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A Theory About Innovation

This animation is a three-dimensional representation of the triple-helix model of innovation production, with the three coloured strands representing the relationship between industry, government and academic centres. Reproduction courtesy of Loet Leydesdorff, University of AmsterdamWhen we try to understand complex phenomenon we use models that allow us to visualize and observe processes at work that are hard to understand otherwise. When it comes to innovation and technology transfer, an important model is the "Triple Helix Theory".

The triple helix theory is based on the shape of the DNA molecule, called a helix. If you look at the animation on the left, you will see three strands that wrap around one another like the weaving of a rope. Each one of these strands represents a different part of society. One is "University," one is "Government" and one is "Industry." The resulting image of three intertwining strands shows that innovation does not come from any one of these three parts of society, but instead from their interaction.

In industrialized nations, the importance of government involvement in innovation is becoming clearer all the time and the triple helix model helps us to understand the importance of the interactions between universities, governments and industry. Each of these bodies relies on the results of the other for innovation, the advancement of research and funding. None of the three works in a vacuum and each may even replicate many functions found in another individual strand.

Innovation needs all three strands in order to be created and transferred to society. The opportunities for cooperation between the strands are great in number indeed. While this is a complex process, models like the triple helix makes understanding innovation and society easier.

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