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Supporting university enterprise: the Scottish and US experience

Smailes, R. and Cooper, S.Y. and Keogh, W. (2002) Supporting university enterprise: the Scottish and US experience. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 2 (5). pp. 354-372. ISSN 1465-7503

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Abstract

Business start-up through the incubation process from the university sector is normally focused on the high-tech, potential high-growth end of the market. Successes from key centres worldwide include the excellent record of Stanford and MIT. Closer to home, the university and science park links at the University of Twente in Holland are often cited as good practice. Best practice universities appear to have some areas in common, for example, sources of funds, networking, mentoring and student recruitment. The Scottish university sector has been criticised in the past for not performing to the standards achieved elsewhere and the purpose of the exploratory research outlined in this paper is to determine how well the Scottish universities perform when compared with the best. Data gathered from the top universities in the USA illustrates that a number of key benchmarks are in operation. These include the number of spin-outs, the number of patents filed and the volume of sponsored research. For example, in 1997, the top 11 averaged nine spin-outs, 163 patents filed and $588.5m sponsored research. These figures are between three to four times greater than the average of the whole population included in the US survey. The averages from a sample of Scottish universities revealed three spin-outs, 14 patents filed and $49.5m in sponsored research. This paper explores the underlying data, examines the differences and presents arguments for a change in the policy direction for spin-outs and expectations from commercialisation of university incubator organisations.