Evolution process of an innovation ecosystem: case of the Alibaba Cloud Computing ecosystem in China

  • Jiaying Li

Student thesis: Phd


Innovation system approach has been adopted widely to explain the differences in innovative performances systematically in recent decades. However, most analyses in the field are quasi-static and the evolutionary features in innovation systems are ignored. Scholars called for solutions to realise a more dynamic analysis, and the ecosystem concept, which emphasises the dynamic evolutionary characteristics in an innovation system, emerged. Scholars have pointed out that the evolution process in an innovation ecosystem is to be explored. This study aims to bridge this gap. Drawing upon the Triple Helix model, the study engaged in a cloud computing innovation ecosystem in China (the ACC ecosystem) to reveal how an innovation ecosystem evolves in terms of actor interactions. The case ecosystem was divided into three stages to identify its evolution process: birth stage, expansion stage, and maturity stage. The findings revealed that in the birth stage, the industry helix is a main contributor by building the ecosystem platform for actors to innovate on, and the government helix supported the ecosystem formation by providing a good environment. In the expansion stage, the government helix exerted significant influence on the ecosystem by raising the ecosystem reputation and guided the development of the ecosystem. The industry helix contributed in expanding markets by service and region and solving problems caused by the rapid expansion. The three helices collaborated to increase innovation variety in the ecosystem to support its expansion. In the maturity stage, collaborations among the three helices increased and the academia helix began to take more responsibilities. To conclude, a dynamic evolution process of helices’ interactions was disclosed in the study, which is the main contribution of this research. By integrating the Triple Helix model to classify actors, the study provides a framework for future studies to analyse actor roles and interactions in an innovation ecosystem. In addition, the study provides an empirical contribution to the cloud ecosystem field. Practical implications for the three helices to contribute to innovation ecosystem development are given. Research limitations and future research directions are delineated.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorYin-Fang Zhang (Supervisor) & Ping Gao (Supervisor)


  • Triple Helix model
  • Alibaba Cloud
  • Cloud computing
  • Innovation ecosystem
  • Evolution process

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