How entrepreneurial is it to connect students to university technology transfer
Conference contribution, 2018
Questions we care about: This paper asks the following question “How entrepreneurial is it to connect students to technology transfer?”. The answer is non-obvious in at least two ways. Firstly, university technology transfer is mostly assumed to be about research, patents, licensing and occasional academic entrepreneurs starting ventures, but not being a space for students to make entrepreneurial impact. Secondly, if students were connected to early technology transfer inventions, what, if any, entrepreneurial learning could that then offer?
Approach: The paper investigates a 7,5 HEC, eight-week course running annually since 2008 which connects student teams with early-stage invention disclosures. Under a secrecy agreement, the teams are asked to explore the viability of an idea. The outcomes of this course are investigated in two ways: how ideas have progressed (or not) after the course (indicating entrepreneurial impact), and how students experience learning outcomes (indicating entrepreneurial learning). A case study of one of the ideas transforming into a venture is also offered to help identify ways student-involvement can be entrepreneurial.
Results: Over ten years, altogether 211 ideas have been evaluated by the student teams within the course. 27 ideas have progressed into an incubator where idea owners have been matched with student teams. Of these 27 incubated ideas, twelve have become incorporated firms which are all (with one exception) operational to date. These descriptive findings along with the case Swedish Algae Factory indicate in what ways student involvement in technology transfer can be seen as ‘being entrepreneurial’.
The idea evaluations do not contain typical entrepreneurial learning outcomes, such as business plan writing or testing value propositions on customers (Lean Startup method). Instead, skills are obtained through analyzing technical ideas into multiple directions, exploring future value visions, determining next steps, and organizational dynamics including teamwork and stakeholders (e.g. idea provider).
Implications: The findings strongly suggest that we need to revise our view of university technology transfer and what is entrepreneurial or not. Connecting students to technology transfer, makes entrepreneurial sense not only from an impact and progress perspective, but also from an entrepreneurial learning point of view.
Value/Originality: This study can help universities revise what is meant by technology transfer and entrepreneurship education and how the two can connect.