Identity in transition: becoming an entrepreneur through the spin out process

Warren, Lorraine (2004) Identity in transition: becoming an entrepreneur through the spin out process. In, 27th Institute for Small Business Affairs National Conference: Entrepreneurship & SME Development, Gateshead, UK, 02 - 04 Nov 2004.


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The UK government is actively encouraging the transfer of science and technology innovation to the business sector through a range of initiatives ( In part, this is seen as a ‘third mission’ for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), alongside teaching and research; HEIs are seen as pivotal in encouraging the growth of new businesses by supporting the start-up and growth of spin-out companies based on innovative ideas developed by students and faculty within the universities. It is recognised that academics face a steep learning curve associated with the process of company development. Although the availability of support services for technology transfer is increasing, the process of entrepreneurial learning is not well understood.

This paper aims to shed light on the spin-out development by focussing on the learning experience of academic inventors involved in the establishment and development of a spin-out company around their research outcomes. The process is framed as one of identity in transition for the academic/inventor, who to different extents is constituted as an entrepreneur through the practice of spin-out development: finding resources, creating management teams and carrying our market-driven research and development. Theoretically, this approach is underpinned by the notion of the Community of Practice (CoP). In carrying out their business activities, inventors engage with the university’s ‘innovation community’, whose members interact with one another, thus acknowledging and legitimising each other as participants. Using the CoP conceptualisation, academics are undergoing a process of ‘becoming’ part of this community, not just ‘encountering’ it – in other words, they are undergoing a transformative social process involving the negotiation (and re-negotiation) of identities.

Four case studies of nascent, or existing technology spin-out companies are presented in this paper. A qualitative, interpretive methodology is used to explore the extent to which the academic inventors ‘became’ entrepreneurs during the spin-out process, focussing particular on the learning processes they underwent as the engaged with the university CoP. The insights generated in the paper contribute to theoretical understandings of the spin-out process. Practically, there is benefit to those involved in supporting and promoting spin-out activity. Ultimately, better understanding may improve the success rates for spin-out companies, through development of better practice.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: T Technology > T Technology (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Management
ePrint ID: 37054
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
November 2004Delivered
Date Deposited: 24 May 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:06

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