Summary of master’s thesis, ‘The Quadruple Helix Partnership’. Research into the role of the fourth helix in  ̶  and the design of  ̶   the Quadruple Helix model.

The Netherlands is facing a number of significant social challenges, including healthier aging, affordable care, and a safer Netherlands in which to live and work. Technological advances are needed to tackle societal challenges. These demonstrate a clear need to join forces. The government, industry and knowledge institutions alone (the Triple Helix) cannot be responsible for providing solutions to social challenges. It appears that citizens also play a vital role in the success of innovation processes.

The addition of the citizen, as a fourth helix in the Triple Helix partnership, is known as the Quadruple Helix model. The most effective way of involving citizens in the Quadruple Helix model is currently unclear. Relatively little research has been done into the practical implementation of the Quadruple Helix model, while at the same time this new phenomenon is increasingly attracting the attention of governments, knowledge institutions and industry. It is also unclear what role citizens should play in the innovation process.

Raveena Fakirmohamed’s research focuses on Quadruple Helix collaboration in the innovation process and attempts to answer the following main research question:

Research question

Which form of design for a Quadruple Helix collaboration model is most effective for increasing citizen participation in the innovation process?

In a theoretical context, the different forms of Quadruple Helix model are already outlined. By analysing the roles of citizens in the Quadruple Helix model and the innovation process, possible means of participation, and the conditions that the Quadruple Helix collaboration must meet during the innovation process, an attempt is made to select a single approach. The research was carried out by conducting eight expert interviews with researchers from research organizations and various people who have an affinity with  ̶   or work in  ̶   a Quadruple Helix collaboration.

What roles do citizens play?

The results show that in a Quadruple Helix model the term citizen in the doesn’t have a single unambiguous definition. The term is only defined once the purpose of the collaboration has been established. In the Quadruple Helix model, the term ‘citizen’ is context dependent and encompasses more than is currently defined in literature. Citizens are seen as a source of knowledge and experience, which means that the terms super-user, expert and end-user more appropriate. With this in mind, it can be concluded that citizens play two crucial roles in a Quadruple Helix collaboration – the role of connector and the role of discussion partner.

In addition to the roles in the Quadruple Helix model, the specific roles that citizens fulfil in each phase of the innovation process were also examined. This demonstrated that citizens fill five specific roles, namely: Receiver of information; informant; advisor; co-producer; and co-decision maker. Role fulfilment and the division of roles, however, depends on the objective of both citizen participation and the innovation process, the context of the innovation process and the target group. This makes it impossible to determine the roles of citizens prior to the innovation process.

An analysis of the means of participation that can be used in each phase of the innovation process was subsequently made. It was clear from this, that simply deploying participants is not effective. Based on the objectives of the innovation process, careful consideration should be given to which means of participation are required. Finally, an analysis of the conditions that a Quadruple Helix collaboration must meet in order to effectively involve citizens in the innovation process, was made. From this, the conclusion was reached, that a collaboration must meet the following conditions: (A) Government participation; (B) transparency; (C) management of expectations; and (D) offer potential for action.


Based on the analysis above, it can be concluded that no single form of the Quadruple Helix model is the most effective at involving citizens in the innovation process. Based on the analysis, it appears that a merger of the Citizen-Centred Quadruple Helix form and the Public Sector-Centred Living Lab form does however offer this possibility.

For this, a solid foundation must first be created using the Citizen-Centred Quadruple Helix. This form focuses on stimulating citizens’ initiatives and the development of innovative products and services that meet the needs and desires of citizens. The Government, knowledge institutions and the market play a supporting role in this. Subsequently, the Public Sector-Centred Living Lab form provides direction and a framework for the innovation process. The Government plays an important role and has a relatively high degree of influence on the effectiveness of citizen participation.

This master thesis (Dutch only) can be requested via the contact page.