Fostering the creation of academic spinoffs: does the international mobility of the academic leader matter?

  • Alice CiveraEmail author
  • Davide Donina
  • Michele Meoli
  • Silvio Vismara


The impact of the academic leaders on the university’s entrepreneurial orientation has received only anecdotal attention, though they are recognized to be important for the flow and transfer of knowledge as they have a pivotal role in setting the strategic goals of their institutions. Our study addresses this gap by investigating the role of university leaders in fostering the creation of academic spinoffs. Particularly we focus on the impact of university leader’s international mobility. Through a longitudinal study of 1176 spinoffs from 59 Italian state universities over the period 2001 and 2015, we find that the mobility of university leaders positively affects the rate of establishment of academic spinoffs. Rectors that experienced international mobility in their career develop networks and collaborations that facilitate the business involvement of their institutions. These positive externalities are larger in internationalized universities as well as in international-oriented regions. The research contributions on human capital theory, social network literature, international academic mobility, and knowledge spillover theory of entrepreneurship are discussed.


Academic spinoffs, university leaders International mobility Knowledge transfer Italy 



The authors would like to thank the participants at CHER Conference in Moscow for their useful comments and suggestions, particularly Giovanni Barbato; and prof. Laura Ramaciotti, who provided important insights about the role of the academic leader in shaping entrepreneurial culture by relying on her experience as Responsible of Liaison Office of the University of Ferrara. Finally, we acknowledge the support by the Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research through the PRIN 2015: “Comparing Governance Regime Changes in Higher Education”.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Information and Production Engineering (DIGIP)University of BergamoDalmineItaly
  2. 2.Department of Management and EconomicsUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  3. 3.CCSE –HERe, CisAlpino Institute for Comparative Studies in Europe, Higher Education Research groupUniversity of BergamoDalmineItaly
  4. 4.Department of Accounting, Corporate Finance and TaxationUniversity of GhentGhentBelgium

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