How does the academic spin-off work

Entrepreneurship in the academic field. Business creation by scientists

Table of Contents


1. Introduction and problem
1.1 Research question
1.2 Methodical approach

2. Definitions of the term entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in university spin-offs

3. University spin-offs: definition of terms

4. Economic profit from university spin-offs for a digitized knowledge society
4.1 The innovative nature of spin-offs increases the level of economic prosperity
4.2 High-quality goods production by university spin-offs
4.3 Above-average generation of jobs through university spin-offs

5. Challenges for university spin-offs in the Federal Republic
5.1 Undefined professional image of a commercially interested researcher
5.2 Lack of practical and regulatory framework for the innovation dynamics of university entrepreneurships
5.3 Inadequate bridging function between academic spin-offs and economic feasibility of economic production

6. Professional motivation of university spin-offs and the term entrepreneurship in this area

7. Practical examples for university spin-offs

8. Answer the research question

9. Summary and conclusion



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The present work deals with the topic of university spin-offs, i.e. academic spin-offs that are undertaken by scientists in order to build up a market position in the economic field. At the beginning of the thesis there are definitions of the subject of entrepreneurship in general and university entrepreneurship in particular. With their scientific and economic dynamism, university spin-offs form an important element for the economic level of digitized knowledge societies. University spin-offs produce high-quality goods, generate an above-average number of jobs compared to traditional companies and, with the creativity and innovation of their production, attract other companies, so that clusters are formed in whose environment the level of prosperity is developing above average. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA (MIT) and phenomena such as Silicon Valley in general can be cited as examples of such clusters.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the factors mentioned have so far hardly been taken into account in sufficient form with regard to the organization of a state-stable framework for university spin-offs. On the one hand, this concerns the lack of a practical and regulatory framework for the innovation dynamics of academic spin-offs, the unclear professional profile of commercially interested researchers and the few bridging functions that exist when it comes to converting spin-off production into economically viable results. Practical examples of academic spin-offs that are listed show that the deficiency factors mentioned constitute real obstacles to the innovative dynamism of spin-offs. The thesis finally addresses the professional motivation of academic spin-offs and clarifies that there is entrepreneurship in this area that operates with the aim of transferring the scientifically successful dynamics to the economic sector.

1. Introduction and problem

Academic spin-offs from universities are an important instrument for economic development in a globalized society for the transfer of knowledge and the further development of technological standards. Scientists who convert their research results into economic usability and commercialization contribute with their entrepreneurial dynamism in a not inconsiderable part to the level of prosperity in highly industrialized societies. The universities of the industrialized countries constitute a sector of knowledge generation which, in addition to the research and development departments operated by multinational corporations, makes a considerable contribution to converting scientific results into economic usability. Compared to the research efforts carried out by large companies, for example in the field of drug research, university spin-offs, which are supported by the dynamics of a specific entrepreneurship of certain scientists, represent a more extensive range of innovative technological dynamics Deals with spin-offs, takes place on an international level and produces diverse results. For example, the scientific literature directs attention to the fact that academic spin-offs that produce economic usability promote the living standards of highly industrialized societies. In this respect, the implementation of research results in economic productivity forms the aspect of an entrepreneurship that characterizes a specific type of entrepreneur.

University spin-offs can raise social standards, create jobs, accelerate university research dynamics and generally intensify cooperation between business and science. The corresponding spin-offs that emerged from the US University of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for about half a century can be cited as an example of the scientific and economically innovative dynamics of university spin-offs. The field of university spin-offs particularly includes the so-called MINT subjects, i.e. mathematics, engineering, biotechnology and software development. The specialist literature shows that in the USA, for example, in the vicinity of the elite universities (Harvard etc.) there is a scientific climate that favors university spin-offs and thus, in some cases, the economization of research results. A cluster of scientific institutions is created here, which favors the management that is required for the implementation of research results in commercialization.

There are also scientific institutions in Germany such as the Ferdinand Braun Institute and the Fraunhofer Institute that cooperate with university spin-offs. The federal government promotes such spin-offs organizationally and financially, as the importance of the innovation dynamics of such spin-offs is also increasingly recognized on the political side. The scientific and economic importance of academic spin-offs can be seen in the large number of such spin-offs that exist on an international level. In the Federal Republic of Germany, on the other hand, academic spin-offs and their commercial growth potential are relatively less well understood compared to the international level. This is unusual in view of the innovation at the technical level that spin-offs constitute. The fact that there is no innovation-oriented cluster dynamics in the Federal Republic, as is the case in US Silicon Valley, points further in the direction of such a deficiency. Torka / Knie find that in the Federal Republic of Germany the willingness to bring universities and business closer together is often viewed as problematic. Torka / Knie inform in a related publication about the lack of climate that can favor university spin-offs. The academic traditions in the Federal Republic, according to Torka / Knie, are relatively conservative and in many cases hinder the penetration of economic categories into the scientific field. In principle, there is no fixed frame of reference in the Federal Republic of Germany that spin-off founders could use for their economic goals. There is also no clearly defined job description that could make it easier for university spin-offs to commercialize their scientific findings. Overall, according to Torka / Knie, there is no social model for translating scientific findings from spin-offs into economic dynamics. On the other hand, the literature indicates that spin-offs in particular create more jobs than conventional companies. In doing so, they make a significant contribution to increasing local and general social prosperity. In addition, they raise the technical level of an industrialized society.

1.1 Research question

What are the different types of motivation for university spin-offs? Can a specific concept of entrepreneurship be represented on the basis of this motivation?

1.2 Methodical approach

First of all, definition approaches for university spin-offs are to be presented in the thesis. In the further course possible causes for the economic success of such start-ups have to be developed. This is done by concentrating on such spin-offs in the USA, in order to later be able to make clear that the Federal Republic is behind in this regard. The presentation of the motivation for university spin-offs, i.e. the characterization of such spin-offs, takes place in the further course of the work. The description of the problematic of deficiencies, which especially in the Federal Republic of Germany extends to such spin-offs (lack of framework structure for spin-offs), is then of importance. The final part of the work is the representation of the generation of jobs, the positive innovation dynamics and the special importance of spin-offs for the digital knowledge society.

2. Approaches to defining the term entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in university spin-offs

There is no uniform definition in the literature for the term entrepreneurship or entrepreneurship. There are no theories that come up with a consensus-based definition of entrepreneurship. The lexicon equates the concept of the entrepreneur with that of the entrepreneur.1

The definition approaches for the concept of entrepreneurship or entrepreneurship range from institutional economic, organizational ecological, personality theory to industrial economic models. The economist Schumpeter viewed the entrepreneur as an individual whose economic activity is reflected in ingenuity and innovative dynamism. The entrepreneur is a type whose innovative economy displaces existing structures and replaces them with new forms. In Schumpeter's conception, the entrepreneur is the driver of a discontinuous process that generates long-term economic growth by changing existing industrial structures.2 F. H. Knight and P. Drucker characterized the concept of entrepreneurship and that of the entrepreneur with the ability of the persons concerned to take economic risks. Entrepreneurial action in the sense of an entrepreneur means in these views taking capital risks that may imply failure.3 Weissbach et al. regard entrepreneurship in its essential elements as the competence to discover opportunities for the development of business models and innovations in economic markets and to realize the necessary implementation.4 The event-based entrepreneurship approach offers a further characterization of entrepreneurship. This approach by Shapero / Sokol emphasizes the importance of the individual dynamics of action and the need for independence of individuals who set up companies.5 Other literature in the description of entrepreneurship separates the entrepreneur as a type from that of the manager. In such separations, the term entrepreneur rather characterizes the entrepreneur who takes on the economic risk and is oriented towards innovation, who, even with low equity, subjects existing market resources and services to creative use, brings them together and in this way conserves capital resources.6

Examples of such types of entrepreneur are people who manage medium-sized businesses as owners and who are world market leaders in the market segments in which they operate.7 The manager type, on the other hand, is characterized by the more organizational responsibility for entrepreneurial success. The manager does not own the company. In many cases it pursues its own economic goals.8 According to Fallgatter, the entrepreneur needs specific motivation to perform, striving for independence, willingness to take economic risks, perseverance, individual creativity, the ability to assert oneself, the ability to solve problems, tolerance of ambiguity, resilience and emotional stability.9 Basically, the characterizations of an entrepreneur cited by Fallgatter can be transferred to the term of an entrepreneur who establishes a scientific spin-off from the university sector. In addition, however, such an entrepreneur is characterized by his outstanding scientific competence.

3. University spin-offs: definition of terms

There is also no generally applicable definition for the term university spin-off.10 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a definition approach that represents a number of dimensions of spin-offs. It reads: “Research based spin-offs are generally understood to be small, new technology-based firms whose intellectual capital originated in universities or other public research organizations. These firms are thought to contribute to innovation, growth, employment and revenues. They are perceived to be flexible and dynamic, giving rise to novel fields and markets, and playing a critical role in the development of high-technology clusters ".11 The definition approach of the OECD draws attention to the university development sector of spin-offs, it deals with the sector of research work, it emphasizes the importance of the innovation dynamics of spin-offs, the high technical quality of the products and the economic feasibility of the production concerned. Hemer et al. describe spin-offs as forms of business that “emerge directly from the university or research sector ... knowledge-based start-ups by academic employees of these institutions”.12

In her presentation of spin-offs, Kulicke makes a distinction between direct, indirect and conditional spin-offs.13 According to Kulicke, direct spin-offs can be characterized by the fact that they follow directly from the employment levels of an academy. Indirect spin-offs, on the other hand, only take place if the scientists concerned have professional experience. Conditional spin-offs are based on academic publications (diploma theses) or on ideas that have already been stimulated by academic operations, i.e. are only partially connected to academic operations.14 Scientific institutes such as the Fraunhofer Society, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Institute for Innovation also provide definition approaches for spin-offs. The Max Planck Innovation Institute differentiates spin-offs into exploitation, scientific sectors and experience.15 A commercialization spin-off is characterized by the connection of the spin-off process with the help of license agreements. A scientist spin-off is formed when at least one founding member joins the company to be formed. An experience spin-off gains its economic energy from the scientific work of former university members.16

4. Economic profit from university spin-offs for a digitized knowledge society

4.1 The innovative nature of spin-offs increases the level of economic prosperity

A digitized knowledge society, which is dependent on a constantly growing network on a global level, requires the generation, accumulation and organization as well as the differentiation of knowledge on all levels of social and economic operation. The literature often indicates that knowledge structures are increasingly defining almost all functional areas of society. According to Weingart, this determination and penetration of society by knowledge structures takes place as a permanent multiplication of scientific information and knowledge.17 Research that deals with the economic importance of spin-offs on an international level shows that academic spin-offs make a considerable contribution to the generation of economic dynamism and economic growth. Riesenhuber et al. draws attention to the fact that spin-offs create jobs, dynamize innovation and thus significantly promote prosperity at the regional level.18

Taking Sweden as an example, Dahlstrand came to the conclusion as early as the 1990s that university spin-offs generated more patents than many of the nation's technology companies. Dahlstrand attributes this to the dynamism with which spin-offs stimulate the economic process with innovations.19 According to Dahlstrand, the high number of patent applications from university spin-offs suggests more extensive product creation than is the case with traditional companies.20 P. S.Vincett presents a scientific publication that draws attention to the fact that university spin-offs also generate significant wealth in Canada.21 Vincett emphasizes that university spin-offs in Canada have a relatively high survival rate and grow rapidly and exponentially over the long term. Vincett assumes a growth space for spin-offs that will last nearly 35 years without any major decline.22 According to Cohen, the dollar value of US spin-offs that operated economically between 1980 and 1999 is about $ 33.5 billion.23 Cunha et al. Also confirm the economic dynamism, which is derived particularly from the innovative strength of university spin-offs. The authors point out that spin-offs are of particular importance on the economic level, as they produce a wide variety of new types of products move at a high technological level and sell cheaply in newly emerging markets.24

The dynamic economic prosperity of spin-offs can not least be traced back to the fact that the companies concerned are concentrated in regional clusters. This concentration movement of university spin-offs leads to the fact that other high-tech companies feel attracted and the region's innovative nature increases in the formation of further clusters. Companies like Chiron and Genentech, which are based in the San Francisco area, can be viewed as models for a corresponding growth dynamic.25 The economic success and high-quality production of the spin-off clusters also mean that investors who invest venture capital are attracted to the region and their investments further increase the dynamism of the spin-offs. This attraction effect in turn increases the level of prosperity.

4.2 High-quality goods production by university spin-offs

As international studies confirm, spin-offs can be viewed as companies that produce high-quality goods to a greater extent than traditionally structured companies that are also involved in the high-tech sector.26 Shane points out that the major technology companies that produced high quality engineering instruments were spin-offs.27 University spin-offs worldwide are responsible for the highest standard of innovative products. The list of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published by the licensing office of this university, lists about 140 spin-offs for the years between 1980 and 1996 in the fields of software development, computer manufacturing, biotechnology, laser technology, the manufacture of Robots and semiconductors produced high-quality technology.28 Technical products that later found their way into usage structures around the world were the products of university spin-offs. This applies, for example, to the manufacture of contact lenses, the production of gentle cleaning agents and genetic engineering products.29

In this respect, it is also important that academic spin-offs generate an extensive field of technically high-quality productivity. Whitesonic GmbH, for example, produces the first ultrasound scanners for digital dental impressions in dental prosthetics. With this product, the university spin-off offers a technology that brings completely new solutions to the complicated and previously rather poor fit of the dental prosthesis.30 Whitesonic GmbH developed a high-resolution ultrasound microscope that provides dimensions for prosthetic dentures in the patient's mouth with micrometer accuracy. The system can be seen as a completely new technological platform for dentists and for the dental industry.31 The university spin-off Ruhr Compounds in Dortmund also manufactures new and highly complex products. The company processes rubber residues so that new plastics are created at a high quality level. These are complex thermoplastics and elastomer powders.32 The academic spin-off company Volterion, which operates in Dortmund, produces redox flow batteries. The latter have new energy storage technology. This enables the energy supply of buildings that can be maintained autonomously with their own power generation.33 Due to their frequent economic status as startups, spin-offs have additional potential for economic dynamism. The high quality of the production that university spin-offs provide also results from the fact that the production areas in which such companies operate are fundamentally structured in a research-intensive and knowledge-intensive manner.34

4.3 Above-average generation of jobs through university spin-offs

The aforementioned cluster formation, which results from the economic attractiveness of spin-offs with the use of risk capital, creates new jobs. Golub examined the average number of jobs generated in the US that can be traced back to university spin-offs. He found that each spin-off generated more jobs on average in the USA than traditional small and medium-sized companies there.35 Pressman et al. found out as early as the 1990s that academic spin-offs produce larger percentages in job generation than the traditional licensees who are registered in the field of technical companies at universities. Pressman et al. point out that at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for example, academic spin-offs generate approximately 70% of the jobs. Traditionally constituted technology companies, on the other hand, only manage to create 35% of existing jobs.36 The specialist literature also focuses on the international level that academic spin-offs in the form of companies are responsible for generating above-average jobs. In the journal Technovation, Prodan / Drnovsek state that university spin-offs in the form of newly founded companies create a large number of jobs.37


1 See Gabler Lex. 2004, p. 3055.

2 See Schumpeter 1997, p. 1 / Df; 101.

3 See Drucker 1970.

4 See Weissbach et al. 2009, p. 14ff.

5 See Shapero / Sokol 1982, pp. 72-90.

6 See Faltin 2010, p. 8ff.

7 See Simon 2007, p. 11; P. 29.

8 See Gabler Lex. 2004, p. 1971.

9 See Fallgatter 2002, pp. 11ff.

10 See Roski 2011, p. 115.

11 See OECD 2001, p. 7.

12 See Hemer et al. 2005, p. 1.

13 See Kulicke 2006, p. 48.

14 See Kulicke 2006, p. 48.

15 See Hemer et al. 2005, p. 43.

16 See Hemer et al. 2005, p. 43.

17 See Weingart 2001, p. 335.–

18 See Riesenhuber et al. 2009, p. 51.

19 See Dahlstrand 1997, p. 379.

20 See Dahlstrand 1997, p. 379.

21 See Vincett 2010, p. 736.

22 See Vincett 2010, p. 740.

23 See Cohen 2000, p. 1.

24 See Cunha et al. 2013, p. 1.

25 See Lowe 2002, p. 58.

26 See Blair / Hitchens 1998, p. 4.

27 See Shane 2004, p. 15.

28 See Shane 2004, pp. 18, 19.

29 See Pressman 2002, p. 3.

30 See

31 See, p. 1.

32 See Fraunhofer UMSICHT 2015, p. 2.

33 See Fraunhofer UMSICHT 2015, p. 3.

34 See Egeln et al. 2002, p. 14ff.

35 See Golub 2003, p. 8.

36 See Pressman et al. 1995, p. 50.

37 See Prodan / Drnovsek 2010, p. 332.

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