Myths, Visions and Realities
Edited by Marina van Geenhuizen and Peter Nijkamp
Chapter 7: The Academic Entrepreneur: Myth or Reality for Increased Regional growth in Europe?
Katalin Erdős and Attila Varga INTRODUCTION Knowledge flows from universities to the regional economy may take different forms, ranging from formal research collaborations to consultancy and informal personal connections (Varga, 2009). One of the knowledge communication channels drawing substantial interest of both researchers and regional policy-makers is university spin-off firm formation. Spin-off founding is a high-profile entrepreneurial activity that benefits regional economic development through job creation and enhances technological change by bringing research results to the market (Lawton Smith and Glasson, 2005). It is estimated that since the 1930s, MIT has spawned 4000 companies employing more than a million people. If these firms formed a nation, it would be the world’s 24th largest economy, between South Africa’s and Thailand’s (Newsweek, 9 November, 1998). The Cambridge Phenomenon constitutes a European success story: Cambridge University in the United Kingdom was identified as being indirectly the origin of virtually all the high-technology companies in the Cambridge area (Wicksteed, 1985). Lawton Smith and Glasson (2005) investigated 114 high-tech spin-offs originated in the Oxfordshire region’s universities and research laboratories and found that the companies had around 9000 employees in 2002, with a total turnover of nearly £1 billion. Vincett (2010) argued that spin-offs contribute significantly to the GDP. The economic importance of spin-offs is also shown by the 280 000 jobs that were created in the US between 1980 and 1999 according to The Association of University Technology Managers (O’Shea et al., 2005). The ‘academic entrepreneur’ is the ultimate driver of university spin-off firm...
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