The Lived Experience of Academic Entrepreneurship: The interplay between practice, identity, and context
Doktorsavhandling, 2020

This thesis explores how academic entrepreneurs experience and practically manage the combination of research and business, with special emphasis on the interplay between practice and identity and the effects of institutional context. Empirical focus is on university researchers who co-found companies while remaining in academia. Despite being the topic of intense scholarly attention, research on academic entrepreneurship is lacking a richer understanding of the actor at the center of it all: the university scientist engaging in entrepreneurship. The overwhelming dominance of macrolevel research (e.g. organizational and institutional determinants, and economic outcomes) has led to calls for more research into the microlevel processes that underpin this phenomenon.  However, scholars taking such a microlevel approach have primarily focused on how characteristics of individual scientists, such as age, gender, academic seniority and scientific productivity, relate to their propensity to engage in research commercialization. While useful, a preoccupation with individuals’ characteristics not only neglects the agency and introspection of scientists engaging in entrepreneurship, it also misses a great opportunity to enrich and deepen our understanding of institutions, norms and university policies by not examining them through the lens of academic entrepreneurs' lived experiences and identity work.
To enrich and complement our understanding of academic entrepreneurship, this thesis takes as point of departure the lived experience of university scientists engaged in venture creation. The transitions between the distinct roles of academic and entrepreneur can lead to unforeseen and irregular experiences that disrupt the sense of normality and place new, sometimes conflicting, demands on work identity. By exploring the work practices academic entrepreneurs engage in as they combine their two distinct roles, the aim is to understand how these individuals make sense and hybridize their identities as scientists and academics. To do so, this thesis relies primarily on qualitative studies that explore the contextualized lived experiences of academic entrepreneurs with special emphasis on the confluence, complementarities and potential tensions between their roles. The primary method is semi-structured phenomenological interviews.
Findings indicate that academic entrepreneurs are not simply adopting a ready-made identity that lies implicit in institutional norms or can be taken over from exemplary foregoers. Instead, they engage reflexively in subtle transformations and revisions of their own existing work identity, which is typically that of an academic. The thesis shows how practice can be an occasion for nuancing work identity. It contributes to the academic entrepreneurship literature by highlighting how clarity and coherence in work identity is achieved through cultivating a reinforcing dialectic between opposing roles, instead of only separating them through defensive boundaries.


grounded theory.


academic entrepreneurship

university-industry relationships

Self and identity


identity work


TME Järntorget (2356)
Opponent: Associate Professor Andrew Nelson, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon, USA


Marouane Bousfiha

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy

Bousfiha, M. and Berglund, H. Constructing a Hybrid Identity: The Case Of Academic Entrepreneurs

Bousfiha, M. The Lived Experience of Academic Entrepreneurship: A Comparative Case Study of Chalmers and Stanford

Bousfiha, M., Williams Middleton, K, Warren, L. ‘What I Do Defines Me’: Exploring Entrepreneurship as Occupational Identity

Opportunities as Artifacts and Entrepreneurship as Design

Academy of Management Review,; Vol. 45(2020)p. 825-846

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Universities have been traditionally tasked with two key missions: research and education. Over the last decades, several policy initiatives have pushed in the direction of adding a third mission: transferring technologies and innovations from the lab to the economy and society at large. To accomplish this mission, an increasing number of academic scientists are creating start-up companies to commercialise their scientific discoveries. This thesis explores how these scientists reconcile the ostensibly very different roles of academic scholar and for-profit entrepreneur. The thesis builds on empirical evidence from two cases: Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Stanford University in the USA.



Ekonomi och näringsliv



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4773



TME Järntorget (2356)


Opponent: Associate Professor Andrew Nelson, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon, USA

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