The Entrepreneurial University – Pt1

/ June 14th, 2011/ Posted in University management / No Comments »

Entrepreneurial universityWhat is the entrepreneurial university?
In the next few posts, I will give a few notes and a list of references on the entrepreneurial university, and offer some critique.

Considering the university’s mandate in western society, the immediate post-war period saw the continuation of the university-situated infrastructure for war-related technological development. This “social contract for science” was associated with the “linear” concept of innovation, whereby public investment in research proceeded to development and marketing (Bramwell & Wolfe, 2008). Later the US Bayh-Dole Act (1980) was intended to improve technology transfer to industry; it permitted universities and others to own patents secured with federal grants. Similar reforms occurred in Europe (Lopez et al. 2009; Siegel et al. 2007).

The adoption of the mission to conduct research to drive economic growth has constituted a “second revolution” or “third mission” whereby, in the definition by Etzkowitz et al. (2000), the entrepreneurial university (EU) engages in activity “with the objective of improving regional or national economic performance as well as the university’s financial advantage and that of its faculty.” These authors point out that “critics believe entrepreneurialism should be resisted… fearing that an intensive pecuniary interest will cause the university to lose its role as independent critic of society.” This sentiment has persisted, although the contention of Etzkowitz et al. that the path to the EU was “isomorphic” is contested (Philpott et al. 2011). The EU idea means the third term in the conventional phrase “teaching, research and service” is construed as entrepreneurial activity for economic development and, as the concept has evolved, for social development.

Elements of the Entrepreneurial University

Lopez et al. (2009) cite the work of B.R. Clark who coined the term entrepreneurial university and identified its elements as follows:

  1. managers with decision-making authority;
  2. partners (industry and government);
  3. diversified financial resources;
  4. motivated academics; and
  5. an entrepreneurial culture that demands continual internal renewal.

Siegel et al. in their review article (2007) present a series of topics central to the EU discourse:

  • state-sponsored scientific knowledge and technology;
  • problem of transfer of knowledge from universities to industry;
  • technology transfer offices as agents in patenting and as enablers of entrepreneurial start-ups;
  • spin-off companies’ transformation of inventions into valuable new products and services;
  • academic entrepreneurs and how they engage in formal and informal technology transfer;
  • increasing levels of entrepreneurial activities in universities, including networks of innovation.

In the next post, I’ll summarize more scholarly analysis of the entrepreneurial university as a complex, interactive model.

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