The Entrepreneurial University – Pt4

2011-06-23 / University management / 0 Comments

Entrepreneurial university - conflicting valuesIn this final post on the Entrepreneurial University, I look at some critique.

Entrepreneurial university policy implications
Philpott et al. have cautioned against adopting wholesale the idea that the “hard” forms of entrepreneurial activity are necessarily the best and that “optimal approaches are contextually dependent” (2011: 168). The reasons include the fact that economic benefit – aggregate increases in regional or national productivity – are not tied strictly to the generation of spin-off companies or patents. For example, for MIT, “patenting activity represents only a minor form of technology transfer” and has a minor degree of economic impact.

Philpott et al. maintain that softer channels can have greater economic results. Canadian university technology transfer officials recognise the value of both soft and hard entrepreneurial activities, but the federal government continues an overemphasis on harder ones; moreover “even in archetypal entrepreneurial universities, the majority of technology and knowledge transfer activity is not hard in nature… but instead manifests itself in the form of conferences\workshops, publications and consultancy.” (2011: 168).

Cultural schism

The entrepreneurial mission can exacerbate a schism within the academic community and undermine the contribution of the university to the community as educator. Siegel et al. (2007) observe: “Some have asserted that aggressive university commercialization of intellectual property might have a deleterious effect on the traditional ‘culture of open science’ at universities”.

The schism is fueled by perceptions that the entrepreneurial mission is anathema to academic freedom or to the purpose of the university. Overcoming this schism is a matter of finding a shared definition of the entrepreneurial role and implications of the concept, which need not be solely commercial in nature.  This is feasible in light of the goals of research in the humanities, understood as social innovation and beneficent outcomes in the community. The question is, is it possible to coordinate the missions of teaching, research and service with economic development, without compromising the integrity and independence of the university? Close attention to and articulation of values is needed.

Conflicting goals
The authors also maintain that entrepreneurial policy must resolve the “inherent conflict of interest between the traditional academic reward system, which is focused on peer reviewed publication of basic research, and the technology transfer reward system, which is focused on revenue generation from applied research” (Siegel et al. 2007: 497). But does one give an unfair advantage over the other? Maybe they meant conflicting goals rather than conflict of interest.

Case study authors (Benneworth, 2006; Bramwell & Wolfe 2008; O’Shea et al. 2007) identified the importance of geographical proximity and other unique factors to evaluate the possibilities of the entrepreneurial role.  Siegel et al. (2007) conclude by suggesting a review of the general strategy; while Philpott et al. (2011) support an economic role for the university, but recommend caution to avoid merely copying Stanford; prevent a schism in the culture; and “contribute to economic development without risk of undermining the traditional academic missions”.

The correct path to defining an entrepreneurial role for a given institution – if at all appropriate – will take into account the attitudes and values of participants and stakeholders, as well as a review of its intellectual assets and culture; networks; and geographic, economic and social situation.

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The Entrepreneurial University – Pt3

2011-06-21 / University management / 0 Comments

innovative spin-off companyIn this post on the Entrepreneurial University, I look at questions of implementation.
Role models
The Entrepreneurial university involves faculty as well as the creation of external firms. For both types of activity, entrepreneurial role models are important to inspire the commercialization of research. “The research indicates that a bottom-up approach is more conducive to fostering academic entrepreneurship…”.  “…university management need to be cognisant of the underlying culture within their institution before engaging in interventionist policies.” (Philpott et al. 2011: 169).

Intermediaries and boundary spanners
Individuals acting as intermediaries are required to connect the worlds of research and business, and thus integrate planning, finance and marketing skills with those of scholarly research. Grad students or post-doc fellows are suggested.

Spin-off policies are not all equal: “Most attention has been focused on spinout creation and not on increasing the probability that these firms are sustainable in the long run”; while different spin-off business models across disciplines require “a differentiated approach to their creation and development” (Siegel et al. 2007). There are also differences by discipline among faculty. Funding gaps, the judicious assignment of intellectual property and the requisite skills in technology transfer facilities must all be considered.

Orientation of the entrepreneurial university
Is the entrepreneurial program oriented towards creating new revenue streams for the university, or rather is part of a general plan for local or regional economic development (Siegel et al. 2007)? Geographic situation influences the orientation of policy: “A major tension for mid-range, as opposed to top universities, arises from pressures to develop internationally recognized areas of research excellence… and at the same time to transfer knowledge to the local economy.” (Siegel et al. 2007: 498).

In the next post (the last of 4), I review some critique of the entrepreneurial role for the university.

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The Entrepreneurial University – Pt2

2011-06-16 / University management / 0 Comments

Entrepreneurial university-what is itWhat is the role of spin-offs in the entrepreneurial university?
To continue from Pt.1, here is more detailed analysis of what the entrepreneurial university has become.

Universities can assess the attributes of spin-offs in terms of: 1. the science and engineering base; 2. quality of research; 3. management’s commitment to spinoffs; and 4. the entrepreneurial culture within the university (O’Shea et al. 2007). These authors present a study of MIT, and suggest that some aspects of the case are relevant for others. They point out that spin-off firms have been the subject of scholarly inquiry in disparate frameworks; viz., an institutional view seeking explanation through groups norms and culture; a resource-based school; a socio-economic view; and study at the level of individual academic entrepreneurs. Analysis of the characteristics and outcomes of spin-offs can hardly be generalized; it must be case-specific.

Spectrum of entrepreneurial activity

The traditional linear notion of the innovation system conceives of the university as simply a repository of knowledge. The usual indicators of commercialization are spin-offs, licensing, and patents. By contrast, Philpott et al. (2011) describe the EU to comprise a spectrum of activities from the “hard” (i.e., less conventionally academic) to the “soft”. See Fig.1.

Fig. 1: University Entrepreneurial Activity (after Philpott et al. 2011)
“Harder” create tech park
form spin-offs
patent and license
contract research
conduct industry training courses
administer grants
“Softer” produce graduates

As the entrepreneurial phenomenon has evolved to a complex, interactive model (Bramwell & Wolfe, 2008), knowledge creation and technology transfer is seen to occur through a variety of interactions and networks.
See Fig. 2.

Fig. 2: EU Activities of University of Waterloo (after Bramwell & Wolfe, 2008)
conduct basic research; generate commercializable knowledge; produce qualified research scientists standard role
attract talent adds to stock of tacit knowledge in the local economy
give formal and informal technical support;provide specialized expertise and facilities supports firm- based R&D activities
act as conduit enabling firms to accessknowledge firms benefit from ‘global pipelines’ of international academic research networks
function as ‘good community players’;  facilitate tacit knowledge exchange among networks of innovative firms; act as ‘anchors of creativity’ supports firm formation and growth; sustains a virtuous cycle of talent attraction and retention
acts as intermediary in the Co-operativeEducation Program facilitates the transfer of tacit knowledge between students and local and non-local ICT firms

Challenges to university administrations: complex interactive activity for research

These functions are understood theoretically: “the adoption and diffusion of new knowledge by firms involves the transfer of both codified and tacit knowledge through a process of interactive and social learning.” In other words, firms themselves must participate in this grand project of learning and  innovation by cooperating with universities, suppliers and customers.

“Intermediaries” are those who fill the crucial role of connecting the creators and end-users of knowledge. Since knowledge transfers are “mainly person-embodied”, intermediaries are individuals, but also can be “independent organizations, or functions within organizations” that operate at different scales. Universities themselves establish a base of activity that builds upon itself – “a  virtuous cycle that underpins economic competitiveness” (Bramwell & Wolfe, 2008).

The authors’ pre-eminent example is the University of Waterloo, which shows  “a multifaceted capacity for knowledge transfer to the local economy that supports local networks and flows of knowledge, and links them with global one.” Global connections, for example, can take many forms, such as “bilateral ties between individuals in related departments to complex multidisciplinary networks, twinning arrangements and institutional consortia” (Bramwell & Wolfe, 2008: 1183). Thus the authors illustrate through the Waterloo example the variety of knowledge creation and transfer mechanisms possible for the EU at the individual and organizational levels.

These descriptions underscore current challenges to innovation and research administrations. The reality is that building a research culture is an ad hoc affair needing careful stewardship, where many aspects are difficult to institutionalize, measure, and manage. In the next post, implementation and critique of the entrepreneurial university.

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The Entrepreneurial University – Pt1

2011-06-14 / University management / 0 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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