Universities (whatever the incarnation of that abstraction means) sometimes believe that they serve as a positive force in bringing the knowledge produced by their faculty to market, and thus contributing (again it is hard to understand how a collection of administrative officials can be credited here except for doing the job for which they receive lavish (market based of course) compensation) to social progress. And indeed, the practice and fostering of university spin offs has been all the rage recently (here, here, here, here, and here).
Public officials in universities and ministries throughout the industrial countries are currently extremely interested in fostering the creation of spin-offs from the public research base. The reason is simple. Research-based spin-offs are generally understood to be small, new technology-based firms whose intellectual capital originated in universities or other public research organisations. These firms are thought to contribute to innovation, growth, employment and revenues. They are perceived to be flexible and dynamic, giving rise to novel fields and markets, and playing a critical role in the development of high-technology clusters. However, despite the promise of new-firm generation from cutting-edge research, a recent survey carried out by the OECD shows that in most countries, spin-offs remain rare and their economic impact is poorly documented. (here; and see also here).
But where might credit be better due?
To consider that question, those interested might want to have a look at an intriguing artocle just published: Marco Ferretti, Salvatore Ferri, Raffaele Fiorentino, Adele Parmentola, and Alessandro Sapio, "What drives the growth of academic spin-offs? Matching academics, universities, and non-research organizations," International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 14:1-27 (electronic publication 6 March 2018), which considers whether the combination of academic and non-academic individuals and organizations on the board and in the shareholder base can foster academic spin offs' (ASOs') early growth performance. They find that "academic individuals’ ownership shares do not exercise any significant impact on sales growth, and the effect of the parent university is negative, whereas non-academic organizations foster ASO sales growth in an inverse U-shaped fashion." (Ferretti, M., Ferri, S., Fiorentino, R. et al. Int Entrep Manag J (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-018-0497-4).
The abstract follows.
What drives the growth of academic spin-offs? Matching academics, universities, and non-research organizations
Marco Ferretti, Salvatore Ferri, Raffaele Fiorentino, Adele Parmentola (Email author), and Alessandro Sapio (Authors; Authors and affiliations)
International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 14:1-27:
First Online: 06 March 2018
This paper aims to contribute to the on-going debate on the factors that affect the growth of academic spin-off firms (ASOs) in the post-creation stage. Specifically, our study analyses whether the combination of academic and non-academic individuals and organizations on the board and in the shareholder base can foster ASOs’ early growth performance. We perform panel data estimates for a sample of 138 Italian ASOs observed between 1999 and 2009, which allows us to observe the non-linear effects of ownership and board composition on sales growth. Our findings suggest that, all else equal, the fastest growing academic spin-offs in our sample are characterized by the joint efforts of academic individuals and representatives of non-academic organizations on the board and in the shareholder base. Specifically, the estimates suggest that academic individuals’ engagement on the board of directors positively affects the early growth performance of ASOs’ early growth, but this effect is limited to a given share of board seats. However, academic individuals’ ownership shares do not exercise any significant impact on sales growth, and the effect of the parent university is negative, whereas non-academic organizations foster ASO sales growth in an inverse U-shaped fashion.
Keywords: Academic spin-offs Performance Growth Ownership Board Technology transfer University