Small Business Economics

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 289–307 | Cite as

Technology transfer offices as boundary spanners in the pre-spin-off process: the case of a hybrid model

  • Annelore Huyghe
  • Mirjam Knockaert
  • Mike Wright
  • Evila Piva


Over the past decades, universities have increasingly become ambidextrous organizations reconciling scientific and commercial missions. In order to manage this ambidexterity, technology transfer offices (TTOs) were established in most universities. This paper studies a specific, often implemented, but rather understudied type of TTO, namely a hybrid TTO model uniting centralized and decentralized levels. Employing a qualitative research design, we examine how and why the two TTO levels engage in diverse boundary spanning activities to help nascent spin-off companies move through the pre-spin-off process. Our research identifies differences in the types of boundary spanning activities that centralized and decentralized TTOs perform and in the parties they engage with. We find geographical, technological and organizational proximity to be important antecedents of the TTOs’ engagement in external and internal boundary spanning activities. These results have important implications for both academics and practitioners interested in university technology transfer through spin-off creation.


Technology transfer office Boundary spanning Proximity Nascent spin-offs 

JEL Classifications

L26 M13 O32 



The authors would like to thank all respondents who participated in the data collection for this study. The first author also gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by Research Foundation Flanders. We would further like to thank the organizers and participants of the ZEW workshop on spin-off entrepreneurship in Mannheim, November 2011, for their comments on our paper. Finally, we thank the guest editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments that helped us to improve our paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annelore Huyghe
    • 1
  • Mirjam Knockaert
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mike Wright
    • 1
    • 3
  • Evila Piva
    • 4
  1. 1.University of GhentGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Centre for EntrepreneurshipUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Imperial College Business SchoolLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of Management, Economics and Industrial EngineeringPolitecnico di MilanoMilanItaly

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