Small Business Economics—Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Cities

Starts:  Feb 1, 2021 9:00 AM (ET)
Ends:  Mar 1, 2021 11:59 PM (ET)
Associated with  Entrepreneurship (ENT)

Call for Proposals: Small Business Economics Special Issue on

Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Cities

Proposal/Extended Abstract Due: March 1, 2021


Guest Editors:

Dr. Zoltan Acs, University Professor, George Mason University, USA

Dr. Haifeng Qian, Associate Professor, University of Iowa, USA

Dr. Jing Wu, Associate Professor, Tsinghua University, China

Dr. Siqi Zheng, Samuel Tak Lee Professor, MIT, USA


Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, and Urban Development 

The theme of this special issue is "entrepreneurship and sustainable cities." There has been an emerging body of literature on entrepreneurship and sustainable development in recent years (Volkmann, Fichter, Klofsten, & Audretsch, 2019). It is argued that entrepreneurship is not only a driver of economic growth but may also lead to positive social and environmental changes, thus generating triple bottom line impacts (Cohen & Winn, 2007). Problem-solving entrepreneurs consider traditional market failures, e.g. negative environmental externalities, as sources of opportunities, and develop product and process innovations to tackle these problems (Dean & McMullen, 2007; Hall, Daneke, & Lenox, 2010). By doing that, they make positive contributions to sustainable development. This sub-field of entrepreneurship studies is known as sustainable entrepreneurship, defined by Patzelt and Shepherd (2011, p. 632) as "the discovery, creation, and exploitation of opportunities to create future goods and services that sustain the natural and/or communal environment and provide development gain for others."

So far, sustainable entrepreneurship has been understudied in the context of urban development. A recent comprehensive review on sustainable entrepreneurship rarely mentions "urban" or "cities" (Muñoz & Cohen, 2018). Urbanization is an important indicator of development according to the United Nations (UN-habitat, 2002). Many social and environmental problems (e.g., pollution, congestion, poverty, and lack of adequate health care and housing) arise from the process of urbanization and are often more severe during the growth stage of cities and towns. Therefore, there may be a greater potential to seek sustainable entrepreneurial solutions in the process of urbanization or urban growth. As the United Nations claims, "without sustainable urbanization, sustainable development cannot be achieved" (UN-Habitat, 2002, p.7). Despite of some rare acknowledgements that sustainable entrepreneurship may be place-based or an urban phenomenon (Shrivastava & Kennelly, 2013; Cohen & Muñoz, 2015), urban development has been largely missing in sustainable entrepreneurship research.

From a different perspective, the urban context for entrepreneurship has attracted lots of scholarly attention, as the entrepreneurial activity is highly concentrated in cities but meanwhile unevenly distributed across and/or within cities. This stream of literature typically explains the causes and consequences of entrepreneurship in cities, especially innovative entrepreneurship that makes significant impacts on urban economic development (Fritsch & Storey, 2014; Glaeser, Rosenthal, & Strange, 2010). Sustainability, which is increasingly recognized as one of the principal goals in urban development by planners and policymakers, has not been adequately considered in urban or regional studies of entrepreneurship.

The theme of this special issue, therefore, addresses the largely missing but increasingly important research at the intersection of entrepreneurship, sustainability, and urban development, as described in the graph below. We accept research on sustainable entrepreneurship in cities from both developing countries, where there is ongoing large-scale urbanization, and developed countries, where urban development faces new opportunities and challenges from technological, climate, and social changes. Papers must address the environmental and/or social aspects of entrepreneurship in cities.

We welcome conceptual papers, quantitative research, and evidence-based case studies. Specific topics to be considered in this special issue include, but not limited to:

  • Conceptualization of place-based sustainable entrepreneurship
  • Conceptualization of entrepreneurial opportunities in sustainable urban development
  • Entrepreneurial solutions to environmental and social problems in cities, such as pollution, congestion, public health crisis, climate risk and disasters, urban poverty, lack of adequate housing, and environmental and social justice
  • The role of entrepreneurship and small businesses in the resiliency of cities facing COVID-19 or other major external shocks
  • Entrepreneurial exploitation of big data and AI for sustainable urban development
  • The role of entrepreneurship in the sharing economy contributing to urban sustainability
  • The social and/or environmental impacts of entrepreneurship in cities
  • Cross-city variations in environmental entrepreneurship: causes and consequences
  • Cross-city variations in social entrepreneurship: causes and consequences
  • The impact of local government sustainability goals and policies on entrepreneurship
  • Building sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems in cities

These research topics will significantly advance the sustainable entrepreneurship scholarship by integrating the urban context where sustainability has become a principal factor in policy discourse. Practically, they will also help entrepreneurs, policymakers, and urban planners to identify entrepreneurial solutions to more sustainable cities. 

The guest editors will organize a special issue paper development workshop in summer 2021. Authors whose proposals are accepted will be encouraged to participate in the workshop, either virtually or in person. 


Proposal/Extended Abstract Deadline: March 1, 2021

Notification of Proposal Acceptance: March 15, 2021

Paper Development Workshop (virtually or in person): Summer 2021

Full Paper Deadline for Special Issue: October 1, 2021

Peer Review Completion:  April 30, 2022

Special Issue Publication: 2022 (Issue TBD)


Submission Guidelines 

A proposal/extended abstract of 300-500 words should be sent no later than March 1, 2021 to In the proposal, the author(s) will state the research questions, justify their theoretical/practice importance and relevance to the theme of this special issue, explain research methods, and present preliminary analysis results (if applicable).

Authors whose proposals are accepted by the guest editors will be invited to submit full manuscripts. The format of manuscripts should follow the guidelines of Small Business Economics ( A standard, double-blinded review process in line with the journal policy will apply.

The authors are highly encouraged to present their research at the planned workshop, either virtually or in person. However, a non-participation decision will not affect the peer-review process and the editors' decision.

For any questions about the special issue, please contact guest editors Dr. Jing Wu ( or Dr. Haifeng Qian (      


Cohen, B., & Muñoz, P. (2015). Toward a theory of purpose-driven urban entrepreneurship. Organization & Environment, 28(3), 264-285.

Cohen, B., & Winn, M. I. (2007). Market imperfections, opportunity and sustainable entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(1), 29-49.

Dean, T. J., & McMullen, J. S. (2007). Toward a theory of sustainable entrepreneurship: Reducing environmental degradation through entrepreneurial action. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(1), 50-76.

Fritsch, M., & Storey, D. J. (2014). Entrepreneurship in a regional context: Historical roots, recent developments and future challenges. Regional Studies, 48(6), 939-954.

Glaeser, E. L., Rosenthal, S. S., & Strange, W. C. (2010). Urban economics and entrepreneurship. Journal of Urban Economics, 67(1), 1-14.

Hall, J. K., Daneke, G. A., & Lenox, M. J. (2010). Sustainable development and entrepreneurship: Past contributions and future directions. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(5), 439-448.

Muñoz, P., & Cohen, B. (2018). Sustainable entrepreneurship research: Taking stock and looking ahead. Business Strategy and the Environment, 27(3), 300-322.

Patzelt, H., & Shepherd, D. A. (2011). Recognizing opportunities for sustainable development. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 35(4), 631-652.

Shrivastava, P., & Kennelly, J. J. (2013). Sustainability and place-based enterprise. Organization & Environment, 26(1), 83-101.

UN-Habitat (2002). Sustainable Urbanisation − Achieving Agenda 21. Available at:

Volkmann, C., Fichter, K., Klofsten, M., & Audretsch, D. B. (2019). Sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems: an emerging field of research. Small Business Economics, DOI: 10.1007/s11187-019-00253-7.