The influence of organisational culture and climate on entrepreneurial intentions

Comments on an article by A. Huyghe and M. Knockaert published in 2015.

Role models

The original article

Huyghe, A. and Knockaert, M. (2015) ‘The influence of organizational culture and climate on entrepreneurial intentions among research scientists’, The Journal of Technology Transfer, 40(1), pp. 138–160. doi: 10.1007/s10961-014-9333-3.

Quick summary

A study of the impact of university culture and climate on entrepreneurial intentions of academics, including intentions to create a spin-off, patent, or license, or to interact with industry through contract research or consulting. Specifically, the study investigated the influence of:

  • the inclusion of entrepreneurship in a university’s mission statement

  • role models for entrepreneurship

  • reward systems for entrepreneurship.

More detailed comments


The study was performed by Annelore Huyghe and Mirjam Knockaert of the University of Ghent, Belgium.

Huyghe and Knockaert say that institutions such as universities have rules, norms and values which stipulate what is appropriate behaviour and make some actions “unacceptable or even beyond consideration”. Therefore, institutions shape academics’ goals, beliefs, motivations and behaviours. The authors argue that “the institutional context in which research scientists are embedded might either trigger or restrain them from engaging in academic entrepreneurship, above and beyond individual-related characteristics”.

The study investigated the impact of university culture and climate on entrepreneurial intentions of academics, including:

  • intentions to create a spin-off (“spin-off intentions”)

  • intentions to patent or to license (“IPR intentions”)

  • intentions to carry out contract research or consulting (industry-science interaction or “ISR intentions”).

In explaining the context of the study, Huyghe and Knockaert make some interesting comments on the background to the study:

About culture and climate: Culture is an important way in which norms and values are transmitted to academics. Organisational culture affects how members “consciously and subconsciously think and make decisions” and “has an impact on the way in which people perceive, feel and act”. Organizational culture is subtly different from climate. Culture refers to “assumptions, beliefs, meanings and values within an organization”. Climate refers to “the practices through which culture is manifested”

About role models: “role models and peers play a crucial role in driving individuals’ entrepreneurial activity” and “the presence of entrepreneurial role models creates an example for research scientists and provides them with a feeling of security. Peer examples signify that academic entrepreneurship is accepted as a legitimate activity within the university, which reduces concerns about the social repercussions of own entrepreneurial actions”.

About reward systems for entrepreneurship: “reward systems are typically based on research scientists’ publication output…If reward systems are to stimulate research scientists to direct their efforts towards entrepreneurial activities, they should no longer be exclusively based on research and teaching excellence, but also reward entrepreneurial accomplishments”.

About institutional mission statements: An organisational mission is an element of culture and states the organisation’s “reason for being, long term purpose and distinctiveness, reflecting the institutional beliefs systems and ideologies…A large body of research has indicated that an organizational mission guides the individual behavior of organizational members”. University missions have traditionally been about research and teaching, but “an entrepreneurial university should focus on research, teaching and entrepreneurial activities simultaneously”. Changing an institution typically involves changing the culture, including the mission.

Findings on role models

Role models were found to be related to all three intentions:

  • Spin-off role models are positively related to spin-off intentions

  • IPR role models are positively related to IPR intentions

  • ISR role models are positively related to ISR intentions

Each type of role model affects self-efficacy in relation to the corresponding activity.

The authors conclude that the presence of entrepreneurial role models for a specific type of activity lead to a stronger intention to pursue that activity. Role models also have an indirect influence: they make researchers generally feel more confident that they could engage in entrepreneurial activities themselves.

Any sort of communication from the university management (newsletters, speeches) that emphasises the importance of entrepreneurial activities will increase researchers’ entrepreneurial intentions. University management “could ensure that role models make public appearances more frequently and as such, focus research scientists’ attention on academic entrepreneurship as an ongoing and accepted organizational practice.”

Findings on reward systems for entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial rewards were found to have a significant positive influence on spin-off intentions and IPR intentions, but not on ISR intentions.

The authors comment that the findings on ISR intentions may be because “universities have tended to exert little control over industry-science interaction, compared to alternative commercialization mechanisms”. Also, contract research and consulting activities “are strongly determined by personal relationships between industrial companies and particular professors or departments” and these type of activities may have already become part of the culture.

Huyghe and Knockaert conclude that formal entrepreneurial activities (patenting, licensing, spin-offs) have different determinants to informal entrepreneurial activities (consulting, contract research).

Findings on university missions

The hypothesis was that the extent to which a university mission highlights academic entrepreneurship relative to traditional tasks is positively associated with research scientists’ entrepreneurial intentions.

The study found evidence that a university’s mission had a significant positive relationship with spin-off intentions and IPR intentions but not with ISR intentions, possibly because ISR intentions are well established.

The more that academic entrepreneurship is emphasised in the mission compared with research and teaching, the greater the researchers’ intentions to pursue spin-offs and intellectual property rights.

The authors conclude “it is beneficial to incorporate academic entrepreneurship in the university mission and to make sure that research scientists are aware of existing role models”

Data used in the study

The data consisted of survey responses of 437 research scientists from 6 universities in Sweden in Germany in 2012. The study specifically targeted research scientists as opposed to tenured professors. The rationale was that research scientists are more likely to develop their career capital due to uncertainty about which career track will be the most beneficial to them.

Note that in Sweden, IP developed by an academic tends to be owned by the academic, whereas in Germany the IP is owned by the university.

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