3.3 Diversity, change and sustainability in academic entrepreneurship

Track organisers
Kaisa Henttonen, University Researcher, Adjunct Professor/Docent, University of Eastern Finland, Business School, Kuopio, Finland
Inna Kozlinska, post-doctoral researcher, University of Turku, Turku School of Economics, Finland
Kirsi Peura, post-doctoral researcher, University of Turku, Turku School of Economics, Finland

The transition towards ‘entrepreneurial university’ is affecting many research universities worldwide (Foss & Gibson 2015; Etzkowitz 2014). They are launching a growing number of policies and practices to become a cradle for new knowledge-based businesses and to ignite entrepreneurial spirit among all faculty members across all disciplines (Siegel & Wright 2015). Recent discussions in the literature pinpoint that academic entrepreneurship (AE) is the cornerstone of these initiatives (Link, Siegel & Wright 2015; Bozeman, Fay & Slade 2013). This track aims at establishing a stronger knowledge base about the growing diversity, ongoing change, and sustainability in AE.

The growing diversity in AE concerns the broad definition of AE spanning beyond the ‘commercialization of knowledge’ or ‘technology transfer’ from university to industry via patents, licensing, university spin-off creation and contract research (e.g. Haeussler & Colyvas 2011). As universities extend their entrepreneurial activities outside ‘hard sciences’, teachers, students and administrators are becoming key actors of AE alongside researchers (Wright 2014; Abreu & Grinevich 2013). This diverse group of emergent academic entrepreneurs with different identities, experiences and aspirations works in a ‘third space’, which ‘can, at one and the same time, be a safe haven for experimentation and creativity, and also a risky space in which there is likely to be contestation and uncertainty’ (Whitchurch 2013:xiii). Research into the diversity of AE can help find tailored ways of raising enthusiasm and entrepreneurial energy among academics of all kinds that can co-operate in the common AE space.

Change within this call is concerned with moments of transition, i.e. when changes take Place and routines are interrupted. At the individual level this could mean, getting a degree, completing a dissertation, and breaks in academic careers form transitions that compel individuals to critically reflect on themselves, envisage alternatives, re-consider their previous position, and create continuity between the former and new positions of an able subject (Montonen 2014; Komulainen 2015). On the organisational level, it could be change in strategies and practices. Resolving tensions at both organizational and individual levels tied to the change may require new forms of thinking and behaving in the entrepreneurial university context. Traditional academic orientation might be no longer enough to excel as an academic while strong top-down strategies of change might not always be effective at strengthening entrepreneurial identity of academics (Philpott et al. 2011).

Finally, when AE is understood as an alternative to traditional research orientation the question of sustainability, from various actors’ viewpoints and in different contexts, calls for research attention. This relates to how sustainability is embedded in the organizational culture and forms of co-operation in supporting long term well-being of different actors (cf. Whitchurch 2013) or to the search and selection of sustainable solutions that have potential to support entrepreneurial activities in ways that meet the present needs of the society without compromising the future generations’ needs (cf. Etzkowitz & Zhou 2006).

The call welcomes new papers on all three perspectives – change, diversity, and sustainability in AE. Examples of topics include, but are not limited to:

  • changing university policies and strategies related to AE in diverse contexts;
  • diversity of roles, changing identities, and motivations of the individuals (researchers,teachers, students, administrators, managers) engaging in AE;
  • resolving tensions in instilling commercial orientation among different disciplines;
  • changing and sustainable educational approaches and processes related to AE;
  • university best practices related to AE;
  • university-business collaboration and stakeholder relationships;
  • entrepreneurial university and the entrepreneurial ecosystem as contexts for AE;
  • critical perspectives on AE, incl. social, environmental and economical questions.