AN INTERESTING PAPER about entrepreneurship arising out of academia points to an element of the smart economy that Irish Technology Transfer Offices might be overlooking. In Ireland, "academic entrepreneurship" is largely based on the assumption that faculty members start businesses by following a path that leads from an invention to a patent to a company. But as Fini, Lacetera and Shane's analysis of 11,572 professors show, a large swath of academic entrepreneurship occurs outside the university intellectual property system. Specifically, about two-thirds of businesses started by academics are not based on disclosed and patented inventions. Moreover, someone who starts a business based on a patent is very different from an individual who launches a start-up outside of this tightly-woven IP space. Ireland needs both kinds of entrepreneurial activity. There's a lot of the Irish smart economy woven into research grants and consultancy contracts won by academics performing service tasks and directed research. These research activities are vital but they often lie outside of formal IP channels that university heads, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland monitor. Therefore, R&D managers of multinationals in Ireland would benefit from developing direct relationships with researchers, rather than interacting with universities solely through their TTOs. The same holds true for small start-ups inside incubation centres--get to know the people who know their stuff, not just those who have patented technologies.
Riccardo Fini, Nicola Lacetera, and Scott Shane -- "Inside or outside the IP system? Business creation in Academia", University of Bozen, Italy, May 2010. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2010.05.014 [262 kb PDF]