The term ‘innovation ecosystem’ has become popular among stakeholders involved in innovation. The core idea is that innovation does not thrive through isolated actions of individual companies, but rather depends on a broad array of interrelated actors, institutions and policies. In this paper, we apply the concept of innovation ecosystems to ports by first providing a theoretical overview of its components and then comparing the efforts to build such an ecosystem in the port cities of Rotterdam and Valencia. Our main findings are as follows. First, the importance of innovation for the ability of ports to continue to create ‘value for society’ is widely acknowledged. Second, research and development (R&D) activities in both Rotterdam and Valencia are relatively limited and the dominant innovation challenge is the early application of new technologies developed outside the ports industry. Third, a ‘systemic approach’ is required to understand the innovation ecosystem in ports, given the strong interrelations among companies in the port and the need for broad coalitions to implement new technologies. Fourth and fifth, human capital formation and research cooperation, respectively, play a central role in improving the port innovation ecosystem. Finally, the ecosystem in Rotterdam is ‘distributed and connected’ while Valencia is more centralised.
This paper advances the conceptual understanding of strategies of port development companies (PDCs) through applying the business ecosystem perspective. This leads to a distinction between four stylized strategies for PDCs and associated types of services: minimalist (six services), integrator (six services) and ecosystem services (six services). An analysis of the services provided by a PDC reveals which strategy they follow. This approach is tested through a case study of Port of Rotterdam Authority (PoR for short) the state-owned PDC in charge of developing Rotterdam's port complex. This case study yields three important conclusions: first the relevance of the identified service types is confirmed, as PoR is or has been active in providing 15 of the 18 identified service types, more specifically all six ‘minimalist services’, all six ‘ecosystem services’ and three of the six ‘integrator services’. Second, PoR follows a ‘platform provider’ strategy. Third, the provision of ‘ecosystem services’ seems to become a more important part of PoRs activities. The number of provided ecosystem services has grown between 2006 and 2021 and investments in ecosystem services account for an increasing share of PoRs total investments. These results provide a basis for further research, amongst others to better understand factors that may influence the strategies of PDCs.