Siirry sisältöön
HHBIC 2020

The role of entrepreneurial education in the development of innovation and cooperation networks in the tourism industry: a case study approach

Published : 08.06.2021

Abstract

This paper aims at analysing how the promotion, participation and/or development of school and after-school programs by tourism educational institutions (EI) involving the various stakeholders of the tourism industry, namely EI; firms; community and governance, contribute to the development of networking, fundamental in the development of the innovation and entrepreneurial process in tourism. These programs are set up within the framework of the new knowledge transfer and sharing intermediaries, whose importance has gained prominence within the engaged entrepreneurial university, more involved in solving community problems. In addition to the technological and economic sphere, they now include the social, cultural, and societal dimension in university activities, incorporating a stronger regional focus in their mission, within the development of broad interconnections between state and non-state actors. Two case studies will be presented to illustrate these dynamics: Tourism Explorers and Tourism Train Experiences, both developed in Portugal. Resorting to secondary data from the execution reports of these programs, they are analysed in terms of their goals, the stages through which they are implemented, and the interactions promoted and developed among tourism stakeholders.

Keywords: Entrepreneurial Education, Territory, Entrepreneurial University, Engaged University, Tourism

1. Introduction

Universities have undergone three academic revolutions: the teaching, the research, and the innovation (Krishna, 2019). The latter became known as the promoter of the “third mission” and relates to the term “entrepreneurial university” (EU) (Etzkowitz, 1983). The concept of the EU is associated with the idea of the possibility of obtaining financial resources in new ways beyond public funding. Revenues from the commercialization of science, patenting, licensing, contractual research, are some examples presented by Etzkowitz (1983). Intermediary organisations in charge of coordinating the university’s liaison with external agents and promoting knowledge transfer are now gaining importance: technology transfer offices, incubators, and science parks. These organizations help academics to value research results, encourage relationships with companies or create start-ups (Widen & al., 2019). Regions benefit from these activities through the creation of jobs, spin-offs, and splillovers in the form of formal and informal knowledge sharing (Trippl & al., 2015). In the 21st century, the fourth industrial revolution significantly shifted vector of global economic development to knowledge management (Garbuz & Topala, 2017; Uyarra, 2010). The emerging importance of the knowledge-based economy also requires a new understanding of the key tasks of universities (Unger & Polt, 2017). The Engaged University model emerges with a broader vision. In addition to the technological and economic sphere, the social, cultural, and societal dimensions are now included in the activities of universities (Trippl & al., 2015). In this model, universities incorporate a stronger regional focus in their mission within broad coalitions between state and non-state actors (Uyarra, 2010). Participation practices deepen where research and education programs increasingly intertwine with society through active research, service-oriented learning, and problem-based learning where students and scholars interact and co-create with governments, businesses, and other organizations (Winden & al., 2019).

This societal involvement gains relevance in the tourism sector. Due to the particular characteristics of this industry and the current context of almost global paralysis of the sector due to the pandemic, given its size and impact on product calculation and employment in many world economies. Education may not be the quickest path, but it will be decisive at a time when it is imperative to rethink the entire global operating model, through innovative responses that promote urgent recovery.

The purpose of this work is to analyse how the promotion and/or development of school and after-school programs by educational institutions (EI) of tourism involving the various stakeholders of the tourism industry: EI; companies; community and governance, contribute to the development of networking, fundamental in the development of the innovation and entrepreneurial processes in the sector. The development of territorially based entrepreneurship programs, aimed at students or at the community in general, will contribute through the immersion of its participants to this objective.

First, the theoretical background is presented. Topics related to the role of education institutions in entrepreneurial education, the mission of universities, and the importance of knowledge are reviewed. The second part of the paper included two case studies, analysed as examples of entrepreneurship programs designed specifically for the tourism industry. These programs allow participants to get involved with the community, immersing them in their territorial roots and identifying the key products, in addition to the development of cognitive and soft skills. Findings demonstrate how these programs can assume the role of intermediary agents of knowledge transfer through the creation of innovation, sharing and co-creation networks. The study also identifies how these programs can evolve towards an increased involvement with communities, what benefits regions and what participants can expect from their participation.

2. Theoretical background

The Entrepreneurial University is associated with the Triple-Hélix (TH) model (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 1997). The TH is defined as a model where the university, the industry and the government interact to promote development through innovation and entrepreneurship, with a focus on identifying the generating source of knowledge-based socio-economic development (Etzkowitz & Zhou, 2017) and stressing the importance of permeability across the boundaries of university-industry-government (Etzkowitz, 2003; 2012; Etzkowitz & Zhou, 2017; Krishna, 2019; Choi & Markhan, 2019). Encouraging permeability within the university boundaries is a first step in creating an entrepreneurial university, the driving force of the most successful innovation regions (Etzkowitz, 2012). The engaged university, rather than emphasizing the relationship between these three individual actors (business, university, and government), focuses on the interaction through education (and training), research (academic and knowledge creation) and innovation (business). The knowledge triangle (KT) emphasises education as a fundamental mission of educational institutions and how it is linked to innovation and research (Unger et al., 2020). The concept of KT can be found in the European Commission’s Regional/National Innovation Strategies for Intelligent Specialisation (RISD3):

“An intelligent development strategy can take the form of, or be included in, a national or regional framework of research and innovation (R&I) policies and strategies. Intelligent specialization strategies should be developed through the involvement of national or regional management authorities and stakeholders, such as universities and other higher education institutions, businesses and social partners, in a process of business discovery” (European Commission, 2014, p. 6).

The edges of the knowledge triangle can be exemplified as follows (Unger et al., 2020):

  • Education-research: through teaching methodologies that involve students in real and relevant research projects, based on the specialization of the university, to contribute to the solution of the region’s problems.
  • Education-Innovation: through the involvement of students in projects with real clients that allow them to apply their skills in exchange for credits, involving the community in the teaching process.
  • Research-Innovation – here the focus will be on problem solving, research inspired by the real impact of the results on people’s lives.

Among the most referenced authors Adner (2006) was one of the firsts to refer to the importance of the existence of innovation ecosystems through collaboration agreements through which companies combine their individual offerings into a coherent and customer-oriented solution. “When they work, innovation ecosystems allow companies to create value that no single company could have created” (Adner, 2006, p. 2).

A 21st Century Innovation Ecosystem is a multi-level, multi-modal, multi nodal and multi-agent system of systems. The constituent systems consist of innovation meta-networks (networks of innovation networks and knowledge clusters) and knowledge meta-clusters (clusters of innovation networks and knowledge clusters) as building blocks and organised in a self-referential or chaotic fractal knowledge and innovation architecture, which in turn constitute agglomerations of human, social, intellectual and financial capital stocks and flows as well as cultural and technological artifacts and modalities, continually co-evolving, co-specialising, and co-opeting. These innovation networks and knowledge clusters also form, re-form and dissolve within diverse institutional, political, technological and socio-economic domains including Government, University, Industry, Non-governmental Organisations and involving Information and Communication Technologies, Biotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Nanotechnologies and Next Generation Energy Technologies (Carayannis & Cambell, 2009, p. 206).

These authors state that innovation networks are real and virtual “infra-structures” and “infra-technologies” that serve to feed creativity, trigger inventions, and catalyse innovation in a public and/or private domain context.

Recently, Grandsreand and Holgersson (2020) brought together the 21 most revealing definitions in the innovation ecosystem concept literature and identified the most frequently considered components. These were: “actors”-21; “collaboration/complements” – 16; “Activities” – 15 and “Artifacts” (including products and technologies) -12. From this analysis they concluded that none of the present definitions clearly included all the components and therefore propose the following aggregate definition for the concept of innovation ecosystem:

“An innovation ecosystem is the evolving set of actors, activities, and artifacts, and the institutions and relations, including complementary and substitute relations, that are important for the innovative performance of an actor or a population of actors” (Grandstrand & Holgerson, 2020, p. 1).

This definition highlights the role of the relationships established in the innovation process, as it is so important in the tourism industry.

Innovation in tourism is a process that occurs mainly in a network through corporate agreements, instead of being developed in an atomized way within each company (Brandão & al., 2018b). It is an industry formed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that resort to networks to obtain competitive advantages in the development of new products and services (Buhalis & Peters, 2006; Brandão & al., 2018b; 2019). The fragmentation of the industry in SMEs is characterised by fuelling regional development; providing a continuous flow of new ideas, product concepts and resources; whose flexibility allows adopting strategies to increase competitiveness; offering a social and economic laboratory where entrepreneurs can be better trained; having shorter and flatter hierarchies that allow a faster and more sensitive adaptation to market changes; contribute to employment and self-employment by reducing unemployment; create value creation clusters in the region by supporting themselves; most of the profits they generate remain in the region; often contribute to the preservation of culture, local character and use of endogenous resources (Buhalis & Peters, 2006). For innovation to occur continuously and have positive effects on the destinations, it is crucial that the networks be as diverse as possible. They should include companies, public and private organisations, and knowledge producers. However, diversification should not be limited to the type of organizations involved, as their location should also be considered (Brandão & al., 2019). Innovation networks should be strong both internally and externally (Brandão & al., 2018a). From this analysis, the same authors identify two critical factors: the first is the nature of the network members whose diversity must be assured (public and private organisations, knowledge producers and innovation agencies); the second is the balance within the network between internal (local/regional) and external (national/international) actors. They also emphasise that universities and R&D institutions are the main responsible for connecting the network to external (international) actors and therefore represent the main input of knowledge into the network. Thus, they contribute to the improvement of the innovation performance of regional tourism agents. For less favoured regions to develop an endogenous capacity for innovation and development, they will have to recognise that local circumstances are the only significant reference point for a regional strategy, but at the same time they will have to acknowledge that local resources are a necessary but not sufficient factor for progress (Morgan, 2004).

Understanding the specific characteristics of each destination, driving forces for collaboration and innovation, in the field of community-based tourism is essential for the process of advanced co-creation and knowledge sharing to be successful (Malek & Costa, 2015). In addition, more informal links, such as individual networks, have also been identified as an essential prerequisite for further social cooperation (Unger et al., 2020).

The importance of local circumstances is highlighted in tourism, as its viability and quality are determined more by local circumstances, than by the general conditions (Riley & Szivas, 2006). At the same time, there is a growing trend towards the internationalisation of tourism studies, and, to the casual observer, it may seem that the knowledge of tourism is truly globalised. But not quite, as geography and language are still important (Riley & Szivas, 2006). Empirical evidence gathered in various regions of the world has demonstrated that the processes of tourism development that focused only on economic and business aspects of their products, ignoring the national and regional context where they were inserted, beyond the scope of tourism plans, led to the development of negative impacts (Costa & Brandão, 2018).

“The idea of an increasingly globalized world suggests the diminishing relevance of the territorial dimension, but the argument that ‘geography matters’ is pursued in three ways: first, by questioning the ‘distance-destroying’ capacity of information and communication technologies where social depth is conflated with spatial reach; second, by arguing that physical proximity may be essential for some forms of knowledge exchange; and third, by charting the growth of territorial innovation systems” (Morgan, 2004, p. 3)

While codified knowledge and technology are relatively easy to transfer, tacit knowledge can only be assimilated by face-to-face observation and interaction (Unger et al., 2020). To reinforce the importance of “geography”, Morgan (2004) reinforces that ICTs make explicit knowledge codified and diffused in a faster and cheaper way, but on the other hand, tacit knowledge, being personal, is dependent on context and sharing of experiences. Physical proximity enhances the process of creating trust that is so important in these knowledge transfer processes. It has been demonstrated that if knowledge is mainly tacit, companies will try to locate themselves in the region to benefit from the repercussions that only proximity will facilitate (Unger et al., 2020). These authors also point out that contacts and mobility of qualified individuals – tacit knowledge transfer – from one company to another is one of the main manifestations of success of local innovation dynamics. Thus, the civic involvement of universities has a strong territorial dimension, emphasizing the direct impact on their regional environment. Therefore, entrepreneurial education should prepare tourism students to learn how to optimize the potential of the innovation network in the territory.

The Davos World Economic Forum suggested that promoting entrepreneurship could be a solution to the unemployment problem that affects millions of young people and also to the overall workforce (Kaya & al., 2019; Flores-Aguilar, 2019). The generation of new firms by future professionals will contribute to the economic and social development of the regions (Flores-Aguilar, 2019). In this context, EI have a determining role: in the development of entrepreneurship, in the evaluation of the way entrepreneurial skills are taught (Burdakova et al., 2019); in the evaluation and promotion of students’ entrepreneurial intention (Kaya & al., 2019); in the analysis of solutions to promote the creation of companies and stimulate their relationship with external stakeholders such as incubators (Bikse et al., 2016), and centres for young entrepreneurs (Flores-Aguilar, 2019). New intermediaries are added to trigger more integrated and interdisciplinary approaches, presenting universities as actors or partners in solving societal challenges (Winden & al., 2019). More effort is needed to help young entrepreneurs in building networks of cooperation and strengthen knowledge co-creation (Bikse et al., 2016).

3. Methodology

The study uses a qualitative methodology. The case study approach was the selected method. As a method, case study aims to understand a phenomenon by analysing examples of reference (Veal, 2018). For the purpose of this research, the selection of case studies was “purposive” (Veal, 2018, p. 403) to illustrate that the promotion and/or development of school and after-school programs by educational institutions (EI) of tourism involving the various stakeholders of the tourism industry contribute to the development of networking, which in turn will promote innovation and cooperation in the sector.

Two case studies developed in Portugal were selected and are presented. These are examples of programs based on the involvement of the community, tourism companies, educational institutions specialised in tourism and hospitality, public institutions, and the territory. It is aimed that this will help to illustrate how the configuration of these programs influences innovation and networking in the entrepreneurial tourism ecosystem, as well as the relevance of the territory in the development of the tourism entrepreneurial ecosystem.

These two programmes were selected on the basis of various criteria:

  1. Projects of ideation and acceleration of start-ups in tourism.
  2. They should have been developed and applied in national territory.
  3. They should have previous editions.
  4. They should have involved various stakeholders representing the EE, (educational institutions; elements of Governance, businesses and also the community and other support organizations, such as incubators) and their coordination was promoted.
  5. The role of the characteristics of the territories covered was considered important for the development of startups or business ideas.
  6. Programmes should be publicly funded (in this case, by National Tourism Board, “Turismo de Portugal”).

The data collection was based on secondary sources such as implementation and execution reports, related documents, and the content of the programmes’ web pages, complemented by participant observation as mentor and panel member in both cases.

This study is exploratory, analysing qualitative documentary content concerning the functioning and characteristics of the programmes, information on the projects and their participants, and relationships established between the various stakeholders of the projects. The programs presented are Tourism Explorers (TE) and Tourism Train Experiences (TTE).

4. Case studies

In this section, the model of operation of each of the case studies presented is analysed. It is aimed that this will help to illustrate how the configuration of these programs influences innovation and networking in the entrepreneurial tourism ecosystem, as well as the relevance of the territory in the development of the tourism entrepreneurial ecosystem.

These two programs were selected based on some of their common characteristics and some differences between them. The similarity criteria used were the following: both were designed for the tourism industry; three editions were already implemented, and they include territorial and community involvement. Regarding the criteria in which they are distinguished, their selection was based on the fact that Tourism Train Experiences is organized by a university, is targeted at students, and is developed as a school activity. The Tourism Explorers is a program developed for the community in general, with the participation and logistics of universities and other education institutions, but not organised by a university. Tourism Explorers is developed in several cities around the countries, and the regional characteristics of each city are worked by the respective participants. Simultaneously, the national dimension is also considered and the dialogue between the various cities is promoted. In addition, the importance of internationalisation is highlighted, corroborating the importance of the complementarity between the local and global perspectives.

4.1 Tourism Explorers

Tourism Explorers is a national ideation and acceleration program in tourism, developed by the Startups Factory (Fábrica de Startups) in partnership with Turismo de Portugal (national tourism board). Three editions have been organised since 2017 in 17 Portuguese cities. It “aims to support the creation and development of start-ups in the tourism industry, based on innovative and disruptive ideas” (Startups Factory, 2020, p.10). In the three editions 739 entrepreneurs were involved and contributed to the development of 298 start-ups. In order to implement this program, partnerships are ensured in the different cities of the country, with Hospitality and Tourism Schools, incubators of the National Network of Incubators, Universities and Polytechnic Institutes. Of all the contacted start-ups, 60 % are still active in 2020.

“Tourism Explorers aims to reduce regional asymmetries, train entrepreneurs across the country, encouraging the development and consolidation of new businesses in tourism, democratizing access to information and methodologies for the development of products or services” (Startups Factory, 2020, p. 13).

This program is composed of two subprograms. The first one, focused on ideation and the second one, a start-ups acceleration program. Twelve cities in the country are selected every year (a total of 17 cities participated in the three editions). In each city, an institution is chosen where the program sessions take place. It can be a university, a hotel school of Tourism of Portugal, an incubator or other. In partnership with the Start-ups Factory, this organisation collaborates in the selection of local partners and mentors, as well as in the attraction of participants, specific prizes for the city, organisation of the spaces where the bootcamps occur, and support in the dynamization of the sessions.

Registration is done online, and the Startups Factory is responsible for selecting the participants. It is a program where the use of ICT is valued and encouraged. The sessions take place simultaneously in the twelve cities, through streaming transmissions. Each city has one or more mentors in the room, responsible for supervising and supporting the participants, for local logistics of the session, for the interface with the Start-ups Factory and for dialoguing in real time and with the other cities. Entrepreneurs are provided with a Start-up Box that contains the “necessary information and tools” (Tourism Explorers, 2020) to develop the project. People from the community in general and students or former students from tourism schools and other areas of study are applying to participate in the programs.

4.1.1 Tourism Train Experiences

At this stage, the participations are individual, with the participants being motivated to be entrepreneurs in tourism, but still without a defined idea or included in a team. The tourism policy and strategy defined by Turismo de Portugal for the country for the coming years is presented. Based on this strategy, challenges are presented. Each participant chooses the challenge based on which they will develop their business idea. Based on this selection, the future entrepreneurs are grouped in teams. According to the guidelines received and the materials available in their Start-up Box, they develop their business idea.

As a methodology, they first identify the problems associated with the selected challenge and then seek to develop solutions to these problems. The chosen solution will be the basis for building the business idea in tourism. In the last three days of the program, the teams build and present a pitch to a local jury selected by and for the city. “The best teams will be selected for the Acceleration phase” (Tourism Explorers, 2020).

4.1.2 The interaction between education institutions and tourism stakeholders through entrepreneurship programs

For this stage, teams already formed and with business ideas in tourism are applying, to which are added the winning teams of the ideation phase. The projects can be in various stages of maturation, from just the idea to a recent start-up.

The sessions are divided into several Bootcamps that occur “in 6 intense days, consisting of several mentoring sessions with experts in the area and workshops that will help to better define the strategy” (Tourism Explorers, 2020) for the business. “Each project will have the opportunity to validate its business model in order to confirm its market value” (Tourism Explorers, 2020). The methodology used is based on the concepts of design thinking, lean start-up and customer development (Tourism Explorers, 2020).

During the Bootcamps, the teams have the opportunity, while developing their project, to interact with the other teams in the city and other cities as well. They have at their disposal several workshops in areas such as: digital marketing, tourism marketing, investment, legal issues, new tourism trends, among others. They have access to meetings with several national mentors, experts in the various areas, and access to local mentors, selected in each city to give a specific response closer to the territorial needs of each project. This promotes networking among start-ups, investors, mentors, academics, and incubators. On the last day, a pitch is presented to a city jury, and the local winner and city representative in the national grand final is selected (Tourism Explorers, 2020). In the global final, the winner of the final prize is determined.

4.2 Ideation stage

TTE was developed by the School of Tourism and Hospitality of the European University and aimed to “reinvent railway tourism in Portuguese Tourism regions with growth potential through entrepreneurship and innovation projects designed by university students” (European University, 2018). This program had three editions between 2016 and 2018. The students were presented with challenges, focused on a certain region, and defined by the entities of the region itself, according to local needs. These challenges resulted in work that was evaluated and presented regionally according to “the originality and innovation of the proposal, as well as the feasibility of the project” (European University, 2018) during a train trip.

Students from several universities and from the network of hotel and tourism schools of Turismo de Portugal participated in the program. It stands out for being based on the relevance of the development of “Portuguese regions with lower tourism growth” (European University, 2017). The teams of participating students are faced with territorial challenges in tourism, launched by entities in their respective territory. In a first phase, the students develop business ideas and present the resulting projects to a jury composed mainly of academics.

The best projects are selected to be presented in the territory for which they were developed, to local organisations. These presentations take place during a train trip, whose itinerary includes the territories from which the initial challenges came. At each stop the “projects of university students who stand out for their entrepreneurship and innovation” (European University, 2017) are presented locally. Students have the opportunity to interact directly with local organisations, community, culture and natural and built heritage of these regions. In the end, the final winner and the winners of each challenge are defined. It is possible that local communities benefit from this exchange of ideas from projects developed by students with the help and supervision of their teachers.

Both the programs (TE and TTE) have contributed to addressing (local) societal challenges, supporting the development of startu-ps and “real-life case-oriented education” (Widen & al., 2019).

4.3 Acceleration stage

The presented case studies illustrate how entrepreneurial programs based on active methodologies promote innovation in networks, in the tourism industry, by stimulating the relationship between companies, universities and other education institutions, public bodies (the National Tourism Board “Turismo de Portugal” and the City Councils) and other intermediary organizations, with an active role in the transfer of knowledge, as incubators. The programs can be directed at students and the community at large such as TE or school programs such as TTE. In the tourism industry, so competitive and demanding, it is necessary to develop different skills to face its challenges (Daniel et al., 2017). Education and training must focus much more on changing personal attitudes than on knowledge (Paço et al., 2011).

The activities can be promoted by the EIs or with their cooperation. What is relevant is that they should constitute another link between academia, companies, and other organisations. In the case of TE, it is not organized by educational institutions, but in close collaboration with several universities in the country and with the network of schools of Turismo de Portugal. It is developed, in most cases, in the facilities of these EI and counting on its list of trainers and mentors with several academics. Some participants are students and have an increased opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills, to test their entrepreneurial intention and interact with various companies, which is believed to contribute positively to the development of a culture of network sharing. The fact that they are programs aimed at the community highlights the tendency to combine various types of actors, benefiting from the synergies of their interaction. In the case of TE, besides simulation, there is intervention in concrete cases. Start-ups constituted very recently are also the target of this project and consequently validated by the different stakeholders involved.

TTE is a school program that by promoting the development of students’ ideas, based on challenges proposed by regional organisations, will provide them with multiple learning. These methodologies contribute to: (i) the development of transversal competences; (ii) exploring the real world through problems and challenges; (iii) helping students to prepare themselves to enter the marketplace; and (iv) to consolidate the collaboration between university and firms (Daniel et al., 2017). The same authors concluded that entrepreneurship education is relevant for assessing future employment prospects, whether for those who will be employed or self-employed.

The presented case studies illustrate how entrepreneurial programs based on active methodologies promote innovation in networks, in the tourism industry, by stimulating the relationship between companies, universities and other education institutions, public bodies (the National Tourism Board “Turismo de Portugal” and the City Councils) and other intermediary organizations, with an active role in the transfer of knowledge, as incubators. The programs can be directed at students and the community at large such as TE or school programs such as TTE. In the tourism industry, so competitive and demanding, it is necessary to develop different skills to face its challenges (Daniel et al., 2017). Education and training must focus much more on changing personal attitudes than on knowledge (Paço et al., 2011).

The activities can be promoted by the EIs or with their cooperation. What is relevant is that they should constitute another link between academia, companies, and other organisations. In the case of TE, it is not organized by educational institutions, but in close collaboration with several universities in the country and with the network of schools of Turismo de Portugal. It is developed, in most cases, in the facilities of these EI and counting on its list of trainers and mentors with several academics. Some participants are students and have an increased opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills, to test their entrepreneurial intention and interact with various companies, which is believed to contribute positively to the development of a culture of network sharing. The fact that they are programs aimed at the community highlights the tendency to combine various types of actors, benefiting from the synergies of their interaction. In the case of TE, besides simulation, there is intervention in concrete cases. Start-ups constituted very recently are also the target of this project and consequently validated by the different stakeholders involved.

TTE is a school program that by promoting the development of students’ ideas, based on challenges proposed by regional organisations, will provide them with multiple learning. These methodologies contribute to: (i) the development of transversal competences; (ii) exploring the real world through problems and challenges; (iii) helping students to prepare themselves to enter the marketplace; and (iv) to consolidate the collaboration between university and firms (Daniel et al., 2017). The same authors concluded that entrepreneurship education is relevant for assessing future employment prospects, whether for those who will be employed or self-employed.

4.4. Other levels of interaction in the territory

The civic involvement of universities has a strong territorial dimension, emphasizing the direct impact on their regional environment (Unger et al., 2020). Universities are increasingly involved with society and its research and education projects, more committed to societal issues and case oriented (Widen & al., 2019). This fundamental role becomes increasingly relevant in the context of the 21st century, which brings humanity the most serious challenges in history, announcing the end of oil reserves in the middle of the century and the current level of carbon emissions in the atmosphere can lead to a catastrophic rise in temperature. Green economy technologies will play a key role in social and economic development (Kochetkov & al., 2017). In the tourism industry, in particular, innovation and entrepreneurship are fundamental to meet the needs of more demanding consumers, technologically and with environmental trends, who are increasingly looking for unusual experiences (Daniel et al., 2017).

The strengthening of the importance of an increasingly holistic approach among regional development actors has awakened another gap in research: the limited importance given to learning within regional ecosystems (Pugh et al., 2019). Intervention in real cases can be promoted. In many cases, the increase in business training is not strongly related to the real needs of the industry. Second few students create start-ups soon after leaving college (Choi & Markhan, 2019). But both they and the companies they work for benefit greatly from the entrepreneurial spirit developed during the courses.

In this sense, the deeper and more differentiated involvement of universities in the community is suggested. The projects or models of intervention can be quite diversified. The promotion, by universities, of programs and events for different stakeholders within the ecosystem (companies, government…) with the aim of bringing them together, discussing, expressing their views and learning from each other through a reflective attitude, defends the role of universities as a catalyst for the creation and maintenance of high growth business activities in the regions, including regional cultural change and networking activities. These networks of local actors where learning is a social process, allow the development of a systemic vision to encourage learning and create a strong culture of sharing (Pugh et al., 2019). In this case, the university promotes learning among stakeholders without exercising its classic role as a broadcaster.

EI can have departments that develop a wide range of third mission activities, both formal and informal, making them drivers of regional economic development. In the analysis to these departments, in Lancaster, were found activities and functions that bring companies and entrepreneurs “into” the university, as well as activities conducted “out” of the department for local companies. Both are very important for the creation of wider ecosystem and entrepreneurial culture (Pugh et al., 2018).

Finally, the Knowledge Mile in Amsterdam is an example of a “hyper-local” involvement between a university and the local community. It is a project that consists of creating a living laboratory where the actors are researchers, students, and urban actors. An area of the city has been transformed into a living laboratory, allowing students, teachers, and researchers to engage with actors in the area for research or education projects and simultaneously transform the “street” into a more attractive area. The university has created an intermediary team between the university and the sites to create and manage relationships and develop projects. Later, the initiative was institutionalized in a “business investment zone”. Many innovation projects are done by students and teams of researchers in the street. Students earn credits for their intervention. The coordination teams recruit the students, maintaining contact with the academy and in close collaboration with social organizations in the community. They become structural members of the local community. This project confirms the significance of geographic proximity as a facilitator of knowledge exchange in university-society interaction (Winden & al., 2019). In addition to the credits obtained and the degree of knowledge acquired through community involvement, entrepreneurial education takes on another level.

In the traditional teaching of entrepreneurship, students are challenged to think about creating value through the development of new products, new business models, new market segments, but without considering the constraints of an existing company. Thinking about new products and services for established companies has other constraints. The topics usually developed are the recognition of opportunities, initial market studies, development of partnerships and others. The development of entrepreneurial corporate thinking should include topics such as innovating in a constrained environment, with fixed resources and market approaches, as is the reality of already established companies (Choi & Markhan, 2019).

5. Conclusion

Entrepreneurship programs of greater involvement and interaction between EI and society, such as Tourism Explorers and Tourism Train Experiences contribute to the development of networking and partnerships, forging deeper and closer relationships with society beyond the economic sphere (Widen & al., 2019). All stakeholders: students, businesses, local community, government agencies are benefactors. To support this process, in addition to key structures such as science parks, incubators, patent development and licensing, support for the development of university spin-offs, it is essential to develop new types of intermediary organisations (Widen & al., 2019). The development of these programs promotes greater integration between the university, students and young entrepreneurs and the local community, and encourages a wider range of educational activities for students and at the same time helps to revitalize the tourism industry.

Projects such as TE or TTE contribute to the development of entrepreneurial skills and entrepreneurial intention. They stimulate networking, involvement with the challenges of the local and global community, communication and learning among and with stakeholders within the entrepreneurial tourism ecosystem.

This paper presents an exploratory work based on the case study method using secondary data sources and participant observation. It has some limitations, related to the inexistence of relevant secondary data in the documental sources used for the analysis. Future research about the topic should include the collection and analysis of primary data, such as in-depth interviews and questionnaire surveys to participants and other organisations involved in the programmes, which will allow the processing and analysis of data that will contribute to reinforce the validation of the effects of these programmes on the development of innovation and cooperation networks in tourism.

Other more integrated engagement models can be developed according to the real needs and objectives of each community. For example, by stimulating learning within ecosystems, developing knowledge exchange structures between the university and companies, or involving students, researchers, and companies in solving community problems. Distribution of knowledge, means free circulation and use of knowledge by an unlimited range of economic agents, creating externalities that promote regional economic growth, i.e., knowledge transfer (Kochetkov & al., 2017).

The fourth revolution, as a driver of innovation and regional development, is incremental and complementary to the third. The more rooted and implemented the entrepreneurial university is, the better conditions will exist to move towards a more societal form of involvement with the community. Different realities, contexts and objectives will require adapted policies, thought out locally and globally, because identity and anchor products are local, the world is global and the balance between these dimensions may be the solution.

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