Journal of International Entrepreneurship

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 270–308 | Cite as

The determinants of the internationalization speed of Portuguese university spin-offs: An empirical investigation



The speed of internationalization of firms has attracted considerable research in the last few decades. However, with regard to a particular type of firm, university spin-offs (USOs), this line of research is still incipient. A majority of the studies on USOs highlights their main features but does not focus on internationalization. Based on the responses from 111 Portuguese USOs, of which 78 are exporters, econometric estimations indicate that: (1) the internationalization speed of USOs is critically dependent on support from technology transfer offices; (2) in line with the “learning advantages of newness” perspective, younger Portuguese USOs reveal higher levels of entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurial capabilities, being in a better position to internationalize earlier than older USOs; (3) USOs that operate in microelectronics/robotics internationalize faster and earlier than USOs operating in ICT/software/digital media; and (4) in contrast with the literature on born globals/international new ventures, greater involvement in R&D activities slows down the early internationalization process of USOs.


University spin-offs Internationalization speed Determinants Portugal 


La velocidad de internacionalización de las empresas ha sido considerablemente estudiada en las últimas décadas. Sin embargo, con respecto a un determinado tipo de empresa, las Spin-off Universitarias, esta línea de investigación es aún incipiente. La mayoría de los estudios sobre las Spin-off destaca sus principales características, pero no se centra en la cuestión de la internacionalización. Con base en las respuestas de 111 Spin-off portuguesas, 78 de las cuales son exportadoras, las estimaciones econométricas indican que: 1) La velocidad de internacionalización de las Spin-off es críticamente dependiente del apoyo de las Oficinas de Transferencia de Tecnología;; 2) de acuerdo con la perspectiva de “learning advantages of newness” (ventajas de aprendizaje de lo nuevo), las más jóvenes Spin-off portuguesas revelan mayores niveles de espíritu y capacidad emprendedores, al estar en una mejor posición para una temprana internacionalización en oposición a las Spin-off más antiguas; 3) Las Spin-off que operan en Microelectrónica/Robótica se internacionalizan más rápido y anticipadamente que las Spin-off que operan en TIC/Software/Medios Digitales y 4), en contraste con la literatura sobre las empresas Born Globals/International new ventures, mientras mayor es la participación en las actividades de I&D, más lento es el proceso de internacionalización adelantada de las Spin-off.

JEL Classification

O32 M13 M21 F23 



We sincerely acknowledge the four referees and the editor who provided insightful comments and valuable suggestions that helped to substantially improve the structure and content of the paper. We are also indebted to technology transfer officers and USO founders for their valuable collaboration. The first author acknowledges the support of the University Technology Enterprise Network (UTEN), a component of the UT Austin|Portugal Program founded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT).


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculdade de EconomiaUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal

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