Spanning Boundaries and Disciplines: University Technology Commercialization in the Idea Age: Volume 21

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Successful technology commercialization requires the integration of multiple perspectives and collaboration of experts from very different backgrounds. More often than not, key individuals in the process reside in different organizational units – each with their own mission, agenda, and culture. In large corporations, successful commercialization ultimately depends on coordination of marketing, legal, and research and development (R&D) personnel distributed across the firm. And, as innovation systems become more open, large and small companies alike increasingly collaborate with nonprofit institutions, either for technological expertise or as a source of inventions themselves (Chesbrough, 2003; Thursby, Thursby, & Fuller, 2009).

In this chapter, we review the literature that analyzes how the peculiar missions, rules, and incentive systems in the scientific community affect the process and outcomes of the commercialization of academic research. We will focus on how the peculiar institutional logics of academia determine the decision of academics to commercialize their research, and how these logics affect the outsourcing of research from firms to academic laboratories, as well as the attempts of firms to reproduce academic incentive systems within their research labs by allowing their researchers to publish and offering them financial rewards based on their standing in the scientific community. Finally, we report on research that has analyzed how the rules of the scientific community might lead to the production, transfer, and commercialization of false knowledge.

In this chapter, we examine the development of a technology path in the nanotube (NT) field – one of the most well-developed areas of nanotechnology. Although early developments suggested that there were equally viable pathways related to the development of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and others made with organic molecules and polymers, carbon-based technologies became valorized. We show how the carbon science path developed and try to unpack how it happened. We argue that it was not due to the inherent efficiency or applications of CNTs, but to sociopolitical dynamics. Even though much intellectual property research focuses on patent-level analysis, we underscore the importance of patent categories as key cognitive elements that organize the different knowledge domains within the world of NT patenting. We show that interlinkages between patent categories are crucial to the formation and development of a particular technology path. In unpacking the selection of the carbon science path, we highlight the key role played by a cadre of star scientists and the political neglect of alternative pathways as the field herded toward the CNT path.

This chapter addresses the behavioral problems and conflicts observed in multidisciplinary university commercialization teams. We examined 59 commercialization projects at one U.S. university, supplemented by a similar number of projects at other universities in the United States and Europe. We applied well-established ideas about distinctive “thought worlds,” including both cognitive and motivational factors to understand patterns of selective perception and issue prioritization. The resulting analysis allows us to draw tentative conclusions regarding improved management practices aimed at managing the conflicts and improving university commercialization initiatives. We discuss the generalizability of the results.

This chapter examines the role of team processes in predicting overall effectiveness for multidisciplinary teams charged with commercializing new technologies. Theory suggests that both social- and task-related processes are essential in order for diverse teams to achieve their full potential. Furthermore, these team processes evolve over time, creating even more complexity related to technology commercialization. A panel of teams is surveyed over time to capture this dynamism and the role of key social and task processes. Results suggest that social team processes, such as cohesion and identification, predict affective performance (i.e., team satisfaction and commitment). Objective team performance is primarily a function of task cohesion and trust. Furthermore, affective performance serves as a mediator between social team processes and objective performance for these high-tech teams. Post-hoc analyses examine the differences in the development of both task and social processes for high- and low-performing teams. High-performing teams have higher levels of task-focused interaction, functional conflict and task cohesion early on in the commercialization process as compared with low-performing teams. Effective teams establish key social processes early on, which provides the foundation for team success.

In this chapter, we consider the tensions that arise at the intersection of various organizational units (i.e., academic departments, research centers, and administrative areas) and actors (i.e., professors, graduate students, investors, and secular entrepreneurs) that are commonly involved with academic entrepreneurship and the exploration of the entrepreneurial dimensions of science. Using the premises of organizational boundary spanning (e.g., Aldrich & Herker, 1977; Thompson, 1967; Tushman & Scanlan, 1981), we organize our discussion around the role of university entrepreneurship and innovation centers in facilitating and mediating the interorganizational transactions that most often underpin academic entrepreneurship. Specifically, we illustrate and discuss the role university entrepreneurship and innovation centers play in (1) managing the various agendas and expectations of stakeholders within and outside of the academy, (2) providing clarity of purpose to the entrepreneurial endeavor, (3) clarifying ownership rights throughout the entrepreneurial process, and 4) maximizing the potential of individuals to contribute to venture success.

In this chapter, the authors assert that traditional advanced degree programs underserve young scientists, and train them primarily for a career in academia pursuing basic research. Data drawn from the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) from 1996 to 2006 show that only one fourth of all scientists are engaged in basic academic research. The majority of young scientists pursue alternative career paths in applied and in industrial research settings. Several such career options are highlighted, and the conclusion is drawn that graduate education should be broadened to provide students with complementary business and entrepreneurship knowledge, skills and attitudes required for success in each option. Four examples of innovative programs that address this need at the University of Illinois are discussed, including a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Management (CEM) for Life Scientists, a Certificate in Business Administration (CIB) for Nonbusiness Majors, the Illinois Professional Science Master's (PSM), and various nondegree, experiential opportunities.

In this discussion, we sketch the motivation and design for a co-terminal master's degree in Entrepreneurial Science and Technology. We aim the degree specifically at science and engineering undergraduates who would go on to (1) individual or technology management positions in established organizations, (2) entrepreneurship in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors, or (3) graduate work in engineering or science or professional degrees, including business, medicine, law, or policy. The goal would be to give students concise but complete skill-sets in entrepreneurship and teamwork, and effective career networks across diverse professions. It is our hope that this can be done within an intense one-year curriculum, such that students would remain technically current (and possibly develop the application of their technical research during the degree). We discuss alternate and existing models for entrepreneurship education and explain how our conception differs.

Improving the commercialization of university research has become a national priority. Most existing programs focus on training and supporting faculty and students to be the entrepreneur. However, programs are also needed to train and support those who will serve the entrepreneur. This chapter asserts that professionals with specific expertise in serving entrepreneurs are a critical, yet overlooked, part of the “innovation ecosystem” necessary to commercialize university research. It provides an overview of the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic at the University of Washington, which provides a multidisciplinary teaching, research, and service platform that assists University spin-offs while developing the next generation innovation ecosystem. Bringing together law, business, and engineering students to work with tech transfer licensing officers and faculty researchers to spin off a university technology involves many challenges. Yet, it can be done and the benefits are manifold. This chapter outlines three key issues for this kind of program. First, who is the client: the tech transfer office or the faculty researcher? Second, how to mediate among the different visions for how to commercialize the technology through the spin-off – including whether the technology is ready for commercialization or needs to undergo further translational work. And third, how to ensure that all the different students are being properly supervised and that all project members are keeping appropriate confidentiality toward the technology and business plans. The chapter shows how the missteps, conflicts, and confusion that naturally arise for each team project actually provide the best teaching moments for team members, supervisors, and faculty alike.

Cover of Spanning Boundaries and Disciplines: University Technology Commercialization in the Idea Age
DOI
10.1108/S1048-4736(2010)21
Publication date
2010-11-08
Book series
Advances in the Study of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Economic Growth
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-0-85724-199-3
eISBN
978-0-85724-200-6
Book series ISSN
1048-4736