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.
KeywordsEntrepreneurial universities Institutional economics Resource-based view Higher education Knowledge transfer Technology transfer
JEL ClassificationM13 (New Firms; Startups) L26 (Entrepreneurship) I23 (Higher Education Research Institutions) I28 (Education Government Policy)
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
Theoretical models of entrepreneurial universities
A strengthened steering core
An expanded developmental periphery
A diversified funding base
A stimulated academic heartland
An integrated entrepreneurial culture
Mission and goals
Structure, management, governance and leadership
Networks, conglomerates and strategic alliances
Interdependence with the industry and government and independence from another institutional spheres
Hybrid organizational forms
Capitalization of knowledge
Encouragement and support
Recognition and reward
Rothaermel et al. (2007)
Policies and technology
Human capital resources
Status and prestige
Networks and alliances
Rothaermel et al. (2007)
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).
3.1 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).
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)
Main constructs of the entrepreneurial university
Entrepreneurial university mission (UM)
Promote an entrepreneurial culture
Publishing papers with practical implications
Knowledge transfer (patents, licences, spin-offs)
Publishing scientific papers
Contribute to regional and social development
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
Entrepreneurship role models
Entrepreneurship courses for students
Entrepreneurship courses for 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)
10-point scale questions following the experts’ survey protocol
95% Z = 1.96 p = q = 0.5
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.
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.
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.
Entrepreneurial universities’ stages
UCA & USE
UMH & UAM & UPM & UAB
UPC & UPV & USC
FF & IF
Planned and implemented
Bureaucratic & collegial
Entrepreneurial & collegial
For students & academics
Attitudes to entrepreneurship
Role models & incentives
R & C
Human & commercial & physical
Alliances & localization & status
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.
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).
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.
Source: Ministry of Spanish Education and Science (MEC).
The indicators identified in the literature and that characterize an entrepreneurial university based on Table 6.
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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