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Organizational Modularity and Intra-University Relationships between Entrepreneurship Education and Technology Transfer

University Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer

ISBN: 978-0-76231-230-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-359-4

Publication date: 11 August 2005


Both entrepreneurship education and commercialization of university research have witnessed remarkable growth in the past two decades. These activities may be complementary in many respects, as when participation in an entrepreneurship program prepares a student to start a company based on university technology, or when technology transfer personnel provide resources and expertise for an entrepreneurship course. At the same time, however, the activities are distinct along a number of dimensions, including goals and mission, influence of market conditions, time horizon, assessment, and providers and constituency. We argue that this situation presents an organizational dilemma: How should entrepreneurship and technology transfer groups within a university maintain independence in recognition of their differences while still facilitating synergies resulting from overlapping areas of concern? In response to this dilemma, we draw on the organizational modularity perspective, which offers the normative prescription that such situations warrant autonomy for individual units, but also require a high degree of cross-unit awareness in order to capture synergies. To illustrate this perspective in an intra-university population of entrepreneurship and technology transfer groups, we present network images and statistics of inter-group relationships at Stanford University, which is widely recognized for its success in both activities. The results highlight that dependence between groups is minimal, such that groups retain autonomy in decision-making and are not dependent on others to complete their goals. Simultaneously, cross-unit awareness is high, such that groups have frequent formal and informal interactions and communication. This awareness facilitates mutually beneficial interactions between groups. As a demonstration of the actual functioning of this system, we present three thumbnail case studies that highlight positive relationships between entrepreneurship education and technology transfer. Ultimately, we argue that to fully realize the synergies between entrepreneurship education and technology transfer, we must also recognize differences between them and ensure the autonomy that such differences warrant.


Nelson, A. and Byers, T. (2005), "Organizational Modularity and Intra-University Relationships between Entrepreneurship Education and Technology Transfer", Libecap, G.D. (Ed.) University Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer (Advances in the Study of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Economic Growth, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 275-311.



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