ESMEE – Enabling Societal Missions through Entrepreneurial Ecosystems


Project lead

Erik Stam
Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship & Organization
Prof. dr. Erik Stam (main applicant; UU, project director, co-lead WP2, WP4, WP5) is full professor and a world-leading scholar on entrepreneurial ecosystems and economic development. He is an engaged scholar with active involvement in the science and practice of entrepreneurship-led development. He has (helped) set up and led many projects, organisations and programmes at the interface of science and (policy and entrepreneurial) practice. Examples are his involvement in innovation policy at the Scientific Council of Government Policy (WRR), OECD, European Commission, and the Ministries of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands and abroad, but also his frequent involvement in regional development policy with Dutch RDAs, economic boards, and municipalities. Read more

Science lead

Frank van Rijnsoever
Associate professor innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability
Dr. Frank van Rijnsoever (co-applicant; UU, science lead, co-lead WP2, WP1, WP3, WP5) is associate professor at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, who specializes in innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability. He is an authority on entrepreneurial ecosystems and sustainable entrepreneurship. In his work, he links theories from entrepreneurship to socio-technical transitions and applies the resulting insights to the topics of clean energy and the food transition. He regularly applies topic models to understand EEs and SE. His work was funded by NWO (Veni, MVI), and the EU-Climate KIC program. In addition, he worked as senior researcher at the Rathenau Instituut. This enables him to bring scientific insights into the societal debate. Read more

Learning community lead

Christine De Lille
Professor of Innovation Networks
Prof. dr. ir. Christine De Lille (co-applicant, HH, lead WP5) is Professor of Innovation Networks at De Haagse Hogeschool, Professor of Design at Northumbria University and Assistant Professor at Delft University of Technology. She has extensive experience in systemic design, building and scaling ecosystems and co-design. She has worked with multiple industries in the past such as the manufacturing industry (SMITZH), textile (CRISP), aviation (with KLM, Schiphol in a Horizon 2020 project) and retail industry (Future Proof Retail). She is currently co-applicant of the SPRONG Systemic co-design, core member of Network of Applied Design Research, Board member of Fundamentals Academy and a former board member of Design Management Network.

Policy lead

Jasper Deuten
Coordinator knowledge ecosystems
Dr. ir. Jasper Deuten (co-applicant, Rathenau Instituut, lead WP3, WP5) is theme coordinator of knowledge ecosystems at the Rathenau Instituut. Jasper focuses on public policies for, and the governance of, research and innovation. A main research question is how science and innovation ecosystems can be better mobilised to meet societal challenges. In recent projects, he studied the design of challenge-driven and mission-oriented innovation policies and programmes. Before he joined the Rathenau Instituut he worked as a consultant for Technopolis, an international consultancy in the field of research and innovation policy. He is experienced at working for, and with, policymakers and other professionals in the field of research and innovation. Read more

Impact lead

Marcel Kleijn
General secretary of the regional development agencies

Research Team

Armand van Oostrom
Senior Lecturer Innovation Networks
Armand mainly focuses research his activities on the role of networks in successfully innovating in sustainability in small and medium sized enterprises. Read more
Fabia Beckers
PhD candidate
Fabia a PhD candidate at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, where she studies the effects of entrepreneurial ecosystems properties on sustainable entrepreneurship in Europe through a quantitative lens. Furthermore, her research position is part of the ESMEE project. This project aims to improve regional ecosystems for sustainable entrepreneurship by using a data-driven dialogue between the scientific community, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and other stakeholders.

Her current focus is on using open data and natural language processing techniques to identify the sustainable startups in Europe and to measure their economic - and climate performance over time. Furthermore, she studies how different financial support network configurations affect the success of startups across different emerging sectors. Read more
Rebecca Hemmes
PhD candidate
Rebecca Hemmes is a PhD at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. She is researching the impact of science on sustainable EU policy. Moreover, she will look at the role of universities in entrepreneurial ecosystems, and how their impact can be improved through education. Read more
Robert McDonald
PhD candidate
Robert McDonald is a PhD candidate at the Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.). His research interests revolve around the fields of spatial economics, entrepreneurial ecosystems, innovation, and complexity theory. Robert applies these research interests to the agri-food system, with the aim of advising policy on the sustainable consumption and production of food.

Robert currently works as a researcher at the Utrecht University School of Economics. Prior to beginning his PhD, he worked as a Junior Lecturer for several years. Robert has lectured on the programmes: Economics and Business Economics and Philosophy, Politics and Economics, alongside giving guest lectures as part of the Interdisciplinary Course Food 4 Health & Safety (F4HS).

Robert's research interests revolve around system dynamics and complexity theory. Before working as a researcher, Robert has also worked within the Centre for Complex System Studies for several years. Lecture themes that were organised by Robert have included: Transitions within Complex Systems, Complexity and Society, Scaling in Complex Systems and Complex Systems Views on Fundamental Issues.
Read more
Stefan Kwant
PhD candidate
Stefan Kwant is an innovation scientist with a technical background in Computer Science. He is a PhD candidate at both the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development and at Utrecht School of Economics, both part of Utrecht University. He investigates the regional factors that influence the functioning of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Specifically, he looks at the role of established companies (Incumbents) in either impeding or facilitating the energy transition. The ultimate goal is to discover and quantify the factors influencing sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems through a data-and-dialogue-driven approach. Read more
Floris Bex
Associate professor Application of AI techniques to social issues
Floris Bex is computer scientist at Utrecht University. He is associate professor in Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University, full professor of Data Science and the Judiciary at Tilburg University, and director of the National Police-lab AI (NPAI). He has worked on the use of AI techniques in the social domain, such as law, since his PhD in 2009, having published extensively and led international interdisciplinary (legal, psychological and technical) consortia on the subject. As professor at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society he participates in the Digital legal Studies programme, where he employs data science and language processing techniques to make sense of legal documents. His work as director of the NPAI and AI advisor to the Dutch Council for the Judiciary creates substantial societal impact. Read more
Janpieter van der Pol
Assistant professor
Frans van der Zee
Senior researcher
Frans focuses on technology and innovation policy and the governance of innovation, the characteristics and future-proofing of the Dutch knowledge ecosystem, the transition to a sustainable economy, and new perspectives on economy and society (broad prosperity, beyond growth, planetary boundaries). Read more
Friedemann Polzin
Associate professor
Friedemann Polzin is Associate Professor at Utrecht University School of Economics (section Entrepreneurship), Sustainable Finance Lab (SFL), European Centre for Alternative Finance (ECAF), and has been a visiting researcher at SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. He is also a senior advisor to the Sustainable Business Institute (SBI) in Germany. Friedemann holds a PhD in Business Economics from EBS Business School and a MSc in Business Administration from the University of Jena. He investigates the financing of sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship, corresponding organizational, legal and institutional arrangements as well as the political environment required for a transition towards a green economy. His work has been published in leading innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability and energy journals as well as practioner outlets. Read more