Follow the leader or the pack? Regulatory focus and academic entrepreneurial intentions

Johnson, Mark and Monsen, Erik W. and MacKenzie, Niall G. (2016) Follow the leader or the pack? Regulatory focus and academic entrepreneurial intentions. Journal of Product Innovation Management. ISSN 0737-6782 (

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Drawing on the academic entrepreneurship and regulatory focus theory literature, and applying a multilevel per- spective, this paper examines why university academics intend to engage in formal (spin-off or start-up companies and licensing university research) or informal (collaborative research, contract research, continuous professional development, and contract consulting) commercialization activities and the role local contextual factors, in partic- ular leaders and work-group colleagues (peers), play in their commercialization choices. Based on a survey of 395 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academics working in 14 Scottish universities, the research findings suggest that an individual’s chronic regulatory focus has a direct effect on their formal and informal commercialization intent. The results reveal that the stronger an individual’s chronic promotion focus the stronger their formal and informal commercialization intentions and a stronger individual chronic prevention focus leads to weaker intentions to engage in informal commercialization. In addition, when contextual interaction effects are considered, leaders and workplace colleagues have different influences on commercialization intent. On the one hand, promotion-focused leaders can strengthen and prevention-focused leaders can under certain cir- cumstances weaken a promotion-focused academic’s formal commercialization intent. On the other hand, the level of workplace colleague engagement, acting as a reference point, strengthens not only promotion-focused academ- ics’ intent to engage in formal commercialization activities, but also prevention-focused academics’ corresponding informal commercialization intent. As such, universities should consider the appointment of leaders who are strong role models and have a track record in formal and/or informal commercialization activities and also con- sider the importance workplace colleagues have on moderating an academic’s intention to engage in different forms of commercialization activities.


Johnson, Mark ORCID logoORCID:, Monsen, Erik W. and MacKenzie, Niall G.;