V Start Ups and the Role of Policy Actors

The Challenging Life of University Start Ups: The Different View of Value Creation in a Policy Setting Compared to a Business Setting

Tommy Shih and Alexandra Waluszewski

Successful University Start Ups: A Wanted but Rare Phenomena

University start ups are, in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) policy setting, viewed as important means to transform scientific advances into innovations, corresponding both to market and societal needs (Mowery & Sampat, 2005; Rider, Hasselberg, & Waluszewski, 2013). The high expectations on the ability to directly transform social and material resources, valuable in an academic research setting, into new products/ services to contribute possible value in a business setting are rooted in the

T. Shih (h)

Department of Business Administration, Lund University, Lund, Sweden A. Waluszewski

Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

© The Author(s) 2017

L. Aaboen et al. (eds.), Starting Up in Business Networks, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-52719-6_10

so-called 1990s science and innovation policy doctrine, with the OECD as its most prominent advocate (Eklund, 2007; Waluszewski, 2011). The doctrine points to university research as an important but underutilised direct source of innovation for growth and societal welfare. In the wake of this policy regime, a number of measures have been undertaken to stimulate the commercialisation of research results, with the establishment of university start ups as a key measure.

From the policy perspective, the basic recipe for the creation of university start ups is founded upon a seemingly simple template to (1) facilitate the direction of research to the identified market and societal needs, and (2) facilitate the start up companies’ ability to transform these into new products/services (La Rocca & Snehota, 2014 ; Rider & Waluszewski, 2015) . Hence, the point of departure is that scientific advances are among the most important factors for the creation of start ups. Moreover, a transfer structure manifested through innovation offices, science parks and incubators are important for supporting the emergence of start ups. Most OECD and EU member states follow this model, regardless of whether the research ownership results follow the suggestions of the US Bayh-Dole Act, which ascribes intellectual property (IP) rights to universities, or if it belongs to the researcher behind the results, as for example in Sweden (Damsgaard & Thursby, 2013)-

The outcome of the increasing attempt to commercialise research results has been an overall surge in the number of university start ups. The most extreme example is perhaps Japan, where the government in 2001 appointed university start ups as means to reinvigorate the economy, and where more than 1000 start ups were already established three years after the release plan (Walsh, Baba, Goto, & Yasaki, 2008). However, the growing number of start ups is far from the same as achieving a growing number of successful innovation journeys.

The failure rates for university start ups are high in comparison to other kinds of new companies, for example those, which emanate from research institutes and corporations (Ensley & Hmieleski, 2005; Wennberg, Wiklund, & Wright, 2012). Moreover, even if the product/service that the university start up launches eventually results in a successful innovation, it is not necessarily the start up company that is behind the resource industrialisation and global marketing. Instead, potentially successful innovations tend to be absorbed by large companies where they can be embedded into established research and development (R&D), production and marketing structures. (Mirowski, 2011, pp. 199-208; Pisano, 2006; Perna, Baraldi, & Waluszewski, 2015)

Hence, there is significant research experience indicating that what in a policy setting appears as a valuable research result, suited for commercialisation through the establishment of a start up company, does not necessarily appear as valuable from the business producer and user perspective. This notion is behind the overall research question of this chapter: What expectations are university start ups exposed to in a policy setting compared to a producer and user setting?

To answer the question, two case studies of university start ups illustrate the interfaces, which are required to create value in a business producer- user, respectively, in a policy setting; the latter defined as transnational, national and local actors established to fulfil governmental politics and policy. The content of the paper is organised as follows: the next section presents the theoretical framework, followed by the methodological discussion. Thereafter, the two case studies are presented, as well as an analysis where the expectations each company faces in its setting are discussed. The concluding discussion focuses on the consequences of the differences in producer-user and policy logic.

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