Handbook on the Entrepreneurial University
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Handbook on the Entrepreneurial University

Edited by Alain Fayolle and Dana T. Redford

This insightful Handbook offers a lens through which to view entrepreneurship strategy for higher education institutions, as it becomes increasingly necessary for universities to consider changing their strategies, culture and practices to become more entrepreneurial.
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Chapter 15: Commercializing science by means of university spin-offs: an ethical review

Elco van Burg


Entrepreneurship within universities is important to exploit the full economic and social potential of university inventions. Without entrepreneurial individuals, and a university organization that supports those individuals, new research findings will probably be published and taught, but it is likely that broader value is not fully developed (e.g., Siegel et al., 2004, 2007). Entrepreneurship within universities, for instance in the form of university spin-offsñventures founded to exploit university inventionsñserves to transform technological breakthroughs from university research, which would probably remain unexploited otherwise (Shane, 2002; Meyer, 2006). Therefore, policy-makers have become very interested in university spin-offs and in the concept of an entrepreneurial university as a means for technology transfer and economic growth (Gilsing et al., 2010). Universities have established policies and support infrastructures to support entrepreneurship (van Burg et al., 2008), thereby moving in the direction of becoming entrepreneurial universities (Bramwell and Wolfe, 2008). However, supporting entrepreneurial activities within universities creates several difficulties, such as the potential conflict of interest between commercial and academic work and the risk to university reputation if founders of spin-offs act inappropriately (Bird et al., 1993; Shane, 2004; Slaughter and Rhoades, 2004). Due to this debate in the popular press as well as within the university, academic entrepreneurs feel sometimes that their behaviour is not welcomed by the university. Therefore, there is a need to review the concept of an entrepreneurial university, and more specifically that creation of university spin-offs, from an ethical perspective.

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