Enhancing Quality in Triple Helix Dialogue: Navigating Research Frontiers and Submission Excellence

In: Triple Helix
Yuzhuo Cai Co-Editor in Chief of Triple Helix, Tampere University Finland

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Marcelo Amaral Co-Editor in Chief of Triple Helix, Fluminense Federal University Brazil

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In this editorial, we discuss the quality of submissions from the perspective of the Triple Helix editorial team, besides introducing the articles featured in this issue. Our discussion seeks to clarify three crucial elements of quality in Triple Helix dialogue: ensuring research aligns with the journal’s scope, comprehending the criteria that define a high-quality article, and addressing key gaps in Triple Helix research.

This focus arises from a few key observations. With the growing reputation of our journal, submissions have increased. However, many submissions do not align with our journal’s thematic focus, possibly due to misunderstandings about our scope. Moreover, we have had to decline some relevant submissions due to their insufficient quality. This highlights a need for clearer communication regarding the criteria used by editors and reviewers to evaluate submissions. Moreover, although the research we publish significantly contributes to Triple Helix studies and opens up new avenues for investigation, we encourage authors to delve further into these areas, especially by addressing key research gaps.

Our aim is to foster an informed and constructive dialogue between prospective authors and the editorial board, thereby enhancing the quality and relevance of submissions to the Triple Helix. This endeavour is crucial as the journal stands as a central pillar within the Triple Helix research community. As editors, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive support to our community members, facilitating the development of high-quality articles, rather than merely acting as gatekeepers. We firmly believe that your contributions are essential for the advancement of research in our field.

Understanding the Triple Helix Journal: Scope and Suitable Submissions

First and foremost, it is crucial to understand that the Triple Helix is specifically dedicated to research on the Triple Helix model, rather than being a general journal for innovation studies. Our unique focus is on the interconnections among universities, industries, governments, and societies, among other related subjects. As a key instrument of the Triple Helix Association, our journal serves as a conduit for disseminating scholarly work to a diverse audience, including academics, practitioners, and policymakers. This work primarily aligns with the theoretical framework established by Henry Etzkowitz and Loet Leydesdorff, known as the Triple Helix model. However, we are equally interested in scholarly endeavours that aim to expand, critique, and refine the model.

The Triple Helix has achieved significant milestones thanks to the dedication of its authors, reviewers, and editorial board members. Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2023, the journal was awarded its inaugural impact factor by the Web of Science, reaching 2.6. Additionally, its CiteScore on Scopus saw a remarkable improvement, rising from 3.3 in 2022 to 5.1 by the end of 2023, marking a substantial increase from 1.5 in 2021. Our goal is to elevate the Triple Helix to a Q1 journal, advancing from its current Q2 standing in both the Web of Science and Scopus indices.

From its inception in 2014, the Triple Helix has embraced the principles of open science to augment the impact of its publications. In an effort to alleviate the financial burden on authors, the Triple Helix Association (THA) has endeavoured to subsidise Article Processing Charges (APC) within its budgetary constraints. In a significant development, the THA has partnered with the Chinese Association for Science of Science and S&T Policy (CASSSP) to cover the APCs for accepted articles, ensuring their open access. In line with these initiatives, the Triple Helix, in collaboration with its publisher Brill, has updated its publication guidelines. Among the new measures, articles will now be limited to 8,000 words, a move aimed at controlling the publication expenses incurred by Brill.

To ensure relevance to the journal, we advise authors to consult our previous editorials (Cai & Amaral, 2021, 2022) for guidance on suitable themes for Triple Helix research. These include but are not limited to the following themes:

  1. Studies that apply and discuss one or more of the helical models, such as the Triple, Quadruple, or Quintuple Helix.

  2. Research that explores a specific helix, often focusing on either the university or industry sector, within a broader helical context.

  3. Investigations into entrepreneurial universities, a fundamental aspect of Triple Helix research.

These areas represent the core interests of the journal and provide a clear direction for authors considering submissions. Contributions can come from theoretical, empirical, and methodological perspectives.

Defining Criteria for High-Quality Articles

During the Editors Sessions at the Triple Helix Conferences in 2022 and 2023, we identified and deliberated on several recurring issues within articles submitted to the Triple Helix. These include:

  1. Absence of a research gap: Some submissions fail to identify a unique research gap, which is essential for contributing new knowledge to the field. Identifying a gap demonstrates an understanding of the current state of research and highlights the novelty and necessity of the proposed study.

  2. Lack of a defined research question or purpose: It is often seen that articles do not articulate a clear research question or purpose. This foundational element guides the study’s direction and objectives, providing clarity on what the research aims to achieve or uncover. It is important to note that a research question should address the identified research gap.

  3. Minimal engagement with Triple Helix literature: We observed that certain submissions insufficiently engage with existing Triple Helix literature. Robust engagement is critical as it demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of the field, positions the research within the wider academic discourse, and contributes to the collective body of knowledge in Triple Helix research.

  4. Misinterpretation of the Triple Helix model: Some articles misunderstand the Triple Helix model’s principles or only superficially apply the concept. Accurate comprehension and application of the model are crucial for the research to be relevant and contribute meaningfully to the Triple Helix discourse.

  5. Methodological rigour deficiencies: A notable concern in some submissions is the absence of methodological rigour. This aspect is essential for affirming the reliability and validity of research outcomes. It is imperative that articles meticulously detail their research methodology, encompassing design, data collection, and analysis techniques, to bolster the study’s integrity and scholarly value.

  6. Limited scholarly contribution: Some submissions exhibit a weak scholarly contribution, lacking significant theoretical or practical insights. High-quality articles should offer robust contributions, either by advancing theory, offering new empirical insights, or suggesting practical implications for policy or practice.

  7. Inadequate academic writing: The quality of academic writing in some submissions does not meet the expected standard. Effective academic writing is pivotal for clearly conveying research findings, arguments, and contributions. Articles should be well-structured, coherent, and adhere to academic writing conventions to facilitate understanding and engagement by the scholarly community.

Addressing these issues is paramount for authors aspiring to contribute to the Triple Helix, ensuring their work aligns with the journal’s standards and advances the field of Triple Helix research.

Identifying Research Gaps in Triple Helix Studies

Guidelines for identifying a research gap through literature analysis are readily available in research methodology textbooks. However, in practice, there may be a disconnect between the principles learned from textbooks and the actual process of writing a article. Here, we remind essential steps to identify and justify research gaps:

Step one involves situating your study within the relevant literature, which is typically segmented into various research areas or categories. This foundational step not only delineates where your research fits but also initiates a dialogue with existing studies.

In step two, it is crucial to evaluate how the literature in each category contributes to your research, effectively standing on the ‘shoulders of giants’ to obtain a comprehensive overview of the field. This requires a critical examination of the extent to which these previous studies have shed light on your research.

Step three emerges naturally from the insights gained in the first two steps. At this juncture, you need to articulate how existing research has not fully addressed your inquiry, thereby highlighting the research gaps.

While we strongly recommend that authors adhere to these conventional approaches for identifying a research gap, we also encourage them to consider future research directions suggested by recent publications. Typically, at the end of a research article, authors discuss further challenges and questions that need to be addressed in future studies. Our editors are also Triple Helix researchers. Here, we want to share some exampling research gaps we have identified in Triple Helix studies.

Gaps in Theorising the Triple Helix

In the article ‘Theorizing the Triple Helix model: Past, present, and future’, Cai and Etzkowitz (2020) identify several future research areas suggested by their analysis. These suggested research areas aim to expand the Triple Helix model’s theoretical depth and practical relevance, acknowledging the need to adapt and evolve the framework to address the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing global innovation landscape.

  1. Civil society’s role: The article advocates for a deeper exploration of civil society’s role within the Triple Helix framework, arguing that while it’s crucial, it shouldn’t be considered a separate helix but rather an integral part of the interactive innovation process among the traditional university-industry-government triad.

  2. Global and transnational interactions: The article suggests examining the Triple Helix model’s applicability and dynamics in a global context, where innovation systems are increasingly interconnected beyond local or national boundaries. This involves considering how globalisation affects Triple Helix interactions and outcomes.

  3. Trust and social capital: The importance of trust among Triple Helix actors (universities, industries, governments) is highlighted as a critical factor for successful collaboration. The article suggests future studies should investigate how trust is built and maintained within these complex relationships and how it influences innovation processes.

  4. Linking macro-level structures to micro-level dynamics: The article calls for research that bridges the gap between the overarching Triple Helix framework and the individual actions and interactions that occur within it. This includes studying how institutional logics, personal networks, and individual agency contribute to the overall innovation ecosystem.

  5. Ethical and normative aspects: The authors propose that future research should also address the ethical implications of the Triple Helix model, including the responsibilities of each helix actor towards sustainable and socially responsible innovation.

Cai and Amaral (2022) highlight the importance of integrating the Triple Helix model with Sustainable Development and Social Innovation research. They advocate for adopting a Triple Helix lens to examine sustainable development and social innovation, underscoring the need to adapt the model to modern societal shifts. Additionally, they suggest incorporating perspectives from the Quadruple and Quintuple Helix models, aiming to create a holistic framework for innovation ecosystems that foster sustainability.

Gaps in Measuring the Triple Helix Model

In one of our earlier editorials, we outlined several directions for the operationalisation of the Triple Helix model, encompassing the dimensions below (Cai & Amaral, 2022):

  1. Development of comprehensive measures: We have observed a growing interest in advancing quantitative measures to more accurately capture bilateral and trilateral interactions and synergies within the Triple Helix framework. This involves refining existing indicators and methodologies, such as those developed by Loet Leydesdorff, to assess the strength of synergy with greater precision.

  2. Efficiency measurement: We highlight a gap in the measurement of the Triple Helix model’s efficiency, particularly in how effectively the innovation system’s inputs are converted into outputs by the Triple Helix actors. Regardless of some promising pioneer research in this direction (Jovanović et al., 2022), future research should aim to develop indices or methods that quantify the efficiency of Triple Helix interactions.

  3. Social network analysis: We recommend further exploring the use of quantitative social network analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the intersections among the helices. This approach would entail mapping and analysing the networks of relationships between academia, industry, and government, thereby revealing insights into how these connections support innovation (as we published on Schocair et al., 2023).

  4. Incorporation of new techniques: Given the growing complexity of relationships among innovation process actors, conventional social science methods may fall short in analysing Triple Helix interactions. We suggest that future research should investigate the use of novel techniques, such as machine learning, to address these challenges and offer more nuanced analyses of the Triple Helix model’s dynamics.

Gaps in Understanding the Relationship between Triple Helix and Other Similar Models

In the editorial for the special issue ‘Triple, Quadruple, and Quintuple Helix models’, Amaral and Cai (2022) highlights the needs for integrating Triple, Quadruple, and Quintuple Helix models. Cai and Lattu (2022) further demonstrate how Triple Helix and Quadruple Helix could complementary and create synergies for better understating the modern society. Within the special issues several new concepts were proposed for developing synergy building among these models., such as the Neo-Triple Helix model of innovation ecosystem (Cai, 2022) and Emerging Unified Theory of Helical Architectures (EUTOHA) (Carayannis & Campbell, 2022).

The Neo-Triple Helix model identifies two kinds of helices: 1) the local layer of university – industry – government that foster ‘innovation genes’ or innovation dynamics) and 2) the global layer of interactions between innovation genes, social structures and the natural environment. These helices generate innovation dynamics and sustainable development dynamics, respectively. An innovation system is driven mainly by innovation dynamics, but an innovation ecosystem requires both innovation dynamics and sustainable development dynamics. (Cai, 2022).

The EUTOHA provides a comprehensive framework for understanding helical dynamics for innovation and sustainabile development, integrating both the Triple Helix model, which elucidates the dynamics of knowledge production and innovation, and the Quadruple/Quintuple Helix models, which frame innovation ecosystems. This combination is crucial for both research and policy analysis, with each model offering complementary insights. (Carayannis & Campbell, 2022).

These novel conceptual frameworks necessitate further development through detailed theoretical elaborations. Additionally, they require bolstering with empirical evidence to enhance their validity and applicability. These suggested future research areas also highlight the evolving nature of innovation studies and the need to continuously adapt and expand theoretical models to reflect changes in society and the innovation landscape.

Gaps in Applying the Triple Helix Model in Diverse Contexts

A decade ago, Cai (2014) highlighted the issue of contextual sensitivity within the Triple Helix model, noting a significant gap in comprehensive theoretical understandings and empirical evidence concerning its applicability in non-Western contexts. To bridge this gap, he incorporated the institutional logics perspective into the Triple Helix framework, positing that the development of the Triple Helix is contingent upon the institutional context of the region in question. Specifically, Cai examined the interaction between China’s distinctive social norms, practices, and policies and the Triple Helix model, revealing a unique trajectory for its development. Despite these promising efforts, critiques persist that Triple Helix literature does not adequately explain the model’s applicability to various phenomena in developing countries, as noted by Liche and Braun Střelcová (2023).

Cai and Amaral (2021) emphasise the importance of boundaries of applying the Triple Helix model in terms of both its analysis scope and explanatory power. We argue that exploring the Triple Helix models in various contexts unveils an additional, contextual dimension, to enrich our comprehension of the model’s boundaries.

Articles in this Issue

This edition presents four articles on collaboration, innovation, and learning in various contexts. The first, titled ‘Collaboration in innovation systems: a study in India’ examines the complex business environment and rapid technological advancements that necessitate firms to rely on innovation and collaboration. It explores the innovation behaviour of firms in India, framing collaboration within the systems theory and Triple Helix model context. The study reveals a fragile collaboration framework and suggests critical factors from industry and academia perspectives to enhance this framework.

In the subsequent article, ‘University – Industry collaboration and innovation in low-tech Industries: the case of Brazil’ the authors examine the influence of university-industry collaborations (UIC) on innovation within low-technology sectors. Employing the csQCA method to analyse secondary data from Brazil, the research indicates that the most profound collaborations in knowledge and resource exchange, notably those oriented towards development and research, significantly enhance firm innovativeness. The article also recommends that firms concentrate their efforts on a single type of UIC, rather than dispersing their resources across various UIC forms.

The third article, ‘Learning in cities from within and across cities: a scoping review’ addresses the significance of contextual innovations and development in managing the emerging behaviours of cities. The study reviews relevant literature to pinpoint frameworks for human-centric innovations in urban settings that incorporate learning from both within and across cities. Drawing on the outcomes of a scoping review and theories of the helices, the authors propose a high-level conceptual model portraying cities as innovation ecosystems.

The final article in this issue, ‘Demand-oriented science and technology parks: a new tool for innovation policy’ addresses the increasing focus on demand-side policies in recent years, contrasting with the traditional view of science and technology (S&T) parks as supply-side innovation policy tools. The research develops two S&T park management models derived from two surveys, demonstrating that demand-oriented policies outperform supply-side approaches. The authors recommend a shift in S&T parks regarding ownership, funding sources, tenant incentives, and connections, from supply-side to demand-side models.


  • Cai, Y. (2014). Implementing the Triple Helix model in a non-Western context: an institutional logics perspective. Triple Helix, 1(1), 120, Article 1.

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  • Cai, Y. (2022). Neo-Triple Helix model of innovation ecosystems: integrating Triple, Quadruple and Quintuple Helix models. Triple Helix, 9(1), 76106.

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  • Cai, Y., & Amaral, M. (2021). The Triple Helix model and the future of innovation: a reflection on the Triple Helix research agenda. Triple Helix, 8(2), 217229.

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  • Cai, Y., & Amaral, M. (2022). Triple Helix model of innovation: from boundaries to frontiers. Triple Helix, 9(2), 107117.

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  • Cai, Y., & Etzkowitz, H. (2020). Theorizing the Triple Helix model: past, present, and future. Triple Helix Journal, 138.

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  • Cai, Y., & Lattu, A. (2022). Triple Helix or Quadruple Helix: which model of innovation to choose for empirical studies? Minerva, 60(2), 257280.

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  • Carayannis, E. G., & Campbell, D. F. J. (2022). Towards an Emerging Unified Theory of Helix Architectures (EUTOHA): Focus on the Quintuple innovation Helix framework as the integrative device. Triple Helix, 9, 6575.

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  • Jovanović, M., Savić, G., Cai, Y., & Levi-Jakšić, M. (2022). Towards a Triple Helix based efficiency index of innovation systems. Scientometrics.

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  • Liche, M. B., & Braun Střelcová, A. (2023). The pathway towards Triple Helix: technology development evaluation in Ethiopian science and technology universities. Triple Helix, 10(1), 1239.

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  • Schocair, M. M., Dias, A. A., Galina, S. V. R., & Amaral, M. (2023). The evolution of the Triple Helix thematic: a social networks analysis. Triple Helix, 9(3), 325368.

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