Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management

Fields of Research

Main areas of research

With our theory-led and simultaneously empirical research orientation, we are primarily interested in the establishment and expansion of technology-based companies with a special focus on the value-oriented design of networks. We have currently divided these basic research interests into six research areas. The targeted studies are enriched by cooperations with our cooperation partners and comparison with colleagues at partner universities in Germany and abroad.

1. Growth and establishment of spin-offs from public research institutions

Young technology-based enterprises (Junge technologiebasierte Unternehmen - JTUs) can contribute significantly to job creation, innovation and regional prosperity. However, these desirable effects presuppose that the JTU succeeds in transforming its technology into marketable products or services and integrating itself into industrial value chains. In the case of spin-offs from research institutions, this poses a particular challenge due to the characteristics of the core technology and the founder. With regard to technology, research results indicate that licenses to spin-offs concern younger technologies with broader industrial application spectrum and less reference to existing technological knowledge than licenses to established companies. However, the development of young, radical technologies and the marketing of technology-based products are afflicted with high uncertainty. For example, in technology transfer from public research and especially in technology push innovations that pursue spin-offs, it is often initially unclear who benefits most from the technology and in what form potential customers are interested in the technology. In addition to these technical difficulties, the commercial success of the spin-off is hampered by the lack of industrial and management experience and the founders' often poor market-oriented thinking due to their scientific background.

The chair investigates which characteristics make technologies suitable for spin-offs, under which conditions they can be converted into successful products, and how the founders’ behavior and different corporate strategies contribute to this. The insights are incorporated into consulting projects with scientists from Kiel University who are willing to found a company and who, in turn, together with their experience from the support of spin-offs by the chair, contribute to the further development of theoretical knowledge.

2. Development of network competence

Academic spin-offs are reliant upon successful integration into industrial value chains in order to achieve growth targets. This is accompanied by the need for cooperation with external partners. These network partners facilitate, for example, a fast, effective and uncomplicated access to complementary technical know-how, market information, potential customers or cheap capital. However, value-adding networks do not emerge on their own. Rather, cooperation with external partners sometimes involves risks and can be associated with concrete disadvantages. Research results indicate that particularly successful companies develop special organizational routines or skills for designing, using and maintaining their networks, the so-called network competence. So far, however, there are hardly any feasible proposals on how the development of network competence can be specifically promoted.

The research project examines how management can identify measures to build network competence. In a longitudinal design, the development of a network competence is empirically tested using academic spin-offs as an example.

3. Obtaining market information in academic spin-offs

Academic spin-offs are an important form of technology transfer from public research and represent an important economic factor in knowledge-based economies. These companies face special challenges when they are set up. On the one hand, scientists establishing their own business in the spin-off often lack business management know-how and a market-oriented way of thinking. On the other hand, the technology used in spin-offs is often at an early stage of development, therefore far from successful commercialization. Against this background, the use of classical market research methods is only partially suitable for obtaining realistic data. Many spin-offs enter markets without taking sufficient account of user needs and market potential and eventually fail. Successful spin-offs, on the other hand, learn about market requirements at an early stage and incorporate the knowledge gained into their business activities. So far, it is unclear how these learning processes work and in which way successful spin-offs learn better than unsuccessful ones. The research project will therefore examine how academic spin-offs need to learn about markets and user needs in order to convert their technology into marketable products and how this influences the success of spin-offs.

4. Cooperation of young technology companies with competitors

Shortened innovation cycles and global competition place high demands on the speed and flexibility of young technology companies. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to meet the requirements of international competition in alliances or in strategic (competence) networks with competitors. On the one hand, these cooperations provide young technology companies access to complementary, and perhaps unique, resources. In addition, above-average learning outcomes provide companies a sustainable competitive advantage and allow them to adapt quickly to dynamic environmental and changing market conditions. On the other hand, they involve an increased risk as the incentive for the partner to behave opportunistically is particularly high due to the competitive situation. The research project examines the question of top management teams can influence the creation of value in cooperation with a competitor. Furthermore, the role of relational norms as central transmission mechanisms of the determined management impetus and as independent governance instruments in this relationship is investigated. Norms as unspoken rules and standards, at least partially shared by a group of decision-makers, control behavior in groups and help to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior of group members. In cooperation they determine the logic of mutual interactions as patterns of expected behavior.

5. Personnel and situational influences on the founding intention of academics

The political and economic interest in setting up companies from German universities has increased enormously in recent years. While politicians expect this to create new jobs and strengthen international competitiveness, companies will benefit from access to new technologies. For this reason, government funding initiatives such as the EXIST program were initiated with the aim of training and promoting entrepreneurial personalities at universities and universities of applied sciences. The long-term goal of EXIST - to increase the number of business start-ups by university members - raises the question to what extent a university is able to attract potential entrepreneurs at all and to what extent personal influences are decisive for choosing self-employment as a career path.

Keeping this question in mind, previous start-up research concentrated ex-ante on the one hand on the emergence of a start-up intention among students and on the other hand ex-post on causes for entrepreneurs' start-up decisions and on differences between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. Various personal factors played a central role in empirical studies: performance motivation; individual personality characteristics; experiences and educational paths; family background; gender as well as attitudes, perceived competencies and control with regard to entrepreneurial activity. University-related factors such as the design of the start-up infrastructure and perceived organisational support and barriers were also examined. However, despite the thematic relevance (Brockhoff and Tscheulin, 2000), little is known about the interplay of personal and university influences in the development of a the intention to found a company (Lüthje and Franke, 2003). This is the central concern of a research project that is currently in the data collection phase.

6. Patent evaluation and patent strategies of spin-offs from research institutions

Spin-offs from research institutions generally pursue a differentiation strategy in order to compete with existing companies on the market. The resulting innovation competition is based on the respective core technology of the spin-off, which thus represents a significant competitive factor for companies. The protection of core technology and the intellectual property associated with it is therefore of particular importance for these companies. Legal property rights, particularly patents, represent highly relevant protection mechanisms.

A research project will therefore examine to what extent the core technology of spin-offs from research institutions can be meaningfully protected by patents or patent strategies and studies the effects of patents on the success of companies.