While foresight literature and roadmap practices have their roots in dynamic capabilities  and absorptive capacity  traditions, the ecosystem literature is based on the innovation system and clustering literatures, for example [27, 28]. A common denominator for both constructs is that they are the subject of interest of strategy scholars. Essentially, the ecosystem literature emphasises collaborative relationships and knowledge sharing as important concepts of business and management studies. The ecosystem is a fairly new concept, and therefore, it creates conceptual ambiguity for ecosystem research, given its resemblance to other closely related concepts such as interorganisational networks, clusters, geographical regions or platforms . The research is further challenged by the empirical ambiguity, given that the ecosystem often integrates concepts of different ecosystems, such as a knowledge ecosystem, a technology ecosystem and a business ecosystem being integrated to an innovation ecosystem, as they help to obtain and create value for the knowledge created [29, 30] — for variation in ecosystems, see also Jacobides et al. . Another challenge for research is that the ecosystem is introduced as a concept that intentionally neglects human agency , which complicates the identification of the actor but forces us to concentrate on processes.
The above ambiguities raise critical debates on the ecosystem concept, and Oh et al. , for instance, argue that the concept of innovation ecosystems does not bring anything new to the discussion about innovation systems, as it is factually used to refer to innovation systems. Regardless of the lack of consensus in the literature, the ecosystem concept has become an increasingly prominent tool in an innovation-driven growth policy, since it promotes not only traditional cooperation but also co-creation, which is seen as key to innovation both in private and public spheres. In growth policy thinking, the innovation ecosystems widen innovation activity from sectoral silos and promote cross-sectoral and cross-regional dialogues. In this study, we choose to follow the innovation ecosystem literature in combination with the value co-creation [19, 33, 34] concept, as they offer a holistic view of the diverse interacting elements needed for knowledge exchange in an emerging ecosystem, which is, in addition, in need of forming a common vision with stakeholders, urging cross-sectoral knowledge and technological complementarities for novel solutions and engaging citizens to improve awareness, recognition and acceptability.
Here, an innovation is seen as the result of a complex process of interactions between a dynamic configuration of knowledge and stakeholders. For instance, complex societal challenges, such as extending cybersecurity beyond national borders, demand systemic innovations which need attention from several stakeholders and collaboration between private and public actors.
Innovations are produced through a complex and continuously evolving system of relationships involving state, academia, industry and civil society . Given the systemic view on innovation, in this study, the innovation ecosystem is understood as a complex system that aims to generate new knowledge combinations, i.e. innovation . While business ecosystems focus on value capture, innovation ecosystems concentrate instead on shared value creation [36, 37].
Many innovation ecosystems, especially in the emerging phase, are highly dependent on processes in the macro environment, e.g. regulatory frameworks [38, 39] that shape cognitive frameworks, like a common vision and legitimacy [40, 41]. Processes such as value creation and knowledge exchange are at the core of the innovation ecosystem approach. Although innovation activity also takes place outside ecosystems, the basis of ecosystem thinking is that bringing actors who previously acted in their own sectors and silos together will accumulate shared value and knowledge and make innovation more probable and sustainable. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge in the innovation ecosystem context that innovations are not only disruptive and radical market-changing technologies , but the ecosystemic way of working also produces solutions and incremental innovations in both the product and the service domains. Overall, innovation is seen to extend beyond technological aspects, making the innovation ecosystem embedded in the knowledge society and addressing socio-technical change to better realise the non-technological components of building future ecosystem capabilities.
Developing sustainable solutions aiming to meet grand challenges depends on complex interactions between different ecosystem actors. However, achieving sustainability in innovation does not merely happen inside the ecosystem. It demands reflexivity in terms of actors’ motivation, and especially wider inclusiveness of stakeholder and citizen interests, values and perspectives . Therefore, one of the central processes in ecosystem building is value co-creation that stresses joint and collaborative formulation of new value — not only material but also symbolical . It is evident that organisational strategies and capabilities are shifting from actor-centric systems to ecosystems, in order to capture the benefits of shared value as proposed by Kramer and Pfitzer . The concept of shared value combines competitiveness with social and economic sustainability .
For the knowledge exchange to take place, the innovation ecosystem needs to develop motivation among mutually dependent actors. The creation of shared value [44, 45] is a key motivating factor, but value is a complex multidimensional and multilevel phenomenon  that makes it difficult to capture. The roots of value co-creation are in-service sciences and have traditionally emphasised customer involvement in service design , but ideas have recently been extended to the system level [19, 34, 44]. Even though shared value forms on interdependencies between the repetitive sequences of cooperation, conflict and compromise , the alignment of value is not always possible or even desirable among stakeholders . The value co-creation process can also result in a neutral solution or simply take a long time to form. Furthermore, neither the ecosystem nor the shared value is static, but both are continuously evolving, which makes value challenging to capture, not least because the innovation ecosystem stakeholders form both collaborative and competitive interdependencies. Actors coevolve and co-adapt within the ecosystem.
Development of ecosystem capabilities
Eventually, it is hoped that the co-creation of values and goals in the ecosystem will form ecosystem-level capabilities. The capabilities develop through routines and processes, stressing the repetitive pattern of activities [50, 51]. In the ecosystem context, capability can be understood as an ecosystem’s capacity to deploy and combine tangible and intangible resources, using organisational processes, to effect a desired end . Given that tangible assets tend to depreciate over time, while intangible assets may accumulate value over time , it is essential that actors learn to operate together in order to accumulate ecosystem-level capabilities that form tangible and intangible assets of information, knowledge and experiences that appear in skills, processes and routines .
Helfat and Peteraf  have proposed a concept of capability life cycle, proving us that capabilities evolve as part of a process, and suggest that they can extend outside one organisation or sector of origin. The latter perspective is often neglected in resource-based approaches, although it suits ecosystem-level investigations that essentially examine various resource (including knowledge) constellations.
Since capabilities are traditionally understood to be organisation (or firm) specific, the literature on capabilities in other contexts, like ecosystems, is not yet extensive. A couple of recent exceptions exist that investigate innovation ecosystems’ operations from a capability, namely dynamic capability , perspective. For instance, a study by Linde et al.  investigate how capabilities evolve to develop ecosystem innovations in a smart city context. They adopt an ecosystem orchestrating perspective that looks at how ecosystem leaders develop and use dynamic capabilities to foster innovation in the ecosystem. Orchestrating an ecosystem demands not only vision but also dynamic skills to manage value creation and innovation partnerships, for example. Linde et al. , however, show that capabilities need to interact with other capabilities for the ecosystem, as prioritisation of one capability over the other does not result in sustainable outcomes. Similar results are shown in the study by Lütjen et al. , which indicates that innovation-intensive firms possess stronger ecosystem-related capabilities than less innovative firms, and they have a wider scope of relationships with stakeholders. An additional ecosystem level perspective is given in a longitudinal study of value co-creation that highlights how technological capability as one dimension of value co-creation process gradually intensifies reciprocity as the technology-intensive ecosystem matures . These findings are thus from a service innovation and platform contexts, which emphasise well how innovation often requires relationships with all the ecosystem actors and how these relationships are likely to evolve over the ecosystem life cycle.
In fact, adopting a capability perspective reveals ecosystem-level processes, which are a key dimension for understanding ecosystem emergence, evolvement and dynamics . We argue that one of the central capabilities for ecosystem emergence and subsequent sustainability is a foresight capability — an ability to build common values and a vision of the future that also works as a mechanism to engage all ecosystem stakeholders: both value adding and not directly value-adding actors (e.g. regulatory institutions, civil society actors).