The Internationalization of University Spin-offs: The Case of ETH Zurich Spin-offs

Laura Hofer

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis fills the gap in academic literature between internationalization theory and university spin-off research. Research in this gap is highly relevant as the number of internationalizing university spin-offs is rising. This study investigates which internationalization patterns that university spin-offs are following. The research question is assessed by looking at the characteristics of the internationalization process of university spin-offs and comparing these with the three main internationalization patterns: the original Uppsala model, the revised Uppsala model and born global theory. This is investigated by applying a case study approach on the university spin-offs from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The analysis is based on an empirical quantitative survey methodology. This study shows that the internationalization pattern of ETH spin-offs is mostly initiated by growth opportunities in foreign markets. It identifies that ETH spin-offs choose foreign markets based on economic factors and networks. Furthermore, it finds that they enter many foreign markets which are both near and distant mostly using non-equity modes. Lastly, it shows that ETH spin-offs have a high speed and intensity of internationalization as well as a large geographical spread. Their factors for choice of markets, their global spread and their intensity of internationalization are therefore following born global theory. The importance of networks for their choice of markets adheres to the revised Uppsala model whereas their choice of markets as well as their choice of entry mode follow the original Uppsala model. The internationalization pattern of ETH spin-offs is therefore found to be following a combination of the three main internationalization patterns. Further research is needed to develop a supporting infrastructure for university spin-off internationalization.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages101