Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal (Print ISSN: 1087-9595; Online ISSN: 1528-2686)


Academic Spin-Offs: Advancing their Characterization and Exploring How the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Helps in Overcoming their Main Challenges

Author(s): Paula Anzola-Roman and Cristina Bayona-S�ez

Today, universities have moved away from the ‘ivory tower’ conceptualization that characterized them as isolated and inexpugnable knowledge fortresses and have become prominent agents of the socio-economic ecosystem, promoting knowledge dissemination and technological change, through instruments and activities such as technology transfer offices, teaching entrepreneurial skills and supporting the creation of university spin-offs, among others. The concept of ‘Entrepreneurial University’ illustrates this paradigm and frames this research, which focuses on business initiatives arising from academic R&D activities and aims to provide a characterization for these types of firms, to identify the main challenges faced by them, and provide insight on how the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem might help in overcoming these challenges. The research takes a qualitative approach, and relies on a multiple case study based on in-depth interviews with the founding leaders of six firms constituted as spin-offs from the Public University of Navarra (henceforward, UPNA) and other agents related. Results of the analysis highlight the difficulties regarding the need to combine practices to explore disruptive technologies with the need to guarantee a sustainable model for the exploitation of the products developed by these firms, therefore positing ambidexterity as the main challenge faced by academic spin-offs. In addition, the findings lead to discern the relevance of the support instruments designed to complement common deficiencies in terms of management and commercial strategy. Thus, this study contributes to the understanding of the university spin-offs phenomenon and its idiosyncrasy, and provides valuable insight regarding key aspects for their success in overcoming their most prominent challenges; paying particular attention the role of the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. This insight is undoubtedly useful for practitioners, researches and policy makers alike.

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