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B. Bigliardi, F. Galati

University of Parma (ITALY)
Universities can play an enhanced role in innovation and are expected to contribute to the economic competitiveness of a country by commercializing their research results, according to their “third mission” (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 2000). Consequently, the creation of firms by Universities has become a key element for an effective exchange of knowledge between the academic sphere and the private sector. These firms are referred to as university or academic spin-offs. Academic spin-offs (hereafter, ASOs) involve the transfer of a core technology from a University into a new company, and their founders may include the inventor academic who may or may not be currently affiliated with the academic institution (Bigliardi et al., 2012).

Different factors have been identified in the literature affecting the growth of ASOs (Bigliardi et al., 2013). In a similar way, in order to encourage the creation of an ASO, it is possible to identify the goals and motivations of academic entrepreneurs. Economists regard profit maximization as the main goal or motivation of a company. However, if we refer to ASOs, according to their peculiarities the motivating factors may vary. The extant literature proposes different studies investigating these motivations. However, to our knowledge, only scant paper exist (Hayter, 2015) investigating if and why these motivations change over the time. Moreover, no study refers to the Italian context.

Based on these premises, the main purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) to explore the motives that drive academics to start their own business, (2) to explore if and why these motives evolve over the time. With this purpose in mind, we first reviewed the extant literature in order to identify the main motivating factors proposed by previous studies. Second, we investigated the Italian context and specifically, we analyzed 19 Italian ASOs.

As a first result from the study, the main founding motives have been identified and classified according to their nature. In addition, the results from the multiple case studies show that: (i) the main motives that drive academics to start their own business are research-related motives and the dissatisfaction with the university salary; (ii) such motives evolved for almost all the ASO investigated; (iii) the main factors affecting such evolution are experience, market knowledge and financial gain.

[1] B. Bigliardi, F. Galati, G. Marolla, C. Verbano, “Performance measurement of academic spin-off companies: lessons from Italy”, ICERI2012 Proceedings, pp. 4754-4762, 2012.
[2] B. Bigliardi, F. Galati, C. Verbano, “Evaluating performance of university spin-off companies: Lessons from Italy”, Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, vol. 8, no. 2, pp.178-188, 2013.
[3] H. Etzkowitz, L. Leydesdorff, “The dynamics of innovation: from National Systems and “Mode 2” to a Triple Helix of university–industry–government relations”, Research Policy, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 109-123, 2000.
[4] C.S. Hayter, “Public or private entrepreneurship? Revisiting motivations and definitions of success among academic entrepreneurs”, The Journal of Technology Transfer, vol. 40, no. 6, pp.1003-1015, 2015.