Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Cambodia: The Roles of Academic Institutions
Numerous studies have identified the importance of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem in stimulating and sustaining innovation and entrepreneurship. Local entrepreneurial ecosystems are made up of both formal and informal institutions, which include legal, economic, institutional, political, social and cultural factors. As well as providing various supports, including funding and incubation programs, higher education institutions create a space at the soft skills level that inspires entrepreneurial spirit and influences entrepreneurial orientation. Yet, although some studies have explored the development of the digital startup ecosystem and the role of universities in such development, meaningful literature and research overviewing the entrepreneurship and innovation landscape in Cambodia beyond the technology sector is lacking. This exploratory study addresses knowledge gaps in academic and policy debates that often failed to fully capture the dynamic and rapid development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cambodia over the past five years. It presents and analyses qualitative data collected from semi-structured interviews with startup founders, business and academic leaders involved in entrepreneurship centres and innovation and entrepreneurship education in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We found that the informal and micro nature of entrepreneurship in Cambodia necessitates professional development and education in business and management skills for entrepreneurs to grow their business. Universities are a pivotal actor in this regard, but experiences in France, Mexico, Singapore and the US show that it takes about two decades for university-based ecosystems to mature. Also needed is corresponding policy to ease transition from small entrepreneurial venture to more formal and high-growth oriented enterprise. This, in turn, calls for coordinated efforts by various policymaking bodies to strengthen entrepreneurship education.