Students in Academic Entrepreneurship : Entrepreneurship Education and Key Actors Facilitating Student Start-ups in the University Context

Abstract: The ongoing discussion about academic research not being sufficiently commercialized has overlooked the individual actors in the university context, not least students as potential entrepreneurs. The purpose of this thesis is to enhance our understanding of student entrepreneurs by exploring how entrepreneurship education and key actors in the university context facilitate the formation of student start-ups. Two overall research questions are in focus; i) How does entrepreneurship education at university facilitate start-up formation among students? ii) How and why do key actors in the university context facilitate the formation of student start-ups? These questions are answered by three sub-studies, presented in the five published and appended papers. The data were collected through postal questionnaires as well as interviews in the context of three universities, namely Halmstad University, Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg.This thesis makes several contributions. Firstly, it shows that entrepreneurship education at university facilitates start-ups by enabling knowledge spillovers from research to students willing to take on the entrepreneurial role, the so-called missing link in academic entrepreneurship. Secondly, it also demonstrates that entrepreneurship education contributes to the development of long-term entrepreneurial capital, which facilitates future start-ups. Thirdly, entrepreneurship education facilitates start-ups by connecting key actors with different roles; students were found to be present, prepared and persistent entrepreneurs, alumni to be resource-providers and role models, while researchers became enablers with a need for utilization of their research. The revealed reasons for these interconnected key actors to enable student start-ups were; i) students are looking for a career, have start-ups skills from entrepreneurship education and access to role-models and business opportunities in the university context; ii) alumni are anxious to pass on their business experience and maintain the mutually beneficial ties to the university; iii) researchers are reluctant to change their established career but with a strong need for utilization of their research enables students to make commercial use of it.