The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 43–74 | Cite as

The development of an entrepreneurial university



An entrepreneurial society refers to places where knowledge-based entrepreneurship has emerged as a driving force for economic growth, employment creation and competitiveness. In this context, entrepreneurial universities play an important role as both knowledge-producer and a disseminating institution. In the literature, several studies contributed with relevant findings. Most of these studies reveal a tendency to use case studies to explain this phenomenon justified by the embryonic nature of the topic field, and with the lack of a robust theoretical framework to understand it. No empirical study, however, has highlighted the interrelations among environmental and internal factors that conditioned the development of entrepreneurial universities with the teaching, research and entrepreneurial missions that they need to achieve. This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of these interrelations identifying the most critical factors that conditioned these missions and to this end brings a proposal model to measure this phenomenon empirically in the light of the Institutional Economics and the Resource-Based View. The methodology adopted is integrated by the Spanish Entrepreneurial University Scoreboard to identify this phenomenon and Structural Equation Modeling to analyze the relationships among independent and dependent variables that integrate the proposal model of entrepreneurial university. This research could cover invaluable strategies to bring further benefits to society (in terms of the creation of new business and employment) and, in particular, to educational institutions.


Entrepreneurial universities Institutional economics Resource-based view Higher education Knowledge transfer Technology transfer 

JEL Classification

M13 (New Firms; Startups) L26 (Entrepreneurship) I23 (Higher Education Research Institutions) I28 (Education Government Policy) 

1 Introduction

An entrepreneurial society refers to places where knowledge-based entrepreneurship has emerged as a driving force for economic growth, employment creation and competitiveness in global markets (Audretsch 2007). In this context, the entrepreneurial university1 plays an important role as both a knowledge-producer and a disseminating institution. In this sense, an entrepreneurial university could be defined as a survivor of competitive environments with a common strategy oriented to being the best in all its activities (e.g., having good finances, selecting good students and teachers, producing quality research) and tries to be more productive and creative in establishing links between education and research (Kirby 2005). Consequently, an entrepreneurial university is not only a promoter of multiple support measures for entrepreneurship but is also a developer of administrative techniques, strategies or competitive postures (Antoncic and Hisrich 2001). Based on this, entrepreneurial universities are involved in partnerships, networks and other relationships with public and private organizations that are an umbrella for interaction, collaboration, co-operation and among the core elements of a national innovation system many different interactions may exist (Inzelt 2004). This means that the entrepreneurial university implements several strategies and new institutional configuration to work together with the government and industries to facilitate the generation and exploitation of knowledge and technology (Leydesdorff and Meyer 2003).

In the literature, theoretical models have tried to explain the phenomenon of entrepreneurial universities (Clark 1998; Sporn 2001; Etzkowitz 2004; Kirby 2005; O’Shea et al. 2005, 2008; Rothaermel et al. 2007). At the same time, in the period 1995–2008 some empirical studies have analyzed this phenomenon in universities from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherland, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, United States, among others (see Appendix1). At first sight, these previous studies indicated relevant findings related to the identification of some universities considered to be examples of entrepreneurial universities, their core factors, their adaptation processes and organizational changes, their internal and external strategies, their different types of entrepreneurial activities and academic characteristics, the environmental pressures, practical recommendations, academic implications, and others. Most of these studies reveal a tendency to use case studies to explain this phenomenon justified by the embryonic nature of the topic field (Gartner and Birley 2002), and with the lack of a robust theoretical framework to understand it (Guerrero et al. 2006; Guerrero 2008). No empirical study, however, has highlighted the interrelations among environmental and internal factors that conditioned the development of entrepreneurial universities with the teaching, research and entrepreneurial missions that they need to achieve. This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of these interrelations identifying the most critical factors that conditioned these missions and to this end brings a proposal model to measure this phenomenon empirically. Furthermore, the potential impact and implications of knowing these interrelations will be analyzed and discussed.

To achieve this objective, an institutional perspective is adopted to analyze the factors associated with the environmental factors (formal and informal), following the idea of North (1990, 2005). This theory stresses the function carried out by institutions in economic development and has turned out to be one of the most suitable frameworks for the analysis of institutional factors on the development of entrepreneurial universities (Guerrero et al. 2006; Guerrero 2008) and the changes in the tertiary educational systems (Witte 2004). Previously, in the field of entrepreneurship, some scholars have already analyzed the effects of institutions on entrepreneurial activity and business creation processes (Welter 2005; Urbano 2006; Aidis et al. 2008; Stephen et al. 2009; among others). As a complementary theoretical framework, the Resource-Based View (RBV) helps to explain the internal factors (resources and capabilities) that generate a competitive advantage in the context of an entrepreneurial university. In this respect, the resources are all assets of the organization and the capabilities are the exploitation of its resources to implement its strategies (Amit and Schoemaker 1993).

The methodology adopted in this paper is integrated into two phases. In the first, the paper constructs the Spanish Entrepreneurial University Scoreboard (SEUS) that allows the identification of entrepreneurial universities using secondary information from 50 Spanish public universities following the Berlin Principles on Rankings of Higher Education (Institute for Higher Education Policy 2006) and the methods developed by the European Innovation Scoreboard (European Commission 2005). In the second, the data were collected using e-mail questionnaires administrated to academics enrolled at the universities selected. The instrument used was a modified version of the Entrepreneurial University Constructs (EUC) developed by Guerrero (2008). With these data, the model proposed is tested empirically using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). This statistical technique has been widely used in behavioural sciences during the last decade (Shook et al. 2004) because allowed the examination of a set of relationships between one or more independent or dependent variable, either continuous or discrete (Tabachnick and Fidell 1996).

This paper is organized as follows: Sect. 2 introduces the conceptual framework of entrepreneurial universities; Sect. 3 describes the methodology designed to identify the relationship among the factors that conditioned the development of entrepreneurial universities with their missions; Sect. 4 outlines the results and discussions; and Sect. 5 provide some concluding remarks.

2 Conceptual framework of entrepreneurial universities

In the literature, some theoretical models try to explain the phenomenon of entrepreneurial universities (Clark 1998; Sporn 2001; Etzkowitz 2004; Kirby 2005; O’Shea et al. 2005, 2008; Rothaermel et al. 2007). Adopting the Institutional Economics and the Resource Based View, Table 1 shows the integration of the theoretical factors which help to understand the relevance of environmental (formal and informal factors), and recognize the internal (resources and capabilities) factors involved in the transformation process. The entrepreneurial universities’ missions are focused on fulfilling teaching, research and entrepreneurial activities simultaneously (Etzkowitz 2004). The new university missions are focused on their contribution to social development and economic growth (Schulte 2004).
Table 1

Theoretical models of entrepreneurial universities


Environmental factors



Clark (1998)

A strengthened steering core

An expanded developmental periphery

A diversified funding base

A stimulated academic heartland

An integrated entrepreneurial culture

Sporn (2001)

Mission and goals

Structure, management, governance and leadership

Networks, conglomerates and strategic alliances


Etzkowitz (2004)

Interdependence with the industry and government and independence from another institutional spheres

Hybrid organizational forms

Capitalization of knowledge


Kirby (2005)

Incorporation, implementation

Communication, organization

Encouragement and support

Recognition and reward



Rothaermel et al. (2007)

Policies and technology



Internal factors



O’Shea et al. (2005, 2008)

Human capital resources

Financial resources

Physical resources

Commercial resources

Status and prestige

Networks and alliances


Rothaermel et al. (2007)





Entrepreneurial universities additionally need to become entrepreneurial organizations; their members need to become potential entrepreneurs; and their interaction with the environment needs to follow an entrepreneurial pattern (Röpke 1998). As a consequence, the outcomes of an entrepreneurial university are linked with its missions; teaching, research, and entrepreneurial activities. Based on this, the conceptual model of an entrepreneurial university is integrated by the environmental and internal factors involved in the creation and development of entrepreneurial universities identified in the literature review (Fig. 1). As mentioned previously, the environmental factors have been grouped into formal and informal factors supported by Institutional Economics. Thus, the internal factors have been grouped into resources and capabilities supported by the RBV. Finally, the criteria to measure the outcomes of these universities are supported by the new university missions. Based on this, this compatible model of the entrepreneurial university suggests the following:
Fig. 1

Conceptual model of entrepreneurial universities

  • Formal factors: entrepreneurial organizational and governance structure, support measures for entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship education.

  • Informal factors: university community’s attitudes towards entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial teaching methodologies, role models and reward system.

  • Resources: human capital, financial, physical, and commercial.

  • Capabilities: status and prestige, networks and alliances, localization.

2.1 Environmental factors

An entrepreneurial university requires entrepreneurial organizational structures to create a connection between teaching, research and administration functions and that help to generate a shared vision where a university is more than just the sum of warring departments (Dearlove 2002). Another organizational element is managerial self-governance (Clark 1998) that embraces internal management structures, decision-making and leadership roles (Middlehurst 2004; Yokoyama 2006). As a result, the university’s efforts are oriented to providing its members a fertile environment for entrepreneurship (Laukkanen 2000) which later could be reflected in economic growth and regional development (Di Gregorio and Shane 2003; Audretsch and Lehrmann 2005). A good example has been business incubators and technology transfer offices that are support mechanisms in the process of creation of university spin-offs (Mian 1996, 1997; Link and Scott 2005; Niosi 2006) or educational programs that provide a wide variety of situations, aims, methods (Vesper and Gartner 1997; Fiet 2000, 2001) oriented towards improving students’ skills, attributes, and behavior to developed both creative and critical thinking (Kirby 2004). The result of this process is associated with novel ideas or intentions emerged by new successful entrepreneurs (Bygrave and Hofer 1991) that later they will become the new role models who will show their peers that entrepreneurial success is not a theory (Venkataraman 2004). Thus, Kirby (2005) explains another strategic actions intended to promote entrepreneurship related to complex issues such as reward systems, both monetary (bonuses, use of corporate resources, profit-sharing, others) and non-monetary (promotion and recognition systems).

2.2 Internal factors

An entrepreneurial university requires managers, with personal characteristics of leadership, in professionalized full-time posts, to fulfil its mission (Dill 1995; Sporn 2001). In addition, academics are a critical human resource for the development of educational quality and generation of innovation in research (Powers and McDougall 2005). In this context, the managers and academics are the actors involved in the internal transformation of traditional universities. Other important factors are the financial resources that demonstrate the university’s autonomy from the state. In this respect, Clark (1998) mentioned that a diversified funding base means that the university has incremented its sources of income from sources such as support from government, research contracts, campus services, student fees and others. These resources allow an expanded developmental periphery, in other words, crossing the old boundaries between the university and the external world through infrastructure to satisfy social demands (Clark 1998). According to Gallagher (2000), universities themselves are increasingly collaborating, networking and partnering with multiple industries, universities, private or public institutions in a national and international context. In this respect, the theory of localized knowledge spillovers suggests that profits will be greater in agglomerations and spatial clusters, since access to tacit knowledge is easier (Audretsch et al. 2005). Florida and Kenney (1988) and O’Shea et al. (2008) highlight the central role that the availability of venture capital plays in encouraging the formation of high-technology firms in regions as they provide essential risk capital and operating assistance to new firms. At the same time, this explains why this is more likely to occur in high-technology clusters with easier access to critical expertise, networks and knowledge (Saxenian 1994). In practice, location is a significant factor which explains the innovative activities of firms, as the cost of transferring the knowledge is a function of geographic distance and gives rise to localized externalities (Siegel et al. 2003).

3 Methodology

3.1 Selecting entrepreneurial universities

In the higher education context, several rankings are produced annually to measure the quality of each university (Eccles 2002). Most of them use indicators associated with the university’s resources and outcomes (Federkeil 2002) or research productivity index (Moed 2006; Grupo SCImago 2007). However, the rankings and indices have several limitations associated with their interpretation (Page 1996); the indicators used that only measure the traditional perspectives (Yonezawa et al. 2002); and the validity and reliability of data sources (Usher and Savino 2006). In this context, this investigation adopts the methodology applied in the European Innovation Scoreboard (European Commission 2005) to analyze the innovation performance of European Union (EU) members under the Lisbon strategy. Complementary, the SEUS is estimated following the Berlin Principles on Rankings of Higher Education2 (Institute for Higher Education Policy 2006).

In this sense, using secondary information from fifty Spanish public universities3 and according with the methodology adopted, every indicator4 of inputs and outputs was calculated for each university (see Table 2). Therefore, were identified the possible outliers or scores that represent the lowest values founded within the all Public Spanish Universities. In this sense, 13 universities were identified with the lowest values and where the data availability were less than 50%. Afterwards, re-scaled scores of the indicators were calculated by first subtracting the lowest value found within of fifty universities and then dividing by the difference between the highest and lowest values found within the group of universities. This allows the standardization or normalization of these values. For this reason, the maximum re-scaled score is thus equal to one and the minimum value is equal to zero. Later, the INPUTS and OUTPUTS were determinate by the average value of re-scaled scores where indicators for which data are available receive the same weight. Finally, SEUS is calculated by the average value of INPUTS and OUTPUTS. Therefore, by definition the SEUS values are between zero and one for all universities (European Commission 2005, 2008). Appendix2 provides details of the indicators that are included in the SEUS which represents the average value of indicators that compose the OUTPUTS and INPUTS categories. Based on this, the universities selected were the first technological and the first general university of each Spanish region ranked in the top fifteen. Specifically, the universities selected were: UPC (Catalonia), UPV (Valencia), UAB (Catalonia), USE (Andalusia), UAM (Madrid), UMH (Valencia), USC (Galicia), and UCA (Andalusia).5
Table 2

Indicators of SEUS




Entrepreneurial initiatives (EUinitiatives)

Universities involved in entrepreneurial initiatives such as science parks and incubators, teaching programs and courses in entrepreneurship, or interdisciplinary centers and co-operation networks (Ruiz et al. 2004; Guerrero et al. 2006; Guerrero 2008). This information was obtained using data from the Institute of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (IPYME 2006) about the study of entrepreneurial initiatives of Spanish universities and the entrepreneurial initiatives’ map


Entrepreneurial experts (EUexp)

Universities involved in self-instituting efforts to adapt to environmental changes for more than 10 years (Clark 1998) and to be generators of potential entrepreneurs in their members (Schulte 2004). This information was obtained from question number five of the Entrepreneurship Researchers’ Survey developed in step 1 of this research. EUexp shows which Spanish universities were considered entrepreneurial by the experts (Guerrero 2008)

Entrepreneurial culture (EUculture)

Universities that promote an entrepreneurial culture in their strategic actions that allows adaptation to environmental changes (Sporn 2001). This information was collected using the Spanish database from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM 2006) where several questions were incorporated associated with the higher education population

Entrepreneurial outcomes (EUoutcomes)

Universities that have shown entrepreneurial activities such as patents, licences, spin-offs, research agreements (Keast 1995). This data were obtained from secondary sources such as UNIVERSIA (2006), IPYME (2006), and Spanish Office of Patents (OEPM 2007). As a consequence, EUoutcomes evidenced how many entrepreneurial activities have been generated by the Spanish universities

Entrepreneurial region (EUregion)

Universities located in regions characterized by higher levels of entrepreneurship measured by the number of new enterprises (Audretsch and Lehrmann 2005). EUregion evidenced how entrepreneurial the regions are where each Spanish university is located. The information was obtained from the number of enterprises listed in the Spanish Institute of Statistics (INE 2008)

University ranking (EUrank)

Universities ranked in the top positions of the Spanish universities rankings (Ewalt 2004). This information was obtained from Webometrics (2005)

3.2 Data

The data were gathered by e-mail questionnaires administrated to academics enrolled at the universities selected. The data were collected during the 2007–2008 academic year. The instrument used in this study was a modified version of the Entrepreneurial University Questionnaire (EUQ) developed by Guerrero (2008). This instrument provides the perception and valuation about environmental and internal factors from each university analyzed. Particularly, the variables used to measure each construct with a likert scale are presented in the Table 3.
Table 3

Main constructs of the entrepreneurial university

Entrepreneurial university mission (UM)


Generate jobseekers


Promote an entrepreneurial culture


Publishing papers with practical implications


Generate entrepreneurs


Knowledge transfer (patents, licences, spin-offs)


Publishing scientific papers


Contribute to regional and social development


Environmental factors

Formal factors (FF)

Informal factors (IF)


Minimal regulations for new venture creation


Entrepreneurial teaching methodologies


Support for technology transfer


Favorable student attitudes towards entrepreneurship


Support for start-ups


Favorable staff attitudes towards entrepreneurship


Not economical supports


Appropriate reward systems


Science park


Entrepreneurship role models


Entrepreneurship courses for students



Entrepreneurship courses for academics


Internal factors

Resources (R)

Capabilities (C)


Human resources


University history


Financial resources


University status


Physical resources


University alliances


Commercial resources


University localization

Note: UM university missions, FF Formal factor, IF informal factor, R resources, C capabilities

In this sense, Table 4 shows the technical details of data collection. As can be seen, the academics’ opinions were obtained from a population of 3,438 academics involved in business and engineering disciplines. In practice, 200 responses were obtained from academics with a sample error of ±6.73 at the 95% confidence level (Z = 1.96, p = q = 0.5). In this study, the Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) offers results regarding the causal relationships among the variables that integrate the proposal model of entrepreneurial universities. Concretely, this technique has been used with this aim in behavioral sciences (Shook et al. 2004) and in the entrepreneurship field has allowed to measure entrepreneurial intentions (Guerrero et al. 2008; Liñán and Chen 2009). In this sense, the structural analysis has been performed using the SPSS 16.0 and AMOS 7.0 as the software packages. Furthermore, in order to obtain robust results Burnkrant and Page (1982) and Shook et al. (2004) suggested the constructs’ reliability and convergent analysis (see Appendices3, 4).
Table 4

Technical details




3,438 Academics


Academics of Business Administration and Engineering from UAB, UPC, UMH, UPV, UAM, UPM, USE, UCA and USC


E-mail survey based on the entrepreneurship researchers’ survey and the entrepreneurial intention questionnaire (EIQ)

Questions used

10-point scale questions following the experts’ survey protocol


346 Academics

Response rate

200 Academics

Sample error


Confidence level

95% Z = 1.96 p = q = 0.5

Data fieldwork

2007–2008 Academic year

In general terms, the sample was composed by academics from: UAB (14.5%), UAM (13.5%), UCA (9.5%), UMH (6.5%), UPC (10%), UPM (7%), USC (13%) and USE (13.5%). The demographical variables reveal that this sample is dominated by male academics (61%) with an average age of 42 years. Professionally, most of them have doctoral studies and their academic’s category is that of associate professor (41.8%) and full professor (33.5%). More than 50% of the academics have collaborated with one enterprise, with a member of the government or other university in their daily activities such as teacher, researcher or consultant. On average, their labor relationship with the university reveals an antiquity of less than 15 years.

4 Results and discussion

The European Union has started to develop several strategies, such as the Bologna and Lisbon declarations, oriented towards fostering entrepreneurial innovation in higher educational levels. Before this normative, Spanish universities had been pioneers in the implementation of several strategies with this aim (UPC, UPV, UAB, UAM, USC, and UMH). These actions represented the basis of their sustained competitive advantage (O’Shea et al. 2005) and that is reflected on the university outcomes. In this sense, the academics involved in the universities analyzed gave their perception about the items that integrate the conceptual model of entrepreneurial university. Therefore, this study provides the first statistical insights into the environmental and internal factors involved in the development of entrepreneurial universities in Spain.

The reliability of our measures was estimated by the Cronbach’s α parameters and by the item to total correlation (Nunnally 1978). The alpha values obtained were higher than 0,700 in the majority of the constructs, and the item to total correlation show positive and significant values (between 0,674 and 0,877). In other words, it may be considered that these constructs were sufficiently reliable, since they measure the information they were designed for Chandler and Lyon (2001). Complementary, the convergent analysis showed how the items that integrate each constructs and that should be related were in reality related. In this sense, the correlation coefficient values obtained in each construct were positive and statistically significant (see Appendices3, 4). This represents that each item that integrate each construct has a medium and large relationship (Cohen 1988). Based on that, the next step was to test the theoretical model of entrepreneurial model integrated by the environmental factors, the internal factors and the entrepreneurial universities missions proposed in the literature review (Figs. 1, 2). In this sense, the structural path shows the constructs that have been defined as the factor analyses suggested. In this case, when performing the full model analysis the items loading in each construct’s scales (see Appendix5). As can be seen, this structural path presents significant coefficients and adequate parameters [χ2 normalized 1.798; GFI 0.741; RMSEA 0.063; and CFI 0.877].
Fig. 2

Model of entrepreneurial university

According with the evidence obtained, the academics consider that their entrepreneurial universities are focused on fulfil the teaching, research and entrepreneurial missions simultaneously. Particularly, the higher valuation were the activities related with the transference of knowledge (1.728, p < 0.001), the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture (1.784, p < 0.001), and the contribution to the regional development (1.583, p < 0.001). In this scenario, the environmental factors (1.000, p < 0.001) versus the internal factors (0.370, p < 0.001) generate a higher contribution to the entrepreneurial universities’ missions. Thus, the structural path evidenced a significant and positive interrelationship between the environmental and internal factors (0.210, p < 0.001). Therefore, within these conditions, the environmental and internal factors were examined in-depth to identify the determinants of entrepreneurial universities in Spain.

Based on the statistical relationships defined by the academic perceptions, the construct of environmental factors is significantly more conditioned by the informal factors (3.337, p < 0.001) than formal factors (1.000, p < 0.001). Concretely, the most critical factors are related with the favorable attitudes towards entrepreneurship from researchers (1.211, p < 0.001) and students (1.138, p < 0.001). Intuitively, the mentality inside their universities started to change over the last 5 years (since 2000). For example, several years ago, the apparition of a successful academic entrepreneur produced some negative reactions in the community. Then, the university culture was considered a barrier to the entrepreneurial process (Shattock 2005). Nowadays, the university culture is changing slowly and the academic entrepreneur would be considered such a role model who can impact positively in the university community. Also, this process requires strategic actions that promote entrepreneurship associated with monetary and non-monetary incentives (Kirby 2005). Complementary, the formal factors with higher weights were the entrepreneurial education programs oriented to potential entrepreneurs inside their universities such as researchers (4.308, p < 0.001) and students (3.943, p < 0.001). In this respect, Krueger (2007) mentions the importance to examine the deep beliefs that are behind the cognitive structures, attitudes, intentions and entrepreneurial actions. However, most of the time there is no evidence of the impact of this entrepreneurial process on the members of the university community because it is difficult to distinguish the role and the culture at every entrepreneurial stage.

On the other side, the construct of internal factors is significantly conditioned by the capabilities (1.078, p < 0.001) and by the resources (1.000, p < 0.001). Particularly, the most critical factors are related with the alliances (1.013, p < 0.001) and the resources associated with the commercialization of technology (1.192, p < 0.001). In this way, the organizational structure was adapting to these changes to create an interface between the university and industry. In this sense, new hybrid structures appeared within the university such as Foundations, Science Parks, and Specialized Offices. Actually, these structures have shown an evolution in their infrastructures, services, interfaces with the industry and government, and the strategies implemented. In addition, the university has signed several trades and alliances with other public and private organizations to reinforce its missions. The main purpose is providing for the university community several mechanisms for fostering entrepreneurship through a combination of commercial and financial resources.

Complementary, the structural path was tested with the data grouped in two subsamples according the type of university in general (UAB, UAM, UMH, USC, UCA and USE) and technological universities (UPC, UPM and UPV). In this new analysis, the parameters and previous relationships were corroborated in both groups but with a few differences associated with the percentage of significance inside each construct (see Appendix6). The most relevant differences are linked with their nature (see Fig. 3); however, in practice, the environmental and internal factors have higher contributions to fulfil all the missions simultaneously. As a consequence, the main factors behind the entrepreneurial universities in Spain have been the entrepreneurial attitudes of academics, managers, researchers, staff and students. This means that an adequate combination of the leadership of the university government and the positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship of the university community makes substantial changes possible inside the university (Sporn 2001). In this sense, following Porter’s ideas (1985), this combination would allow the university to build a competitive advantage over other universities. Therefore, the entrepreneurial intentions (informal factors) of the university community (human resources) were the vital factor for the achievement of the university missions (Powers and McDougall 2005). Finally, the impact at the regional level was not explored in this phase because more data are required to generate robust evidence. Thus, this could be a good opportunity for future research.
Fig. 3

Critical factors involved in the Spanish entrepreneurial universities

5 Conclusion

Entrepreneurship is a wide concept that is observed in several scenarios such as real life cases, scientific projects, new enterprises and also in the configuration of societies. Specifically, in this last scenario, the value added is generated through the entrepreneurial opportunities that make the difference between the traditional and new knowledge economies (Audretsch 2007). In this context, the entrepreneurial opportunities are associated with the generation and the exploitation of knowledge considered such a key factor of production in this economy (Romer 1986). Besides, the university has been experimenting with several cultural, educational, institutional and legislative challenges in order to be a survivor inside a global competitive environment. As a result of these challenges, the phenomenon of entrepreneurial universities has emerged with a common strategy focused on being entrepreneurial at all university levels (Kirby 2005). This is not surprising because, since its creation, the university has been considered an innovation to cover the societies’ necessities. However, universities are complex organizations comprising a number of overlapping and nested communities of practice (Finlay 2004) and the economic benefit of universities for the local area is not highly visible. In this respect, Feldman and Desrochers (2003) found that it might be attributed to the lack of incentives and encouragement for commercial activity that might have potentially benefited the local area.

In this way, the entrepreneurial university is an instrument that not only provides a workforce and value added with the creation or transformation of knowledge but also improves the individual’s values and attitudes towards these issues. During the last years, at the academia level, this has represented a profitable research opportunity area in order to bring examples of good practices, strategies, solutions and recommendations to the university authorities and the policy makers. However, most of studies reveal a tendency to use case studies and the lack of a robust theoretical framework to understand the interrelations among the factors that conditioned the development of entrepreneurial university missions (Guerrero et al. 2006; Guerrero 2008). The main objective of this investigation was to identify the most critical factors and brings a model to measure this phenomenon empirically. Therefore, the first challenge was to identify a connection between the theoretical and the practical perspectives of this phenomenon adopting the Institutional Economics and Resource Base-View as a linkage. In this context, this investigation adopted the European Innovation Scoreboard methodology (European Commission 2005) and the Berlin Principles on Rankings of Higher Education (Institute for Higher Education Policy 2006) to identify the Spanish entrepreneurial university. Afterwards, the model was tested with the structural equation model.

The most critical factors identified were the attitudes towards entrepreneurship from academics and students. The main explanation for this is that each university community is unique and its attitudes towards entrepreneurship are defined by a combination of factors, such as entrepreneurship education, teaching methodologies, role models and reward systems. An interesting point is that only few studies in the field have analyzed the academics’ intentions (Hay et al. 2002). From this analysis, the stages model of an entrepreneurial university could be defined by an application orientation, a product orientation and a business orientation (Tijssen 2006). Hence, it is important to recognize the university typologies because not all universities are fully technological. In this sense, strategies need to be adapted to each type of university because the technological has the knowledge production and the strong relationship with the industry as its main competitive advantages, while the general has the multidisciplinary approach that helps to exploit several areas such as the phenomenon of nanotechnology, biosciences, cogno or info sciences. In summary, the results not only show empirical evidence about the conceptual framework proposed in this investigation but also about the identification of several stages of Entrepreneurial Universities. From this perspective and considering the Institutional Economics (formal and informal factors) and Resource Base-View (resources and capabilities), Table 5 presents the stages model of an entrepreneurial university based on Tijssen (2006). Complementary, the relevance could be measured by the economical and social externalities (value creation) associated with its impact on policy, demography, economy, infrastructure, culture, mobility, education and society (Guerrero 2008).
Table 5

Entrepreneurial universities’ stages



Initial stage







Three missions


Planned and implemented




Bureaucratic & collegial

Entrepreneurial & collegial

Organizational structures

Permanent (Basic)

Shift (Hybrids)

Challenge (Hybrids)

Support measures




Entrepreneurial education

For students

For students & academics


Attitudes to entrepreneurship




Role models & incentives




R & C

Key resources


Human & commercial & physical


Key capabilities


Alliances & localization & status



Entrepreneurial activities




Note: IF informal factor, FF formal factor, R resources, and C capabilities

The results of this research bring implications to university authorities about the human capital that constitutes the potential entrepreneurs (staff, academics and researchers, and students). In this sense, the university would to develop several strategies, structures and a culture oriented to reinforce: (1) better methods of quality education and training based on the personal growth that supports the creativity and entrepreneurial experience; and (2) better strategies for incentives. Also, industry implications evidenced by the necessity for strong collaborative agreements between university and industry. Concretely, the small and medium-sized enterprise requires those mechanisms to survive in a competitive environment because in the new economy the firm’s main strategic advantage is its knowledge and human capital. The university generates ideas and qualified human resources while industry has the economic resources to transform ideas into economically useful products.

This research has several limitations that creates future research lines; for example, an extended investigation comparing Spanish entrepreneurial universities with other European or American universities. Also, a longitudinal comparison of the entrepreneurial evolution of each university would prove to be useful and interesting information. In addition, other diagnostics with analytical tools applied to universities’ strategies in other regions would be a good research opportunity (Wong et al. 2007). Furthermore, there are other factors that need to be considered in the conceptual model proposed; for example, in-depth analysis needs to be focused on the influence of formal factors such as specific legislation, initiatives, incentives or other strategies developed by the regional governments to foster entrepreneurship and innovation. Also, there is a need for further research on the informal factors linked with the impact of social dynamics of entrepreneurship in the configuration of entrepreneurial intentions, and the acceptance of academic entrepreneurs (role models) in the region.


  1. 1.

    Term used to describe universities that have improved different mechanisms to contribute to regional development and increase their incomes. Additionally, other terms used have been: University Technological Transfer (Dill 1995), Innovative Universities (Clark 1998; Van Vught 1999) and Market Universities (Slaughter and Leslie 1997).

  2. 2.

    A set of 16 principles of quality, good practice and heterogeneity to refine methodologies used to conduct Higher Education rankings. Concretely, these principles define the purposes and goals of rankings; the design and weighting of indicators; the collection and processing of data; and presentation of ranking results.

  3. 3.

    Source: Ministry of Spanish Education and Science (MEC).

  4. 4.

    The indicators identified in the literature and that characterize an entrepreneurial university based on Table 6.

  5. 5.

    UPC (Technical University of Catalonia), UPV (Technical University of Valencia), UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona), USE (University of Seville), UAM (Autonomous University of Madrid), UMH (Miguel Hernandez University), USC (University of Santiago de Compostela), UCA (University of Cadiz University).



A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2009 Technology Transfer Society Annual Conference (Greensboro, North Carolina, October, 2). We are most grateful to several participants for their comments and suggestions, which have contributed to the improvement of this study. In particular, we highly appreciate comments from Professor Albert N. Link and Professor Sarfraz Mian. We are also grateful to comments and suggestions by two anonymous reviewers, which have decisively contributed to improve this final version of the manuscript. Finally, Maribel Guerrero has received financial support from the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas (Mexico). David Urbano has received financial resources from SEJ2007-60995 (Spanish Ministry of Education and Science) and 2005SGR00858 (Catalan Government’s Department for Universities, Research and Information Society).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business Economics DepartmentAutonomous University of BarcelonaBellaterra, BarcelonaSpain

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