Fifteen Years of Academic Entrepreneurship in Italy: Evidence from the Taste Project

Over the last 20 years, academic institutions have been heavily investing in the commercialization of their research results all over the world. Knowledge transfer has gained momentum because of a more general research fund shortage, which has fostered universities to look for alternative sources of financing. At the same time, there has been a widespread belief that the commercialization of research results is useful and desirable for enhancing the economic and technological development of countries. As a result, policymakers have been implementing legislation to stimulate the involvement of universities in the commercialization of research and, more generally, to create conducive conditions to promote it. An important part of this effort has been dedicated to stimulating the creation of new research-based ventures (i.e., academic spin-off companies), which is the focus of the present report. Academic spin-offs matter because they embody scientific knowledge and allow for the creation and development of the most important technologies, which can then be transferred to larger, more established companies. Generally speaking, knowledge-based and innovative firms are regarded as precious engines for growth in terms of industrial productivity and job creation (Kauffman Foundation, 2010; OECD, 2013). Large differences exist in the entrepreneurial processes in academia around the world due to differing institutional features and the idiosyncratic organization of academic research. In particular, there is often a contrast between policy measures undertaken to encourage the commercialization of academic research activities and the reluctance to give more autonomy to universities. This is the reason why deep differences can be found between the US and European systems (e.g., see Fini et al., 2010; Wright et al., 2007) and why it is relevant for researchers to undertake in-depth analyses of academic entrepreneurship in different contexts.

This report has been developed for the EU Funded TASTE (Taking Stock: External engagement by academics) project.

Download the full report Academic Entrepreneurship in Italy