Innovation Ecosystem Analysis and Strengthening

2020 – Present


Elizabeth Hoffecker
Principal Investigator

Sher Vogel
MIT D-Lab Global Trainings Manager  

Molly Wenig Rubenstein
MIT D-Lab Innovation Ecosystem Manager (former) 

Marcelo Tedesco
MIT D-Lab Research Affiliate


Ashesi University  

Global Ecosystem Dynamics   



Banco Santander 

USAID’s Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub within the Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) 


Identifying opportunities and effective strategies for strengthening local innovation ecosystems   

Project Overview 

Local innovation ecosystems enable places to produce innovation and sustain processes of innovation over time, yet they are complex phenomena that are not well-defined and as such, are challenging to analyze and assess.  This ongoing project brings theory and practice together to shed light on what local innovation ecosystems are and contain, how they function, why they matter for development, and what practical steps can be taken to grow and strengthen them.  

Our work ranges from creating frameworks and conceptual models to developing applied methods for identifying and convening ecosystem actors. Running through this work is an interest in identifying and sharing effective strategies for developing and strengthening local innovation ecosystems that can be applied across diverse contexts. The findings from this research are shared broadly with practitioners and ecosystem-builders through presentations, webinars, and workshops, which the Local Innovation Group delivers with collaborators around the world.  

Key Findings 

Local innovation ecosystems are complex, adaptive, place-based systems defined by structural features–including actors, infrastructure, resources, other elements, and relationships between these elements—that give rise to functions that the system performs in service of its purpose. Strengthening innovation ecosystems requires identifying the desired purpose of the system and assessing both structural and functional assets and needs as they relate to desired functions necessary to achieve the system’s purpose. 

Related Publications 

Facilitating Innovation Ecosystem Strengthening: Lessons from the Next i2i Program (MIT D-Lab Publication, 2021) 

Understanding Innovation Ecosystems: A Framework for Joint Analysis and Action (MIT D-Lab Publication, 2019)

News, Blog, and Video

Cómo potenciar el ecosistema innovador de tu ciudad desde un espacio maker (Video, La Hora Maker, 2019) 

Why Cultivating Your Innovation Ecosystem is Worth the Work (SSIR Online, 2018) 

Enabling Innovation Ecosystems in Emerging Markets: Key Challenges and Five Recommendations (MIT D-Lab blog, 2016)




Next Project: Assessing Local Innovation Capacity