Evaluating academic spin-off potential in the earliest development stages
Faculty of Applied Economics
Antwerp :Academic Conferences International, 2009
Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Entrepreneurship and innovation (ECEI), Antwerp, Belgium, 10-11 September 2009
University of Antwerp
Research organisations and academic institutions have gradually become more involved in commercialisation of their research results. Although the contribution of this direct deployment of economic activities (as opposed to the indirect involvement via education and publications) to regional economies has been the subject of many debates, the phenomenon is increasingly used as technology transfer mechanism. In recent years, scholar research on the subject has unremittingly grown. However, many subjects remain under-researched. Aim. Various scholars have described the evolution process of an entrepreneurial venture arising from academia. Others have focused on identifying critical success factors, especially in (early) growth stages. Few scholars, however, have researched the earliest development phases after foundation. This study aims at generating more in-depth knowledge on the factors at play in these first years after foundation, in which the spin-offs are highly vulnerable. The ultimate aim of the study is to create a (sector-specific) model to assess high-tech product-oriented spin-off ventures arising from European academic organisations (universities and other public research organisations) in their earliest development stages, allowing identifying where the spin-offs could benefit from support from technology transfer offices, incubators and other potential service providers. Methodology. The present research project is being executed in several phases, using a mixed-method approach. In first instance, 17 introductory case studies have been performed with spin-off in various industry sectors arising from Belgian universities (2004-2006), in order to acquire primary knowledge on the academic spin-off phenomenon and the main parameters influencing survival and performance in the early stages. In parallel, a large literature review has tried to identify those parameters identified by prior scholar research that are believed to be influential. The combination of both efforts has lead to a survey development, which has been pre-tested in December 2008 - February 2009 with academic spin-off managers and other important stakeholders (TTO managers, financers, other high-tech entrepreneurs). After some rework according to the comments and information obtained during this pre-test, the final survey has been launched in March 2009 for a large-scale empirical quantitative study. The results will be analysed using diverse multivariate statistical methods, such as Bayesian statistics, nominal and ordinal dispersion indices and t-tests. Implications. The results of this work-in-progress will mainly have implications for entrepreneurs and supporting service providers (such as financers and TTO officers). For entrepreneurs this research highlights some major pitfalls to be avoided during the earliest development of their spin-off ventures. Substantial attention has to be drawn on other aspects than the technology development. Market development and marketing efforts are as important, just like composing a balanced team. For service providers, the implications differ according to their nature. Financers should pay attention to other parameters than merely financial. Indeed, a spin-off with positive financial prospects but with weak technology or other aspects might be doomed to fail. In that case, their will be no financial return. Short term financial benefits might be sacrificed to obtain a bright long term future.