The Influence of the Local Ecosystem on Entrepreneurial Intentions: A Study With Entrepreneurs and Potential Entrepreneurs of Beja (Portugal) and Huelva (Spain)

The Influence of the Local Ecosystem on Entrepreneurial Intentions: A Study With Entrepreneurs and Potential Entrepreneurs of Beja (Portugal) and Huelva (Spain)

Sandra Saúde (Polytechnic Institute of Beja, Portugal & Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal), Patrícia Hermozilha (Polytechnic Institute of Beja, Portugal & Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal) and Juan Diego Borrero (Huelva University, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1981-3.ch006


This chapter focusses on the influence of the local ecosystem on entrepreneurial intentions (EI) of entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs (in specific, higher education management students) of Beja (Portugal) and Huelva (Spain). The study explored the influence and support of the surrounding ecosystem on entrepreneurial initiative. Data were collected through a questionnaire from two samples of 184 entrepreneurs (100 from Huelva and 84 from Beja) and 205 business management students (107 from Huelva and 98 from Beja). In spite of the diversity of the existing structures and support, the evidence showed that, contrary to the needs of the socioeconomic sustainability of Beja and Huelva, the local ecosystems are not recognized as favourable or encouraging the EI. There are no articulated strategies between the different institutional supporting actors and the creation of a new business is perceived as a very difficult path.
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The reflection focus of this chapter is on the relationship between local ecosystems and entrepreneurial intentions, based on the results obtained in a project carried out in Beja (Portugal) and Huelva (Spain) which aimed to characterize the perceived influence of ecosystems and surrounding structures (official structures including higher education institutions) on the development of entrepreneurial initiatives, such as new companies and new business ideas. For this purpose, the project analysed the opinions of:

  • Entrepreneurs with companies created within five years previous to the date of the study, in the municipalities of Beja and Huelva, and

  • Business management students at the Polytechnic Institute of Beja (IPBeja) and Huelva University (UHuelva).

Their opinion was solicited on the role of and the support provided by local structures to the dynamics of business creation and/or as promoters of entrepreneurial ideas. In a comprehensive perspective, the focus is on the analysis of the factors that influence the development of entrepreneurial intention (EI).

Entrepreneurship and the creation of new businesses are actually considered an important engine for growth, shaping not only the economic environment (Thai & Turkina, 2014), but also empowering the creativity and innovation power of individuals and organisations. Current governments, and their political actors, are increasingly aware of the social and economic benefits that come from creating and promoting new business (Bruton, Ahlstrom, & Li, 2010). This fact is particularly relevant especially in contexts marked by a high rate of unemployment and economic decline, which explains why numerous governments have shown increasing interest in the development of measures and creation of supporting structures to enhance entrepreneurial dynamics and intentions (Parker, 2009). It is considered necessary to develop a favourable and entrepreneurial-oriented culture that encourages risk and empowers decision-making, where the various institutions responsible for the formation and socialization of individuals play a fundamental role. The social and cultural context can play a relevant role in entrepreneurial dynamics if entrepreneurship is dynamised and fostered (Lackéus, 2015).

The question of how to encourage entrepreneurship has raised intensive academic interest and generated extensive research and debate (Redford, 2013). Entrepreneurs should not be seen as isolated and autonomous decision makers, but as actors who are influenced by micro- and macro-involving contexts (Millán, Congregado, & Román, 2010).

Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2001) confirms that the surrounding social environment plays a crucial role in shaping individual behaviour and knowledge. By structuring beliefs, values, and attitudes, the social and cultural environment influences the conduct and decisions of individuals, consequently determining entrepreneurial thoughts and actions (Dubini, 1989; Kent, 1984). In the context of entrepreneurial attitudes, various studies have shown that cultural variables influence entrepreneurship more than economic variables, since the former tend to be more permanent than the latter (García-Cabrera & García-Soto, 2008). Cultural values represent traits deeply rooted in the population and change relatively slowly (Hofstede, 1993; Ulhaner & Thurik, 2007), leaving a lasting imprint on entrepreneurial practices and on the profiles of business activity (Hechavarría, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Entrepreneurial Intentions: This represents the individual and/or of a group of people's intentions to create a new business/idea. Such an intention is a conscious mental state that precedes the action and directs attention towards the goal of establishing a new business.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: A territorial area/space including a variety of institutional and individual actors that foster and support the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and entrepreneurship, in a coordinated way. This regional area includes a diversity of actors associated with three dimensions: government-university-business.

Entrepreneurial Dynamics: This is represented by the volume of creation of new companies and/or new ideas. The entrepreneurial dynamics is proportional to the number of new companies created and/or new business solutions developed, aiming to solve existing problems.

Ecosystem: A set of interrelated elements within a specific territorial context. Relations of interdependence, communication and mutual influence are fundamental to the internal dynamics of any ecosystem.

Entrepreneurship: In the strictest view of entrepreneurship, the focus is on the mere analysis of how the individual can become an entrepreneur. In a more complete perspective, entrepreneurship focuses on aspects that enable the individual to develop an entrepreneurial attitude and resorts to approaches that value personal development and the enhancement of entrepreneurial competencies, such as creativity, self-confidence, initiative or action-oriented skills.

Business Venture: A start-up entity developed with the intent of making a financially profit. A business venture may also be considered a small business.

Low Density Territories: Territories displaying low demographic density (population per square kilometre) as well as weak economic density (GDP per capita, economic developments levels), both below national and European levels. Low density territories often combine these characteristics with physical and relational distance to centres of decision-making.

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