The bibliometric structure of spin-off literature
Magazine article, 2007
In this paper I investigate the bibliometric structure of the literature on spin-off firms, in terms of topics addressed and links to and between scientific fields. The concept of ‘spin-offs’ has generated much interest both in the academic literature and in policy debates due to the perceived importance for innovation and economic renewal. At the same time, when reading academic articles, one is struck by the diversity and lack of definitions of the concept itself, as well as the multiple interpretations of the relevance of the spin-off phenomenon. By analyzing the bibliometric structure of spin-off literature I try to remedy some of these problems. The dataset consists of 215 source articles and 2397 cited authors. The source articles are academic papers published between 1957 and 2006 with ‘spin-off’ in the title and identified through the Web of Knowledge database. The bibliometric structure is analyzed firstly from a direct perspective where the source documents that make up the spin-off literature are analyzed, and secondly from an indirect perspective where the documents cited by the source documents are analyzed. I investigate which topics are addressed in the spin-off literature and which are the leading authors and journals, as well as changes over time. By doing this I attempt to uncover which scientific fields are linked to the spin-off concept.
The results are inconclusive as to whether the spin-off literature has become an independent field. Most authors contribute only one source article, which leads to a situation where the community redefines the concept continually, rather than using one core definition. However, network analysis of co-occurrence data does reveal some core literature, which unites the different sub-components. First, there are two main scientific fields which the spin-off literature draws upon: the financial field, and the entrepreneurship/innovation field. A dynamic analysis suggests that over time the focus has shifted in favor of the latter. Second, the link to more general literature in economics of innovation is less pronounced in the entrepreneurship/innovation field than what is perhaps expected. An explanation may be that the field is mainly drawing on empirical studies, which do not necessarily help the conceptual understanding of the spin-off concept. However, it appears that the entrepreneurship/innovation field is influenced by the resource-based view of the firm, evolutionary theory and an emerging entrepreneurship literature.