, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 189–217 | Cite as

The Academic Spin-Offs as an Engine of Economic Transition in Eastern Europe. A Path-Dependent Approach

  • Ivan Tchalakov
  • Tihomir Mitev
  • Venelin Petrov


The paper questions some of the premises in studying academic spin-offs in developed countries, claiming that when taken as characteristics of ‘academic spin-offs per se,’ they are of little help in understanding the phenomenon in the Eastern European countries during the transitional and post-transitional periods after 1989. It argues for the necessity of adopting a path-dependent approach, which takes into consideration the institutional and organisational specificities of local economies and research systems and their evolution, which strongly influence the patterns of spin-off activity. The paper provides new findings and original arguments in support of Balazs’ seminal theses (Balazs 1995, 1996) about the emergence of academic spin-offs during the early transition. It reveals key economic and policy mechanisms bearing on academic entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe, such as the tensions between economic and political nomenclatures of former Communist Parties, where the dismantling or preservation of the power of political nomenclature resulted in different patterns of development—rapid reforms in the ‘first wave’ of EU accession countries or the establishment of rent-seeking and assets-stripping economies in countries like Bulgaria and Romania, making the transition period especially difficult. In the latter, a specific economic environment emerged, unknown in Western Europe and in the ‘champions’ of transition—such as suppression of the authentic entrepreneurship in a number of economic sectors, disintegration of corporate structures, etc. Thus, the paper reveals the common ground behind the two conflicting tendencies in post-socialist academic spin-offs, partially outlined in other research (Simeonova 1995; Pavlova 2000): as an authentic form of academic entrepreneurship grasping the opportunities opened up by the economic crisis and compensating failures in science and technology policy on the one hand, and as specific rent-seeking strategy draining valuable public assets on the other (the latter, in turn, boosting the negative attitudes in local scientific communities). The paper provides new findings about the evolution of the academic spin-offs in Bulgaria along the two polar trends and their positive and negative repercussions on parent research institutions. The results were achieved in the PROKNOW Project, EC 6th Framework Program.


Academic spin-off Entrepreneurship Path-dependency Transitional societies Eastern Europe (Bulgaria Hungary) 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Tchalakov
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tihomir Mitev
    • 2
  • Venelin Petrov
    • 3
  1. 1.Technology Studies Group, Institute of SociologyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of PlovdivPlovdivBulgaria
  3. 3.University of PlovdivPlovdivBulgaria

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