Examining the Institutional Influences Shaping the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Saudi Arabia

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Drawing upon the existing literature that bridges institutions and entrepreneurship, the overarching aim of this doctoral study is to explore the influence of institutional forces on entrepreneurial ecosystems by embedding the lens of institutional theory. Three qualitative research papers have been developed to address this research aim. The first phase of this study is comprised of a comprehensive review of the literature on entrepreneurial ecosystems and institutions in order to understand ecosystem dynamics and contextualise entrepreneurial ecosystems. Building on the literature review, the first paper pays close attention to the role of institutions within entrepreneurial ecosystems and generates a proposed framework to examine the intersection between the three pillars of institutional theory and the entrepreneurial ecosystem attributes of Spigel’s (2015) framework. The integrated framework inspired the second paper which aims to generate empirical evidence of the interplay between different institutional forces and the key elements of entrepreneurial ecosystem. The second paper principally focuses on business incubators as crucial players in entrepreneurial ecosystems, revealing a multi-level interplay between the contextually unique institutional elements that have a demonstrable impact on business incubators’ role in Saudi Arabia. These institutional elements include regulatory influences such as bureaucracy and investment laws regulating finance for local entrepreneurs, as well as the normative influences of informal supports from family and friends, and the norms of wasta. The third research paper applies the lens of institutional logics to examine the influences of digitalisation on entrepreneurship processes. The study reveals that digitalisation affects every stage of the entrepreneurship process, along with other established logics operating on both the socio-cultural and economic levels. This thesis makes multiple contributions to knowledge, policy and practice. First, it generates new insights into the intersection between the three pillars of institutional theory and the attributes of entrepreneurial ecosystems. It then advances understanding of a context-specific entrepreneurial ecosystem by examining the interplay between different institutions and business incubators as key actors in entrepreneurial ecosystems, particularly in Saudi Arabia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Incorporation of institutional theory in entrepreneurial ecosystems provides the potential to help develop a deeper theoretical understanding of context-specific entrepreneurial ecosystem. The theoretical contribution of this study further underlines the importance of multiple institutional logics and the new logic of digitalisation in the process of digital entrepreneurship in a transition economy. The study provides fresh insights for practitioners by examining their ecosystems through the lens of institutional theory and institutional logics to consider the major institutional forces and challenges at play within their national contexts. It then offers a number of policy implications while making practical recommendations for policymakers, business incubator managers and entrepreneurs working in today’s entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Entrepreneurship, ecosystem, Saudi Arabia, Institutions, Institutional Theory