University Technology Transfer Through Entrepreneurship: Faculty and Students in Spinoffs
12 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 1, 2012
Spinoffs play a critical role in moving early-stage technologies that are developed in universities to the market. This study offers a thorough analysis of the university spinoff development process, focusing in particular on student involvement in the initial phases of these technology commercialization efforts and on the impact of the larger university ecosystem.
Prior research examining technology transfer and entrepreneurship in universities has neglected the important role student entrepreneurship plays in the technology transfer process (Grimaldi, Kenney, Siegel, and Wright, 2011). Our study of university commercialization efforts suggests that graduate and post-doctoral students are critical participants in university spinoffs, and we offer an in-depth examination of their roles, focusing on the preliminary stages of spinoffs initiated by faculty and students. Our research led to a typology of spinoff development with four pathways, based on the varying functions of faculty, experienced entrepreneurs, PhD/post-doctoral students, and business students. This typology provides insight into the diverse responsibilities of students and faculty in the technology commercialization process, the different relationships between students, faculty, and entrepreneurs that can lead to successful spinoff creation, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each arrangement.
We also found that the larger university ecosystem has a significant impact on technology transfer. Prior research on this topic suggests that the university technology transfer office (TTO) (e.g., Colyvas, et al., 2002; Jain and George, 2007) and the university’s commercialization policies (e.g., Di Gregorio and Shane, 2003; Goldfarb and Henrekson, 2003) are the key institutional mechanisms influencing technology transfer. The implicit assumption is that a capable technology transfer office with effective policies and a strong incentive system will lead to successful commercialization. In this study, we seek to broaden this perspective, suggesting that the overall ecosystem at a university and a broad range of practices are important aspects of efforts to facilitate technology transfer. We consider the scope of university programs and practices that may have an influence on this process.
Keywords: university, technology transfer, tech transfer, spinoff, entrepreneurship, development
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