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Institutional determinants of university spin-off quantity and quality: a longitudinal, multilevel, cross-country study

Abstract

The creation of spin-off firms from universities is seen as an important mechanism for the commercialization of research, and hence the overall contribution from universities to technological development and economic growth. Governments and universities are seeking to develop framework conditions that are conductive to spin-off creation. The most prevalent of such initiatives are legislative changes at national level and the establishment of technology transfer offices at university level. The effectiveness of such initiatives is debated, but empirical evidence is limited. In this paper, we analyze the full population of universities in Italy, Norway, and the UK; three countries adopting differing approaches to framework conditions, to test whether national- and university-level initiatives have an influence on the number of spin-offs created and the quality of these spin-offs. Building on institutional theory and using multilevel analysis, we find that changes in the institutional framework conditions at both national and university levels are conductive to the creation of more spin-offs, but that the increase in quantity is at the expense of the quality of these firms. Hence, the effect of such top–down changes in framework conditions on the economic impact from universities seems to be more symbolic than substantive.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    The significantly larger number of spin-offs per university in Norway is primarily driven by the country´s centralized university structure, comprising four relatively large research universities at the start of our observation period.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the seminar participants at the OECD Conference on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Enterprise Dynamics, OECD, Paris, December 8–9, 2014; the XXV Annual Scientific Meeting Associazione Italiana di Ingegneria Gestionale (RSA AiIG 2014), Bologna, October 16–17, 2014; and the 2015 Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Vancouver, August 2015, for valuable feedback on earlier versions of the manuscript. The authors would like to thank the TASTE project (FP7-PEOPLE—CIG—MARIE CURIE ACTIONS—#303502) and the Research Council of Norway for financial support. Finally, we want to thank the two anonymous reviewers whose feedback has greatly benefited this article.

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Correspondence to Riccardo Fini.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Tables 5 and 6 and Fig. 3.

Table 5 Results of multilevel negative binomial regression: spin-off quantity
Table 6 Results of multilevel negative binomial regression: spin-off quantity
Fig. 3
figure3

Interaction effects with confidence intervals (95 %)

Appendix 2

See Tables 7 and 8.

Table 7 Results of multilevel negative binomial regression: spin-off quality
Table 8 Results of multilevel negative binomial regression: spin-off quality

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Fini, R., Fu, K., Mathisen, M.T. et al. Institutional determinants of university spin-off quantity and quality: a longitudinal, multilevel, cross-country study. Small Bus Econ 48, 361–391 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-016-9779-9

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Keywords

  • Commercialization of research
  • Institutional framework
  • Technology transfer offices
  • University spin-offs
  • Venure capital

JEL Classifications

  • C12
  • L25
  • L26
  • O31
  • O32
  • O38