Academic Entrepreneurship: Stories Behind a Technology

Juan J. Ocampo

Student thesis: Master thesis


Increasingly, universities are expected to go beyond their traditional education and research mission. As Tommy Ahlers, the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, has expressed “My ambition (…) is that in ten years’ time, we will have more new companies emerging from the Danish research environment. Companies that can grow and become an engine for growth in the Danish economy”1 . As a consequence of this ambition, a task that has become more important in recent years is the development and support of new entrepreneurial ventures coming from universities, sometimes called “Academic Entrepreneurship” (AE). Universities engage in AE to become more financially sustainable, have a stronger impact on society, prove the practical relevance of their research, and increase their reputation. Despite its growing relevance, the management and entrepreneurship literature on AE has several shortcomings, which I discuss in this thesis: it lacks focus and fails to work comparatively (not least because of the many definitions of AE used simultaneously); it is strongly shaped by positivist research perspectives and focuses very strongly on the context of the United States; and it silently assumes unity and aligned interests among the team members within an emerging AE venture.
In this thesis, I set out to mitigate some of these shortcomings by use of an in-depth qualitative case study of the Berlin based company ALPHA. Through a detailed review of the literature, I first identify voids and research opportunities and, as an attempt to focus the discussion, explicate my definition of AE as “Ventures exploiting codified or tacit knowledge that has the potential to be commercialized, which was generated (a) through research carried out in a university, and (b) by a faculty member of a university”. Through the analysis of ALPHA’s stories, this thesis expands on the existing literature in three ways: it explores the role of different team members and possible “Throne vs Kingdom” tensions in an AE venture, details the important but thorny legitimisation processes at play in such an organization, and clarifies how the internal identity of individual team members matters for the success of an AE venture.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages65
SupervisorsChristina Lubinski