The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 734–759 | Cite as

How university spin-offs differ in composition and interaction: a qualitative approach

  • Cornelia Kolb
  • Marcus Wagner


During their early development, academic spin-off projects are embedded in the context of research institutions. However, knowledge is still lacking on whether the influence of university structures on spin-off projects or the need for resources and the initial setting of these projects vary across research disciplines or university departments. To enhance our understanding of the development of spin-off projects, it is necessary to identify strategies focusing on the specific characteristics of spin-off projects within a single research institution. In our study, we therefore address interactions of spin-off projects with several factors within one university, based on spin-off projects from 2007 to 2013. We inductively derive four types of spin-off projects that interact differently with the different factors and the university. By concentrating on the specific needs of each type, we can provide a framework allowing to identify spin-off needs and to implement target-oriented support mechanisms.


Academic entrepreneurship University spin-offs Technology transfer Stage-gate models 

JEL Classification

L26 O31 J24 


  1. Acs, Z., Audretsch, D. B., Braunerhjelm, P., & Carlsson, B. (2010). The missing link: The knowledge filter and entrepreneurship in endogenous growth. Small Business Economic, 34(2), 105–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Audretsch, D. B., Keilbach, M., & Lehmann, E. (2006). Entrepreneurship and economic growth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Audretsch, D. B., Lehmann, E. E., & Warning, S. (2005). University spillovers and new firm location. Research Policy, 34, 1113–1122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Audretsch, D. B., Lehmann, E. E., & Warning, S. (2004). University spillovers: Does the kind of science matter? Industry and Innovation, 11(3), 193–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aufenanger, S. (1991). Qualitative analyse semi-struktureller interviews: Ein Werkstattbericht. In D. Ganz & K. Kraimer (Eds.), Qualitativ-empirische Sozialforschung. Konzepte, Methoden, Analysen (pp. 35–59). Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bähring, K., Hauff, S., Sossdorf, M., & Thommes, K. (2008). Methodologische Grundlagen und Besonderheiten der qualitativen Befragung von Experten in Unternehmen: Ein Leitfaden. Die Unternehmung, 62(1), 89–111.Google Scholar
  7. Bercovitz, J., & Feldman, M. (2008). Academic entrepreneurs: Organizational change at the individual level. Organization Science, 19(1), 69–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bolzani, D., Fini, R., Grimaldi, R., & Sobrero, M. (2014). University spin-offs and their impact: Longitudinal evidence from Italy. Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, 41(4), 237–263.Google Scholar
  9. Borlaug, S. B., Grünfeld, L., Gulbrandsen, M., Rasmussen, E., Rønning, L., Spilling, O. R., et al. (2009). Between entrepreneurship and technology transfer: Evaluation of the FORNY programme, Report 19. Oslo: NIFU STEP.Google Scholar
  10. Caliendo, M., Fossen, F., & Kritikos, A. (2011). Personality characteristics and the decision to become and stay self-employed. Discussion paper series. Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit, No. 5566. Accessed 28 April 2015.
  11. Caliendo, M., & Kritikos, A. (2012). Searching for the entrepreneurial personality: New evidence and avenues for further research. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(2), 319–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarysse, B., & Moray, N. (2004). A process study of entrepreneurial team formation: The case of a research-based spin-off. Journal of Business Venturing, 19, 55–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarysse, B., Wright, M., Lockett, A., van de Velde, E., & Vohora, A. (2005). Spinning out new ventures: A typology of incubation strategies from European reseearch institution. Journal of Business Venturing, 20(2), 183–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cooper, R. G. (1990). Stage-gate systems: A new tool for managing new products. Business-Horizons, 33, 44–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cunningham, J., O’Reilly, P., O’Kane, C., & Mangematin, V. (2014). The inhibiting factors that principal investigators experience in leading publicly funded research projects. Journal of Technology Transfer, 39(1), 93–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cunningham, J. A., Mangematin, V., O’Kane, C., & O’Reilly, P. (2015). At the frontiers of scientific advancement: The factors that influence scientists to become or choose to become publicly funded principal investigators. Journal of Technology Transfer, 41, 1–20.Google Scholar
  17. Degroof, J.-J., & Roberts, E. B. (2004). Overcoming weak entrepreneurial infrastructures for academic spin-off ventures. Journal of Technology Transfer, 29, 327–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Di Gregorio, D., & Shane, S. (2003). Why do some universities generate more start-ups than others? Research Policy, 32, 209–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Druilhe, C., & Garnsey, E. (2004). Do academic spin-outs differ and does it matter? Journal of Technology Transfer, 29(3), 269–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Egeln, J., Gottschalk, S., Rammer, C., & Spielkamp, A. (2002). Spinoff Gründungen aus der öffentlichen Forschung in Deutschland. Documentation No. 03-02. Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung. Accessed 07 May 2015.
  21. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550.Google Scholar
  22. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 25–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Etzkowitz, H. (2008). The triple helix: University-industry-government innovation in action. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. European Commission (2007). Improving knowledge transfer between research institutions and industry across Europe: embracing open innovation: Implementing the Lisbon Agenda. Communication to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.Google Scholar
  25. Flick, U. (2002). Qualitative Sozialforschung. Eine Einführung. Reinbek: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
  26. Franklin, S., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2001). Academic and surrogate entrepreneurs in University spin-out companies. Journal of Technology Transfer, 6(1–2), 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fritsch, M., & Krabel, S. (2012). Ready to leave the ivory tower?: Academic scientists’ appeal to work in the private sector. Journal of Technology Transfer, 37(3), 271–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. George, G., Jain, S., & Maltarich, M. A. (2005). Academics or entrepreneurs? Entrepreneurial identity and invention disclosure behavior of university scientists. Available at SSRN: or
  29. Gibbert, M., Ruigrok, W., & Wicki, B. (2008). Research notes and commentaries—What passes as a rigorous case study? Strategic Management Journal, 29, 1465–1474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Grimaldi, R., Kenney, M., Siegel, D., & Wright, M. (2011). Bayh-Dole 30 years on: Reassessing academic entrepreneurship. Research Policy, 40, 1045–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hülsbeck, M., Lehmann, E. E., & Starnacker, A. (2013). Performance of technology transfer offices in Germany. Journal of Technology Transfer, 38(3), 199–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kenney, M., & Goe, W. R. (2004). The role of social embeddedness in professorial entrepreneurship: A comparison of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley and Stanford. Research Policy, 33, 691–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kolb, C., & Wagner, M. (2015). Crowding in or crowding out: The link between academic entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial traits. Journal of Technology Transfer, 40(3), 387–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kuckartz, U., Dresing, T., Rädiker, S., & Stefer, C. (2008). Qualitative evaluation. Der Einstieg in die Praxis. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  35. Lockett, A., Wright, M., & Franklin, S. (2003). Technology transfer and universities’ spin-out strategies. Small Business Economics, 20, 185–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mayring, P. (2010). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz Verlag.Google Scholar
  37. Meuser, M., & Nagel, U. (1991). ExpertInneninterviews—vielfach erprobt, wenig bedacht. In D. Ganz, K. Kraimer (Eds.), Qualitativ-empirische sozialforschung. Konzepte, Methoden, Analysen (pp. 441–471). Westdeutscher Verlag.Google Scholar
  38. Müller, K. (2010). Academic spin-off’s transfer speed–analyzing the time from leaving university to venture. Research Policy, 39(2), 189–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mustar, P., Renault, M., Colombo, M. G., Piva, E., Fontes, M., Lockett, A., et al. (2006). Conceptualising the heterogeneity of research-based spin-offs: A multidimensional taxonomy. Research Policy, 35, 289–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mustar, P., Wright, M., & Clarysse, B. (2008). University spin-off firms: Lessons from ten years of experience in Europe. Science and Public Policy, 35(2), 67–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ndonzuau, F. N., Pirnay, F., & Surlemont, B. (2002). A stage model of academic spin-off creation. Technovation, 22, 281–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Kane, C., Cunningham, J., Mangematin, V., & O’Reilly, P. (2013). Underpinning strategic behaviours and posture of principal investigators in transition/uncertain environments. Long Range Planning, 48(3), 200–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. O’Shea, R. P., Allen, T. J., Chevalier, A., & Roche, F. (2005). Entrepreneurial orientation, technology transfer and spinoff performance of US universities. Research Policy, 34(7), 994–1009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. O’Shea, R. P., Chugh, H., & Allen, T. J. (2008). Determinants and consequences of university spinoff activity: A conceptual framework. Journal of Technology Transfer, 33(6), 653–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Perkmann, M., Tartari, V., McKelvey, M., Autio, E., Broström, A., D’Este, P., et al. (2013). Academic engagement and commercialisation: A review of the literature on university–industry relations. Research Policy, 42(2), 423–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pettigrew, A. (1990). Longitudinal field research on change: Theory and practice. Organization Science, 1, 267–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pirnay, F., Surlemont, B., & Nlemvo, F. (2003). Towards a typology of university spin-offs. Small Business Economics, 21, 355–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rasmussen, E. (2011). Understanding academic entrepreneurship: Exploring the emergence of university spin-off ventures using process theories. International Small Business Journal, 29(5), 448–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rasmussen, E., & Borch, O. J. (2010). University capabilities in facilitating entrepreneurship: A longitudinal study of spin-off ventures at mid-range universities. Research Policy, 39(5), 602–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rasmussen, E., Mosey, S., & Wright, M. (2014). The influence of university departments on the evolution of entrepreneurial competencies in spin-off ventures. Research Policy, 43, 92–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Roberts, E. B., & Malone, D. E. (1996). Policies and structures for spinning off new companies from research and development organizations. R&D Management, 26(1), 17–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rosa, P., & Dawson, A. (2006). Gender and the commercialization of university science: Academic founders of spinout companies. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 18(4), 341–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shane, S., & Stuart, T. (2002). Organizational endowments and the performance of university start-ups. Management Science, 48(1), 154–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Siegel, D. S., Waldman, D., & Link, A. (2003). Assessing the impact of organizational practices on the relative productivity of university technology transfer offices: An exploratory study. Research Policy, 32, 27–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stigler, H., & Reicher, H. (2005). Praxisbuch Empirische Sozialforschung in den Erziehungs- und Bildungswissenschaften. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag Ges.mb.H.Google Scholar
  56. Stuart, T., & Ding, W. W. (2006). When do scientists become entrepreneurs? The social structural antecedents of commercial activity in the academic life sciences. American Journal of Sociology, 112(1), 97–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ucbasaran, D., Lockett, A., Wright, M., & Westhead, P. (2003). Entrepreneurial founder teams: Factors associated with members entry and exit. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 28(2), 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Van de Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510–540.Google Scholar
  59. Vanaelst, I., Clarysse, B., Wright, M., Lockett, A., Moray, N., & S’Jegers, R. (2006). Entrepreneurial team development in academic spin-outs: An examination of team heterogeneity. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 30(2), 249–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vohora, A., Wright, M., & Lockett, A. (2004). Critical junctures in the development of university high-tech spinout companies. Research Policy, 33, 147–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wright, M., Birley, S., & Mosey, S. (2004). Entrepreneurship and university technology transfer. Journal of Technology Transfer, 29, 235–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wright, M., Hmieleski, K. M., Siegel, D. S., & Ensley, M. D. (2007). The role of human capital in technological entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 31(6), 791–806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Service Centre Research and Technology TransferUniversity of WuerzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Chair of Management, Innovation and International Business, Faculty of Business and EconomicsUniversity of AugsburgAugsburgGermany
  3. 3.Bureau d’Economie Théorique et AppliquéeUniversité de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance

Personalised recommendations