The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 11–32 | Cite as

Principal investigators as scientific entrepreneurs

  • Anne Casati
  • Corine Genet


Although principal investigators are key actors in scientific fields, there is little focus on what they actually do in shaping new scientific directions. This paper studies PIs practices to better understand their roles. Our central contribution is to identify the different ways in which PIs engage themselves in science, in implementing four main practices: ‘focusing in scientific discipline’, ‘innovating and problem solving’, ‘shaping new paradigms and models’ and ‘brokering science’. While ‘focusing’ and ‘innovating’ remain close to project management, ‘shaping’ and ‘brokering’ look more like entrepreneurial activities, shaping new horizons, reshaping boundaries between subfields and among organizations. External orientations to how they engage in different practices shapes PIs roles to articulate different worlds and to reshape the boundaries of organizations, knowledge and markets. Studying PIs’ practices and their combinations advances our knowledge about their roles in managing the interplay between science policies and scientific agendas more effectively highlighting their role as scientific entrepreneurs.


Principal investigator Scientific entrepreneur Practices Engagement Boundary Career path Role Position 

JEL Classification

M1 O31 O32 L38 



We gratefully acknowledge C. Baden-Fuller and B. Bozeman from their helpful and developmental comments on the earlier version. We would also like to express our deep acknowledgements to C. Robin who performed some of the interviews and to Jon Morgan of Paraphrase who helped us refine our arguments. We acknowledge the financial support of ANR (ANR-09-NANO-032-01 and ANR-10-BLANC-1811-02).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grenoble Ecole de ManagementGrenoble CedexFrance

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