Research Seminars

Multiple Missions and Academic Entrepreneurship

Speaker: Nicola Lacetera
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

17 January 2006 - From 14:00 to 15:30

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This paper analyzes the choice of academic scientists to commercially exploit their research.
I build a model of the timing of entry into commercial activities by an academic
research team, and analyze the returns and costs of these activities. In order to focus on
the peculiarities of academic entrepreneurship as opposed to industrial entrepreneurship,
I compare the behavior and performance of the academic team to an industrial research
team. The two teams are assumed to differ in their objectives, governance modes and incentive
systems. I show that, while in some cases academic scientists are more reluctant to
commercialize research, in other cases they may commercialize faster than profit-seeking
firms would – and perform less basic research. I also derive that academic scientists tend
to enter commercial projects with higher returns than industrial actors, and therefore a
self-selection mechanism may explain the success of ‘academic entrepreneurs'. This study
helps interpreting the mixed evidence on the success of, and the arguments in favor and
against the involvement of universities into business-related research activities. I also
identify and discuss a series of implications for empirical research on the commercialization
of academic research.

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