Academic Entrepreneurship: The Key to Unlocking Your Research Potential

Conducting academic research can be a challenging and time-consuming process, with many researchers dedicating their lives to advancing knowledge in their field. However, by incorporating academic entrepreneurship into your research endeavors, you can unlock a wealth of opportunities and benefits that can take your research output and career prospects to the next level (Etzkowitz, 2003; Perkmann et al., 2013).

What is Academic Entrepreneurship?

Academic entrepreneurship involves applying entrepreneurial skills and mindset to academic research (Shane, 2004). This can result in the creation of innovative and impactful projects that solve real-world problems and create value for society (Audretsch & Keilbach, 2007). Researchers who incorporate academic entrepreneurship into their research endeavors can obtain unique benefits that can improve both their research output and career prospects.

(Check out my previous post on academic entrepreneurship)

Benefits of Academic Entrepreneurship

Increased Impact

Focusing on developing solutions to real-world problems, academic entrepreneurs can create research projects that have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s lives (Rothaermel et al., 2007). This can lead to greater recognition and credibility within the field, as well as increased opportunities for collaboration and funding (Autio et al., 2014). Additionally, academic entrepreneurship allows researchers to connect with individuals from other fields, industries, and communities. These interactions can broaden the researcher’s perspectives and provide them with unique insights that can be applied to their research.

(Check out this post on doing more as a researcher and professor)

Professional Development

Academic entrepreneurship can provide valuable opportunities for professional development. By learning entrepreneurial skills such as project management, marketing, and business development, researchers can develop transferable skills that are highly valued in both academic and industry settings. These skills can help you stand out. Moreover, academic entrepreneurship allows you to develop skills that you may not have had the opportunity to learn in a traditional academic setting. For example, when collaborating with industry partners, you may learn about product development, customer acquisition, and scaling a business. These skills can be valuable for researchers who are interested in pursuing a career outside of academia or launching their own business (O’Shea et al., 2005).

Incorporating Academic Entrepreneurship into Your Research

Identifying a Real-World Problem

To incorporate academic entrepreneurship into your research, start by identifying a real-world problem that you are passionate about solving (this is key!). This problem should be related to your field of research, but not necessarily limited to it. Look for opportunities to collaborate with other researchers, industry partners, and community members who may have different perspectives on the problem and unique insights into potential solutions (Wright et al., 2008). (Although, you are likely not going to find many).

A great video on using engineering to solve real world problems.

Start Small and Focus on a Problem You Have

It’s important to start small when incorporating academic entrepreneurship into your research. Start by focusing on a problem that you have experience with and are passionate about solving. This can help you build momentum and gain confidence as you work on your project.

Communicate and Network

Communication and networking are essential for the success of any academic entrepreneurship project. You should share your project with your network and actively seek feedback and advice from others. This can help you refine your idea, identify potential collaborators, and secure funding for your project (Clarysse et al., 2011). As you know, I am a big fan of digital media platforms, but it takes a lot time to build out your community.

You should watch this video in how to do marketing on digital media.

Embrace Failure

Finally, it’s important to embrace failure as part of the academic entrepreneurship process. Not every project will be successful, and that’s okay. In fact, most of your projects will likely fail. Learn from your failures, and use that knowledge to improve your next project (Cope, 2011). Moreover, many successful entrepreneurs have experienced failure in their careers and have used those experiences to propel them forward (Shepherd et al., 2011).

Case Studies in Academic Entrepreneurship

To further illustrate the benefits and practical application of academic entrepreneurship, let’s examine some successful examples from the literature.

CRISPR Technology

The groundbreaking CRISPR gene-editing technology is an excellent example of academic entrepreneurship in action. Developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute, the CRISPR technology has transformed the field of genomics and holds immense potential for various applications, from agriculture to medicine (Doudna & Charpentier, 2014). The researchers behind CRISPR have not only advanced scientific knowledge but have also founded several biotechnology companies to bring their innovations to market, benefiting both society and their own careers (Zhang et al., 2015).

The Lean Startup Methodology

Developed by Eric Ries, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School, the Lean Startup methodology is a widely adopted approach to launching new products and businesses (Ries, 2011). By applying the principles of academic entrepreneurship, Ries transformed his academic research into a widely recognized and respected framework for startups, benefiting both his career and the broader entrepreneurial community.

(This post also discusses the R3ciprocity Project as a form of academic entrepreneurship)


Academic entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool for researchers who are looking to unlock their research potential and make a meaningful impact on society (Etzkowitz et al., 2000). By incorporating academic entrepreneurship into your research endeavors, you can gain valuable skills, develop new perspectives, and create innovative and impactful projects.

So why not start today? Identify a real-world problem, start small, communicate and network, and embrace failure as part of the process. Your research output and career prospects will thank you for it.


Audretsch, D. B., & Keilbach, M. (2007). The theory of knowledge spillover entrepreneurship. Journal of Management Studies, 44(7), 1242-1254.

Autio, E., Kenney, M., Mustar, P., Siegel, D., & Wright, M. (2014). Entrepreneurial innovation: The importance of context. Research Policy, 43(7), 1097-1108.

Clarysse, B., Tartari, V., & Salter, A. (2011). The impact of entrepreneurial capacity, experience and organizational support on academic entrepreneurship. Research Policy, 40(8), 1084-1093.

Cope, J. (2011). Entrepreneurial learning from failure: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Journal of Business Venturing, 26(6), 604-623.

Doudna, J. A., & Charpentier, E. (2014). The new frontier of genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas9. Science, 346(6213).

Etzkowitz, H. (2003). Research groups as ‘quasi-firms’: The invention of the entrepreneurial university. Research Policy, 32(1), 109-121.

Etzkowitz, H., Webster, A., Gebhardt, C., & Terra, B. R. C. (2000). The future of the university and the university of the future: Evolution of ivory tower to entrepreneurial paradigm. Research Policy, 29(2), 313-330.

O’Shea, R. P., Allen, T. J., Chevalier, A., & Roche, F. (2005). Entrepreneurial orientation, technology transfer and spinoff performance of U.S. universities. Research Policy, 34(7), 994-1009.

Perkmann, M., Tartari, V., McKelvey, M., Autio, E., Broström, A., D’Este, P., … & Sobrero, M. (2013). Academic engagement and commercialisation: A review of the literature on university–industry relations. Research Policy, 42(2), 423-442.

Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Crown Business.

Rothaermel, F. T., Agung, S. D., & Jiang, L. (2007). University entrepreneurship: A taxonomy of the literature. Industrial and Corporate Change, 16(4), 691-791.

Shane, S. (2004). Academic entrepreneurship: University spin-offs and wealth creation. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Shepherd, D. A., Patzelt, H., & Wolfe, M. (2011). Moving forward from project failure: Negative emotions, affective commitment, and learning from the experience. Academy of Management Journal, 54(6), 1229-1259.

Wright, M., Clarysse, B., Lockett, A., & Knockaert, M. (2008). Mid-range universities’ linkages with industry: Knowledge types and the role of intermediaries. Research Policy, 37(8), 1205-1223.

Zhang, F., Wen, Y., & Charpentier, E. (2015). CRISPR-Cas9: A new and promising player in gene therapy. Journal of Medical Genetics, 52(5), 289-296.

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