant for the skilled
and experienced employees and entrepreneurs. Hence,
there is an obvious link between labor market
institutions and the Entrepreneurial Society. Research has
found that labor market regulations shape the level of
nascent entrepreneurship. Consequently,
entrepreneurship is higher in countries in which hiring and
dismissing employees is relatively easy and inexpensive
(Niehof 1999; OECD 2003; van Stel et al. 2007)
addition, labor market liberalization has been connected
to entrepreneurial activity in many OECD countries
(OECD 1998, 2000)
, and Europe’s strict employment
protection legislation has been connected to its lower
frequency of new, rapidly growing firms relative to the
USA (Baumol et al. 2007, p. 210 and 222).4
The extensive European welfare states are also
closely linked to the labor market. Social security systems in
combination with strict labor security legislation tend to
penalize individuals who undertake entrepreneurial risk
(Ilmakunnas and Kanniainen 2001)
. This is particularly
relevant when systems confer many social security
benefits, such as disability, sickness, unemployment, and
pension insurance, explicitly linked to formal
employment. Such benefits increase the opportunity cost of
leaving a tenured position and effectively become a
marginal tax on entrepreneurship
(Audretsch et al.
2002; Henrekson 2014)
4 Stringent labor market regulations thus deter and impede business
activities but may simultaneously boost self-employment due to
evasive measures. To circumvent stringent regulations, potential
entrepreneurs can choose to become self-employed themselves. They could
also decide to eschew hiring employees in favor of cooperating in
networks with other self-employed individuals since no labor security
is mandated for the self-employed and compensation and working
hours are unregulated. However, this type of self-employment should
not be interpreted as a sign of entrepreneurial dynamism but instead as
a costly, albeit necessary, strategy to evade onerous regulation. Part of
the increase in self-employment in recent years in many
highlyregulated economies is likely driven by such considerations
(Liebregts and Stam 2016).
Under such circumstances, it becomes rational not to
forgo social protection in exchange for an uncertain
entrepreneurial income. Making parts of social
insurance benefits Bportable^ over jobs and labor market
positions would mitigate this problem. Evidence to
support the hypothesis that strict employment protection
limits the mobility of people and thereby inhibits the
flow of talent to entrepreneurial ventures would support
policies and reforms in that direction. Some of that
evidence is found in the paper by
Fu et al. (2018)
paper takes a nuanced approach and investigates the
impact of strict labor protection on the re-entry of
experienced entrepreneurs from paid employment and
unemployment, respectively. They show that, in a sample
of more than 15,000 individuals from 29 European
countries, the probability of re-entering as an
entrepreneur is higher in strict employment protection regimes,
higher for employed people with prior entrepreneurial
experience, and more so for the employed in strict
protection regimes. This implies that strict labor market
protection stimulates (or forces) the experienced
entrepreneurs to re-enter entrepreneurship. This group of
experienced entrepreneurs is particularly important, as
they have been shown to create more jobs and build
more productive ventures. However, the results cannot
be taken to support a policy of even stricter labor market
regulations. Instead, the results can be interpreted to
mean that strict employment protection keeps those
without prior entrepreneurial experience locked up in
their gilded cage, whereas those who tried
entrepreneurship earlier in their careers are locked out of the
protected labor market. Fu et al. do not cover the impact
that strict labor market policies might have on the
willingness of people to work in entrepreneurial ventures,
but in their discussion of the results, they show that they
are aware of the dangers of rigid labor market
The paper by
Held et al. (2018)
approaches the issue
from a different angle. By interviewing entrepreneurs
and carefully recording how and when they formed the
team and the subsequent venture by recruiting
co-founders, employees, and service providers, they aim to
show that these processes differ systematically across
ventures and countries. The data intensity of the method
precludes comparative analyses of venture creation
processes in many countries, but by comparing Germany
and the USA, Held et al. give us a first impression of the
possible impact of labor market regulations. They show
that, despite variety in venture creation processes within
these countries, cross-country differences help explain
the choices entrepreneurs make in the sequencing,
timing, and formation of their teams. At this stage, it is
not clear whether these differences are causally linked to
labor market institutions, but this issue constitutes an
obvious question for future research.
With institutions giving potential ventures access to
required finance, knowledge, and human capital, we
should expect more experimentation and disruptive
innovation. Eventually, that should translate into
innovative, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. The
proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating, but
empirically linking typically endogenous,
multidimensional, and often hard-to-define variables like growth,
entrepreneurship, and institutions is far from trivial.
Ultimately, the importance of entrepreneurship boils down
to its consequences for the wellbeing of individuals and
society. This impact can be measured in many ways, but an
obvious relationship to assess is the link between income
and entrepreneurship.5 In this special issue, there are two
papers that investigate this link at the aggregate level.
Bosma et al. (2018)
build on well-established growth
regressions that can be directly derived from the
neoclassical growth model and test the link in growth
specifications proposed by
Mankiw et al. (1992)
. Estimating classical growth regressions for a
sample of 25 European countries in the period 2003–2014 and
testing down a list of common indicators for
entrepreneurial activity reveals that entrepreneurship and per capita
GDP growth are positively related. The robustness of this
relationship is tested and supported by estimating a 3SLS
model that simultaneously links institutions to
entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship to growth.
An interesting alternative approach is presented by
Acs et al. (2018)
. They estimate a production function in
logged first differences for a panel of 46 countries in the
period 2002–2011. This paper explores the interaction
between institutions and entrepreneurship by
introducing a composite index for entrepreneurial activity and
5 At the aggregate level, one immediately faces the problem of
somehow measuring entrepreneurship across institutional clusters, i.e.,
Acs et al. (2014)
Henrekson and Sanandaji (2017)
for a discussion of the issues and solutions that have been proposed in
the literature). The papers presented in this special issue both contribute
to this broader debate.
institutional quality. This index is also decomposed in its
institutional and entrepreneurial components. The
authors then show that improvements in the combined
index contribute to economic growth, while plain
increases in entrepreneurial activity do not.
Both Bosma et al. and Acs et al. stress the importance of
the institutional environment in shaping the orientation and
impact of entrepreneurial activity; both individually and
together, these two studies shed light on this question. In a
sample restricted to EU countries, the results suggest that
the contribution of institutions to growth runs through
productive entrepreneurial activity. In the broader sample
including developing countries, entrepreneurial activity
and institutional quality are shown to be complements that
contribute most to economic growth in combination. As
the modeling approaches in these papers are not nested and
results cannot be directly compared, the two papers suggest
an interesting agenda for future research that we discuss in
6 Conclusions and agenda for future research
From the work presented in this special issue, we draw
some preliminary conclusions and draft an agenda for
future research. In Table 2, we list the most salient policy
implications and points for the agenda for future research
that emanate from the studies collected in this issue.
Going over the table in more detail, we can conclude
that entrepreneurship policy must be contextualized and
embedded in institutions. That is, entrepreneurship is
both an outcome and a proximate cause of the inclusive,
sustainable, and innovative growth that the European
Union is aiming for. The ultimate causes reside in the
complex institutional body that brings forth the
entrepreneurial activity we observe. Keeping this in mind, we
conclude that any policy intervention must be carefully
tailored to the existing institutional framework
et al. 2018)
, and changing the institutional setting may
have unintended consequences even on the type of
entrepreneurship that a specific reform was intended to
foster (Operti 2018). However, this does not mean we
should let history run its course and hope luck will be on
(Fritsch and Wyrwich 2018)
interventions in formal institutions can be made and designed to
promote a more entrepreneurial culture. And
specifically, interventions in the educational system can level the
playing field and unlock the potential of women, migrants,
and disadvantaged groups in formal labor markets
and Westerhuis 2018)
. Such interventions would channel
more knowledge into entrepreneurship. If coupled with
high entry barriers and strong incentives (Darnihamedani
et al. 2018), knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship will be
more innovative and productive. Everybody is not an
entrepreneur and everybody should not be one. However,
selection into entrepreneurship should be determined by
relevant aspects of the venture, not irrelevant ones
pertaining to prospective entrepreneurs. In general, it is
not possible to pick winners, but an entrepreneurial culture
embedded in a sophisticated entrepreneurial ecosystem
backs the challengers and allows winners to pick
themselves. It is important to guarantee access, especially to
knowledge resources for everyone. That creates an
inclusive society that efficiently allocates resources to those best
equipped to pursue opportunities and tackle challenges.
Combining broad access to knowledge resources and high
returns to success in entrepreneurship with significant entry
barriers will cause self-selection of the most promising
entrepreneurs out of the largest pool of potential
candidates. While this hypothesis needs further testing,
preferably in rigorous policy experiments, it provides an initial
step towards engineering a more entrepreneurial culture.
Such innovative entrepreneurship typically needs
external finance, financial resources that the European
bank-based and inflexible financial systems do not
provide. It is an open question whether promoting US-style
(Grilli et al. 2018; Henrekson and
, platform-based fintech solutions
(Estrin et al. 2018)
, or perhaps a return to more traditional
forms of relationship-based bank finance fit best in the
European context. Policy experimentation by individual
member countries is called for to find the best way
forward in improving the access to external financing of
innovative entrepreneurship. The focus on, and push
towards, security and stability that followed the financial
crisis of 2007–2011 should not result in an inability to
assume risk in the real economy. Without entrepreneurial
experimentation, we risk failing to develop the
innovations that create the jobs and techniques that we need for
inclusive and sustainable growth. Such policy
experiments, as proposed in this special issue, should involve
lower taxes and liberalization in well-defined areas and
categories of taxation. Targeted interventions in the tax
code may go a long way in promoting VC activity
et al. 2018; Henrekson and Sanandaji 2018)
. But the
proposed policy reforms should be designed as
experiments. That is, policies should be designed to
test the hypotheses and establish causal links. Taken
No Bperfect^ institutional constellation exists that
facilitates different types of entrepreneurship equally;
there is a trade-off between targeting policy reforms to
achieve the desirable entrepreneurship type (radical or
incremental, for instance) and the broader societal
welfare from such policies.
Private capital in society (even of criminal origin) drives
entrepreneurial finance. Clamping down on organized
crime triggers productive processes of creative
destruction only when the state or local institutions can
adequately redeploy the confiscated assets to productive
A historical study of the evolution of institutional
diversity constitutes a first important avenue for future
research. Furthermore, a multilevel analysis would be
desirable, examining how institutions influence
individual entrepreneurial behavior not only at the
country level, but also at the level of states or regions.
Examine the joint impact of bottom-up and top-down
initiatives against organized crime to improve our
understanding of complementarities and
self-enforcing dynamics. Additional studies of the
effectiveness and economic effects of different policy
measures combating organized crime.
VC is mostly influenced by slowly evolving and
hard-to-change institutional features. A European
Binstitutional misalignment^ towards VC is a key reason
behind the endemic lack of this type of finance in most
European countries. The only changeable formal
institution that is found to play a non-negligible role is the tax
code. By contrast, reforms aiming at increasing
flexibility in labor markets or investor protection do not matter
as to VC activity.
Lower stock option taxation to promote VC activity, also in Explore the importance of VC for innovative
the European context. entrepreneurship and whether other types of agents
can substitute for VC, for example, via fintech and
alternative finance, to boost innovative
At the VC level, there is the need to better understand to
what extent different institutional dimensions have
disparate effects on the supply side and demand side
of VC and to locate this analysis at the regional level.
More generally, it is important to explore if new
entrepreneurial finance mechanisms (e.g.,
crowdfunding) are more suitable than VC in the
Light touch regulation instrumental in development of
alternative entrepreneurial finance sources and in
particular equity crowdfunding.
We should identify if and how the UK regulatory
approach on equity crowdfunding of Bvigilance with
temperance^ can be successfully exported to other
Encouraging entrepreneurship in conjunction with a strong It is important to identify the sources of a regional culture
regional knowledge base can have long-lasting positive of entrepreneurship and the mechanisms through
effects on innovative entrepreneurship. Institute formal which it is transferred over time.
institutions that steer informal institutions in a direction
that encourages the evolution of an entrepreneurial
Startup costs may prevent unproductive entry, corporate
taxation hurts innovative entrepreneurship. To promote
innovative entrepreneurship, one should lower taxes, not
barriers to entry. Or more generally, recurring costs that
lower the upside and reinvestment potential are more
important than one-time costs. Therefore, using taxation
on property and on consumption rather than on profits
(that can be reinvested) can be effective mechanisms to
promote innovative ventures.
The paper suggests there is an optimal, non-zero barrier
to entry and a trade-off may exist between quantity
and quality of entrepreneurship. To find that optimum
would be an interesting area for future research. Also,
entrepreneurs are a heterogeneous group and it is
valuable to study important sub-groups and it would
be interesting to investigate the impact of other
regulations, such as labor regulations on
entrepreneurs’ propensity to innovate and how they moderate
the effects of start-up costs and taxes.
Closing the gender gap in science education is beneficial to
stimulate entrepreneurial engagement in
knowledge-intensive sectors and high-growth
entrepreneurial activity. Policies should target gender differences
that emerge at early stage of life course to narrow the
gender gap in science at tertiary level.
Labor-market rigidity inhibits growth of new ventures by
affecting team formation.
More research is required on the relationship between
the gender gap in science and entrepreneurship for the
high-skilled migrant-receiving countries.
Extend database across countries to assess the impact of
different labor-market institutions. Investigate further
drivers of team formation, e.g., internal and
together, the work collected on finance in this issue
would strongly support such an experiment in a
controlled environment (e.g., regulatory sandboxes).
The papers by
Held et al. (2018)
Fu et al. (2018)
add the dimension of labor market institutions, where
Held et al. specifically focus on team formation in
earlystage ventures. More liberal labor markets make it easier
to form and dissolve teams, i.e., to upscale, downscale,
and/or change the human capital composition of the
venture. This flexibility undoubtedly is valuable to the
entrepreneur. Stringent employment protection can
impede venture formation and value creation as it often
entails liabilities and risks that employers are forced to
shoulder. One could compare this to the value of a house
when it is rented out. The tenants’ rights reduce the
value of the property. Perhaps the stringency of labor
market regulations thus serves as a barrier to entry,
raising the required quality of entrepreneurship, but
more likely, it acts as a penalty on growth. The
employees are therefore Bprotected^ out of a job and
perhaps miss out on career opportunities they would
have gladly explored.
Fu et al. (2018)
confirm that strict
labor market regulations reduce the mobility between
entrepreneurship and employment, although their focus
is on habitual entrepreneurs. They show that stringent
employment protection makes habitual entrepreneurs
more likely to return to entrepreneurial venturing. Their
analysis also makes clear that liberalizing the labor
market for temporary workers alone is not helpful in
promoting productive entrepreneurship. Instead, that
will create a deeper divide and more dual labor market
that locks many workers out of both high-quality
employment and entrepreneurship, thus forcing more
people into a vicarious and uncertain existence as a
necessity self-employed or on-demand worker.
In this area, a great deal of policy experimentation and
further research is needed. Labor market reforms should in
general be aimed at liberalization but more importantly at
decoupling rights and obligations from labor market status.
This is particularly relevant in social security, where rights
of employees represent costs or risks for their employers.
Experiments in that general direction also set an important
agenda for entrepreneurship research. Such reforms,
though perhaps seemingly not directly related to
entrepreneurship, may very well be much more effective than
setting up tech transfer offices and incubators, starting
government venture capital funds, or adding
entrepreneurship to school curricula.
The two papers
(Acs et al. 2018 and Bosma et al. 2018)
that conclude this special issue both conclude that without
a supportive institutional framework, entrepreneurial
activity will not contribute to economic growth. The direct
policy implications of these papers are thus rather broad,
but the research agenda these papers usher in is both
profound and wide-ranging. Both papers show that
traditional, one-dimensional measures of entrepreneurship do
not correspond well to the entrepreneurship Joseph
Schumpeter envisioned. This makes these indicators of
entrepreneurial activity less suitable as targets for
evaluating the effectiveness of policy. For example, the one-sided
labor market liberalization in the Netherlands has led to an
explosion in self-employment but resulted in little or no
effect on economic growth and innovation. It is well
known that only a small share of new firms and ventures
survive, and out of these survivors, most remain small. It is
only the few gazelles, and most spectacularly the unicorns,
that create significant impact and drive the inclusive,
sustainable growth countries look for. The relevant question is
not only how to promote entrepreneurship at the base, but
also how to boost entrepreneurs with the inherent potential
to reach the top. If the institutional framework in which the
newly founded ventures emerge and get selected is poorly
designed, promoting self-employment at the base will
result in naught. The real challenge in this area will be to
systematically investigate what institutions support
productive entrepreneurship in what way, for example,
following the approach in Bosma et al. (2018). Furthermore,
this can inform the effort to develop better policy
evaluation tools that capture the systemic nature and quality of the
entrepreneurial ecosystem as proposed in
Acs et al. (2018)
Institutional reforms can then be evaluated and be based on
an improved understanding of the complex interplay of the
various actors and structures constituting the
entrepreneurial ecosystem. This will prove an essential step in giving
entrepreneurship its proper place in the study of economic
growth, where knowledge creation still seems to rule
A cursory look at Table 2 is sufficient to conclude that
in both empirical and theoretical work on entrepreneurship,
we increasingly realize that the relevant ecosystem is
complex, multilayered, and highly path dependent. This
implies that we should be humble when it comes to policy
prescriptions but ambitious in our research. That is, to
make small improvements to this complex of interlocked
institutions, reforms need to be well tailored, well
designed, and well implemented to reach even modest
objectives. Still, it is both urgent and desirable to make the
effort. We hope this special issue will inspire both
researchers and policy makers to engage in that challenge.
Acknowledgements We thank the editors for their
encouragement and for giving us the opportunity to put together this special
issue. We acknowledge financial support from the EU project
Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society
(FIRES) (grant agreement number 949378).
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided
you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source,
provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if
changes were made.
Papers included in this special issue
Acs , Z. J. , Estrin , S. , Mickiewicz , T. , & Szerb , L. ( 2018 ). Entrepreneurship, institutional economics and economic growth: an ecosystem perspective . https://doi.org/10.1007 /s11187-018-0013-9.
Bosma , N. , Content , J. , Sanders , M. , & Stam , E. ( 2018 ). Institutions, entrepreneurship, and economic growth in Europe . https://doi. org/10.1007/s11187-018-0012-x.
Darnihamedani , P. , Block , J. H. , Hessels , J. , & Simonyan , A. ( 2018 ). Taxes, startup costs, and innovative entrepreneurship . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0005-9.
Dilli , S. , & Westerhuis , G. ( 2018 ). How institutions and gender differences in education shape entrepreneurial activity: a cross-national perspective . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187- 018-0004-x.
Dilli , S. , Elert , N. , & Herrmann , A. ( 2018 ). Varieties of entrepreneurship: exploring the institutional foundations of different entrepreneurship types through Bvarieties-ofcapitalism^ arguments . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187- 018-0002-z.
Estrin , S. , Gozman , D. & Khavul , S. ( 2018 ). The evolution and adoption of equity crowdfunding: entrepreneur and investor entry into a new market . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018- 0009-5.
Fritsch , M. , & Wyrwich , M. ( 2018 ). Regional knowledge, entrepreneurial culture and innovative start-ups over time and space-an empirical investigation . https://doi.org/10.1007 /s11187-018-0016-6.
Fu , K. , Larsson , A. S. , & Wennberg , K. ( 2018 ). Habitual entrepreneurs in the making: how labor market rigidity and employment influence entrepreneurial re-entry . https://doi. org/10.1007/s11187-018-0011-y.
Grilli , L. , Mrkajic , B. , & Latifi , G. ( 2018 ). Venture capital in Europe: social capital, formal institutions and mediation effects . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0007-7.
Held , L. , Herrmann , A. , & van Mossel , A. ( 2018 ). Team formation processes in new ventures . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187- 018-0010-z.
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