The quadruple helix

Have you heard this one?  The quadruple helix.  Not the double helix of Watson and Crick or even the triple helix of university, industry and government.  They’re old hat.  Genetics came of age in the fifties while Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff were talking triples in the nineties.

Like industry 4.0, I keep hearing this phrase.  It pops up in all sorts of places.

The quadruple helix describes an approach to smart specialisation with the community of users as the fourth strand (that is if I have been keeping up).  I believe that four-stranded G-quadruplex nucleic acid structures may well exist in cells but to describe them as a helix is pushing the boat out.  They look more like a fractal.

A helix is an object having a three-dimensional shape like that of a wire wound uniformly in a single layer around a cylinder or cone, as in a corkscrew or a spiral staircase. A double helix is two strands wound round a cylinder and in the case of our DNA, with both strands connected to each other.  Herein lies the rub.  I cannot imagine a shape which has three strands wound round each other where each is connected to the others.  As for four, don’t go there.  My brain is just not big enough to cope.

All analogies fall apart under closer scrutiny.  Or is it just me?

I quite agree that the way forward is for all aspects of markets to work together to develop new products and services.  Industry, academia, government and user communities will be better together than in conflict.  Collaboration and co-creation are the way forward.

Each of them will need to be in communication with the other which leads to a factorial number and whatever shape they end up in, it will not be a helix.  I’m only saying.

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