This paper investigates informal mechanisms of knowledge transfer (KT) from a local university to entrepreneurial teams comprising students and recent graduates. While the extant literature on university-industry KT largely focuses on formal mechanisms aimed at stimulating entrepreneurial initiatives in high-tech (HT) sectors, it overlooks the effect of university-industry KT on nascent entrepreneurship in low-medium tech (LMT) sectors. To fill this gap in the literature, we carry out a mixed-method analysis that exploits a dataset of 154 new business ideas (and 535 team members) presented at a business plan competition in Rimini from 2010 to 2017. Our findings highlight a robust relationship between educational field and the R&D intensity of entrepreneurial projects: students take advantage of the knowledge acquired at university to develop entrepreneurial projects with higher technological content than those planned by non-graduates. Furthermore, the empirical evidence shows that the local university nurtures the formation of ties among students and recent graduates enrolled in the same courses and fosters their efforts to launch new ventures. Finally, the qualitative analysis identifies relevant and non-traditional mechanisms of KT that are being exploited by nascent entrepreneurs to develop their business ideas in the LMT and HT sectors.
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The province of Rimini is in the Emilia Romagna region and has a population of 337,000. While it is world-renowned for its tourism industry, the Province also hosts important firms operating in many other economic sectors, such as textile and fashion, buildings, electronics, and services. The Republic of San Marino is an enclaved microstate, surrounded by the Province of Rimini and the Province of Pesaro-Urbino, with a population of 33,000. Its economy is mostly based on banks and financial services.
The scientific-technical committee is composed of 13 experts: the President and the Vice President of the Association, two representatives from the Chambers of Commerce of Rimini and San Marino, one entrepreneur from the Rimini branch of the Italian Industrial Association, one entrepreneur from the San Marino Industrial Association, two representatives from the most important local bank, three scholars from the local university, and two business consultants.
Descriptive statistics of our main variables also do not change significantly from 2010 to 2017. We therefore pooled the data for the empirical analysis of this paper. We also run a one-way analysis of variance for the main variables discussed in our paper using the years of competition as the factor variable. The results of this analysis, available from the authors, do not reveal statistically significant differences across years.
Whereas the adoption of this taxonomy allows comparability of the results in our study with empirical evidence originating in other settings at the international level, it is worth reminding the limitations that surround the use of R&D as an indicator of innovation (see Becheikh et al. 2006 for a review): (1) R&D represents an input of the innovation process which does not necessarily leads to technologically new products or processes; (2) innovations can originate from serendipity or in response to a specific problem without any investment in basic or applied research; (3) R&D effort in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is often informal and occasional: hence, it might be overlooked in industries and countries where SMEs account for a large share of business organizations.
Data retrieved from the portal http://dati.istat.it/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=DICA_ASIAUE1P.
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Barbini, F.M., Corsino, M. & Giuri, P. How do universities shape founding teams? Social proximity and informal mechanisms of knowledge transfer in student entrepreneurship. J Technol Transf (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-020-09799-1
- Student entrepreneurship
- Graduate entrepreneurship
- Technology transfer
- New firms, Founding teams
- L26 (entrepreneurship)
- M13 (new firms, start-ups)
- I23 (higher education)