Entrepreneurial university business models: core drivers, challenges and consequences

James Cunningham, Kristel Miller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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An entrepreneurial university is one that performs ‘entrepreneurial’ activities such as licences, collaborative research with private firms and spinoffs, and engages in different knowledge transfer activities that have an impact on society (Siegel et al., 2007; Guerrero et al., 2016; Kalar and Antoncic, 2015) and acts as a catalyst for academic entrepreneurship (Shane, 2004).

To be ‘entrepreneurial’ requires not only the transformation of the core value
activities of a traditional university but also greater engagement with external
stakeholders such as industry, government and wider society (Mascarenhas et
al., 2017; Clauss et al., 2018). Indeed, research has highlighted the economic
impact that entrepreneurial universities have beyond their own institutional
boundaries (see Guerrero et al., 2016; Howlett, 2010). Within an entrepreneurial
university the focus is not only on new knowledge production but on knowledge dissemination, which has an impact on wider society (Goddard and Vallance, 2013). Therefore, engaging more in ‘entrepreneurial’ activities requires changes to the core dominant logic of the university. The dominant logic of an organisation reflects the norms of how they operate (Roessler et al., 2019). Universities’ traditional dominant logic is to provide high quality education,
the creation of new knowledge and scientific advancement. However, the ‘third mission’ of universities puts emphasis on the commercialisation of knowledge. Whilst these activities can be and should be complementary, scarce resources and capabilities require trade-off decisions to be made regarding what mission and activities universities prioritise. Many universities want to maintain their core traditional mission and need to ensure they can react to changes in their external environment (Passaro et al., 2017). However, universities are limited by the path dependency of their structures, practices and identity concepts (Krucken, 2003). Consequently, scholars and policy makers alike have become increasingly interested in how universities’ business models can react to the external drivers for change and become more entrepreneurial. Teece (2010) identifies that a business model ‘describes the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery, and capture mechanisms it employs’. All organisations, either explicitly or implicitly, employ a business model, where a business model is designed to help an organisation realise its overall strategy (Casadesus-Masanell and Ricart, 2010). Yet research and understanding of university business models is limited (McAdam et al., 2017). Organisations need to innovate and change their business model in response to changes in their environment (Demil and Lecocq, 2010; Schneider and Spieth, 2013). Therefore changes to the core mission of universities requires changes to their respective business model to reflect new value creating and capture activities (Miller et al., 2014; McAdam et al., 2017). However, there is a lack of understanding of how to design entrepreneurial university business models (Etzkowitz et al., 2019) and the challenges and consequences that being more entrepreneurial may have for universities (Cunningham et al., 2017). This
chapter aims to arrive at a research agenda focused on furthering theory and
practice on the development of entrepreneurial university business models.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Research Agenda for the Entrepreneurial University
EditorsUlla Hytti
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages128
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78897 504 9
ISBN (Print)978 1 78897 503 2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Nov 2020


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