An exploratory study of micro level challenges and antecedents of university
: industry engagement in open innovation networks

  • Barry Gilsenan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The academic entrepreneur (AE) has been challenged with extending their skillset and knowledge as they engage in activities to commercialise their research. Coupled with this, universities are facing more pressures and expectations to contribute to economic and societal development known as their third mission along with teaching and research. This research sets out to explore how the AE develops their market knowledge and related skills and capabilities in order to contribute to the third mission mandate of the university. In particular, the aim of this research is to explore the micro level antecedents and challenges influencing university-industry open innovation collaboration. This thesis utilises absorptive capacity (ACAP) and desorptive capacity (DCAP) as lenses to examine this phenomenon. It undertakes a micro level perspective with the AE as the unit of analysis. The study is set in the Republic of Ireland and adopts an exploratory research position.

The methodology uses an inductive theory building approach given that the research sets out to discover and infer new insights and understanding in an underexplored research area. Pre-existing theory has also been used as a priori themes to develop an initial conceptual model in order to further contribute to the building of new theory. Data was collected using documentary review and forty semi structured interviews using a heterogeneous sampling selection of participants including AEs, Technology Transfer Managers (TTMs), funding agency specialists and industry partners.

The findings highlight the multidisciplinary approach needed to be adopted by AEs in order for them to successfully engage in academic entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the findings have identified the key capabilities and skillsets needed by the AE to exploit their research. Overall the findings illustrate the iterative, bidirectional and recursive nature of the processes, knowledge flows and behaviours used by AEs in order to succeed in their entrepreneurial role.

This thesis makes a number of contributions to the literature. It advances theory on academic entrepreneurship at the micro level by exploring how AEs identify market opportunities and then refine their knowledge and processes in order to exploit their research. Furthermore, the research extends the ACAP construct by differentiating scientific and market knowledge and highlights the importance of market ACAP for AEs. This is important as literature to date has over relied on technological knowledge as a measurement in how ACAP is examined. In addition, the research contributes to the knowledge management capacities literature by demonstrating the reciprocal nature between ACAP and DCAP for AEs engaged in academic entrepreneurship. Furthermore, this research provides practical recommendations which may form basis for policy reform and change on a number of areas within the university industry collaboration (UIC) ecosystem.
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRodney McAdam (Supervisor) & Kristel Miller (Supervisor)


  • University industry collaboration
  • Academic entrepreneurship
  • Micro level of analysis
  • Absorptive capacity
  • Desorptive capacity
  • The academic entrepreneur
  • Open innovation ecosystem

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