Title: The Partnerships Of Academic Spin-Offs: From Transfer To Collective Exploration
Author(s): Liliana Doganova
Affiliation: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris
Presented At: STiS 2008
Primary Topic Area: Innovation Studies
Academic spin-offs, which are new ventures created in order to exploit research results and know-how generated in public research organizations, are considered as a vehicle for the transfer of knowledge and technology from science to the market. I examine the presumed transfer role of academic spin-offs by centring on the study of their partnerships.
Following the development path of two academic spin-offs, I encounter various partners who intervene in different stages of the technology transfer process which, as I show, is not limited to the period before or after start-up. The first case deals with the collaboration between a spin-off, which has since become a famous shopbot, and a venture capital firm. The second case maps the network of partners of a software spin-off by examining the continuous generation and use of its products.
Academic spin-offs’ partners, I contend, are not mere resource providers or technology recipients. They play an active role in triggering the transfer process and qualifying what is transferred both in terms of technology and market. By putting emphasis on the agency of partners, these case studies inform and question two conceptual frameworks that are applied in the analysis of academic entrepreneurship: opportunity-based entrepreneurship theories and technology transfer models. The notion of exploration, borrowed from the organizational learning literature and applied to the case of partnerships, is put forward in order to account for what the collectives built by academic spin-offs do.