What factors shape the capacity to identify and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities?

Comments on an article by P. D’Este, S. Mahdi, and A. Neely published in 2010.

Identify and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities

The original article

D’Este, P., Mahdi, S. and Neely, A. (2010) ‘Academic entrepreneurship: what are the factors shaping the capacity of academic researchers to identify and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities?’, DRUID Working Paper, (No 10-05), p. 37.


Quick summary

A study of the extent to which five specific characteristics of academics influence the capacity to identify and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities. Two types of entrepreneurial activity are considered: patenting and spin-off formation.

Identification of commercial opportunities is driven by prior entrepreneurial experience and academic excellence. Exploitation of opportunities is most influenced by having an interdisciplinary research background and experience in research collaborations with industry.


More detailed comments

Background

The study was a collaboration between Pablo D’Este (Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain), Surya Mahdi (Cranfield University, UK), and Andy Neely (University of Cambridge, UK).

The study investigates five characteristics of academics which have been highlighted in the literature as being associated with the capacity to identify and exploit entrepreneurial opportunities.


The five characteristics are:

  • experience in research collaborations with industry

  • prior entrepreneurial experience

  • an interdisciplinary research background

  • excellence of research

  • the extent of an academic’s cross-institutional research network.

D’Este et al. also comment on the literature relevant to the five factors but the comments are not included here.


Only two types of entrepreneurial activity are considered: patenting and spin-off formation. Importantly, the authors consider patenting to be associated with recognising an opportunity, and spin-offs to be associated with exploiting an opportunity.


Findings

Prior entrepreneurial experience plays a significant role in both recognising and exploiting new entrepreneurial opportunities.


Opportunity identification is most influenced by excellence in research and prior entrepreneurial experience. There is a curvilinear relationship between prior entrepreneurial experience and opportunity identification. Beyond around 9 patents the probability of opportunity identification decreases.

The results are also summarised in the accompanying table.


Opportunity exploitation is most influenced by having an interdisciplinary research background and experience in research collaborations with industry. Although excellence in research helps to discover new opportunities, the authors conclude “something more than excellent science is needed for opportunity exploitation”.

Data used in the study

Survey responses of 1,528 academic researchers in the UK in the fields of Engineering and Physical Sciences in 2004