Manual The Entrepreneurial University: Engaging Publics, Intersecting Impacts

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Yet, scientists simultaneously claimed adherence to the importance of more traditional academic values, norms, and activities, such as disinterested science, academic freedom and autonomy, and the importance of curiosity-driven research. However, rather than taking these sets of claims to be contradictory instances, we argue that assertions of adherence to academic norms work together with assertions of benefit and value in entrepreneurial science to serve as legitimizing constructs.

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The institutional work examined here is largely normative and discursive, as entrepreneurial scientists draw from both academic and entrepreneurial institutions to begin to reshape the norms of academic science through the legitimization of entrepreneurial activities. Interview participants described positive value in entrepreneurial activities for their capacity to contribute resources to scientific practices and to enhance scientific activities.

Collaborations with industry, including conducting contract research and receiving research grants from industry, were valued both for their ability to enhance academic science by providing additional financial and material resources in the form of funds and equipment to academic science, as well as their ability to add enjoyment or intellectual resources to scientific practices. Industry funds allowed them to take on high-risk projects or to engage in research projects that they otherwise would not be able to.

The following account from a clinician scientist located in a hospital research institute highlights difficulties with securing public grant funding and the value of entrepreneurial activities as additional funding sources. One of the main drivers of that is not just the commercialization, but to try to get more funding. One of the problems we have is, as researchers in general I think, is just the amount of funds from CIHR and other funding agencies.

So, if you have an angle with industry, an industrial angle that you see might benefit a pharmaceutical company or some other company, many people will go to them for funding for one reason or another. In the next excerpt, entrepreneurial activities are described as having relatively few costs but great benefits for academic science.

According to this university professor, writing a business plan to acquire a large amount of money—one million dollars—was procedurally commensurate with writing an academic grant for much less:. You can build up labs with much better funding from the private [sector], and push your science along much quicker with much higher and better funding on a per year basis if you have private funding, and that was one thing.

And that was great too. These scientists thus claimed that entrepreneurial activities could facilitate or enhance the science of their labs through providing necessary resources, without deleterious changes to the nature of their science or the types of activities in which they engaged. Entrepreneurial activities, in this context, were characterized as financially beneficial add-ons to academic laboratories that could better resource these laboratories to do better, more exciting science.

Alongside these accounts of the positive value of entrepreneurial activities in enhancing scientific practice through the provision of financial resources, scientists also claimed positive value in the enjoyment and intellectual resources that entrepreneurial pursuits could add to their scientific activities. They valued the scientific insights and intellectual capital that could be accessed through collaborations with industry, as well as the challenges and research directions provided by industrial partners.

Academic entrepreneurs valued the possibility of research application or translation that they could achieve through research collaborations with industry. The following account from a molecular biology professor at a university research institute identifies value in industrial collaborators who can enhance academic research and who are conducting research in focused way:.

In these accounts, entrepreneurial scientists claimed that their entrepreneurial activities provided valuable extensions to academic science through scientific excitement and novel research directions, ultimately augmenting scientific practice. Beyond the value that scientists claimed in entrepreneurial activities for scientific practices, we next demonstrate the ways in which they claimed normative value in entrepreneurial activities for their ability to generate downstream societal and economic impacts. Language of return on investment and the generation of impact from academic research were used to explain what was perceived as a new mission or mandate of academic science, in producing societal impact and directing academic research toward these ends.

Interview participants commented on a shifting academic research environment toward increased obligations to produce societal value, jobs, and economic impacts from academic research.

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For example, this university-based professor located in a biomedical engineering department described a new model of academic science, where societal impact is part of the mission of academic science. The old the model of universities as centres of higher learning, separate from the economy, separate from the rest of the community, I think are old models.

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  • I think modern universities are getting to be integrated into the community with downtown buildings, parts of universities downtown in cities, in supporting city planning, supporting commercialization and job activity. So I think the role of universities is changing and now they have to undertake this kind of partnership with the rest of the economy, and that means that conversion of public money support into economic activity.

    In addition, the generation of societal impact in academic science was characterized as a specific obligation of publicly-funded researchers, and especially of health researchers in Canada. The following accounts from a university-based assistant professor and a hospital-based clinician scientist valued aspects of return on investment for Canadian citizens as necessary and beneficial outcomes of entrepreneurial pursuits, and indeed as obligations of academic researchers toward the public.

    In these accounts, scientists claimed that beneficial societal and economic outcomes could be accrued from entrepreneurial activities, and spoke to an expanded mission of academic biomedical research in generating downstream impacts, related to research impact through translation and job creation. Rather than locating entrepreneurial science as a distinct resource, apart from but useful for academic activities, these accounts incorporated entrepreneurial, translational activities as necessary aspects of doing academic research in a new era.

    Connected to these rationales of downstream impact value for societal and economic benefit, but specific to the health research context, entrepreneurial activities were also valued for their ability to help patients and save lives, and to do so in a way that was superior to academic translation activities.

    For example, this university professor discussed how academic research translation mechanisms were insufficient to realize the health goals and imperatives of biomedical research, and instead, the patenting and licensing of a technology was cast as guaranteeing patient benefit. If you patent it and license it and make arrangements to sell it … then you can help thousands of people. In the following account, this hospital-based clinician scientist positions achieving health goals and reaching patient populations as an ultimate goal for basic biomedical scientists.

    In these accounts, the goals of patient benefit and cure, and the ways in which entrepreneurial activities might guarantee this, made it necessary to engage in entrepreneurial activities in order to create clinical impacts. As clinical impacts and patient benefit were inscribed into the purpose and mission of biomedical science, entrepreneurial activities were positioned as the mechanisms to achieve these impacts.

    Though the previous accounts emphasized the proposed value of entrepreneurial arrangements for their societal, economic, and clinical impacts, this was not to the exclusion of basic or curiosity-driven research, which was identified as important to protect. In doing so, scientists challenged a potential overemphasis on the generation of impact in academic research. In the following account, this scientist questioned the effectiveness of governmental and funding initiatives that promote commercialization overall. They still maintained the importance of societal impact in academic research, including through commercialization, yet found basic science and serendipitous discovery to be the means to that end.

    And then from that base, discoveries emerge that will have commercial value and practical value and biomedical value and everything else. Entrepreneurial scientists thus both claimed the importance of directing research toward societal applications and producing impact, and also serendipitous discovery and basic research as the source of innovation and potentially commercializable outcomes.

    They tended to resist organizational, governmental, and policy directives that might enforce the generation of impact as a requirement in academic biomedical research, and claimed the importance of protecting basic science as a means of producing translational benefit. These scientists also used their position as basic researchers to distance themselves, and the field of biomedical research as a whole, from the potential for conflicts of interest, when this possibility was proposed to them.

    Indeed, alongside the value proposed in clinical directedness and researcher interestedness in clinical applications and outcomes, academic entrepreneurs simultaneously distanced from the clinic in the context of proposed concerns about conflicts of interest, and maintained a position as basic, non-conflicted scientists.

    Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)

    When discussing the concepts and management of conflict of interest, entrepreneurial scientists characterized conflict of interest situations as those faced by clinical scientists, or by researchers in close proximity to the clinic. They also distanced the field of upstream biomedical research as a whole from conflict of interest concerns, and in doing so avoided even the potential for encountering these situations. For this university-based neuroscience professor, distance from a clinical trial stage of research was used to dispel conflict of interest concerns.

    Similarly in the following account, this engineering professor distinguishes their research from situations where individuals might benefit personally from their collaborations with industry. Here, distinctions were made between industry collaborations in the space of upstream biomedical research, where outcomes are characterized as more abstract, and in the space of clinical research, where outcomes are characterized as more visible or evident.

    These contradictory justifications posed by academic entrepreneurs, in both claiming benefit in the pursuit of entrepreneurial activities to reach clinical populations and concurrent distancing from clinical settings in the face of conflict of interest concerns are most evidently displayed in the following account.

    This director of a research center, described basic biomedical research as having a health-centric and clinically-oriented mission.

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    As a means of fulfilling this mission, collaborations with industry were valued as necessary mechanisms to resource and translate academic research to clinical settings. However, when asked about the potential problem of conflicts of interest associated with entrepreneurial activities in the conduct of academic biomedical science, they distanced the field of basic biomedical research from this health-centric mission. This contradictory characterization of the appropriate role of academic biomedical researchers with respect to the clinic is illustrative but not unique to the ways in which academic researchers positioned themselves.

    Though scientists demonstrated an awareness of the potential for conflicts of interest when industrial or proprietary interests become involved in research, they decoupled these concerns from the conduct of upstream, basic biomedical science. Conflict of interest concerns associated with doing health or clinical research were strategically removed or obfuscated from the conduct of basic science, and instead scientists emphasized the uncertainty or nondirectionality involved in their scientific practices.

    Similar to findings in other settings Baldini et al. However, these scientists did not draw motivations from personal financial gains or career recognition or rewards, but instead drew more heavily from the constraints and the demands of research funding. In claiming the value added to scientific practices through entrepreneurial pursuits, the financial and intellectual resources of industrial collaborations and industry funds were valued for enhancing academic science through the provision of research resources and intellectual stimulation for scientists, usually related to pushing research in translational directions.

    These pursuits were considered to be minimally invasive activities that would generate great benefits for academic science. They were also cast as increasingly necessary pursuits in a poor funding environment, and as legitimate for their potential to enhance academic science in an environment that was described as scarce in resources, and where industrial research directions could augment academic science.

    Claims about the generation of societal and economic impacts through entrepreneurial activities, however, diminished the divide between academic and entrepreneurial science. Through a claimed expanded mission of academic science in generating social and economic impacts, entrepreneurial activities were cast as the mechanism through which these impacts could be achieved.

    In these mission-oriented contexts, entrepreneurial scientists both claimed the value of entrepreneurial science itself, and also sought to legitimize entrepreneurship as an aspect of academic science, thereby merging these two diverse institutions. These claims about impact value in entrepreneurial activities characterized entrepreneurial science as a beneficial component of modern academic science, rather than a distinct set of activities.

    In these accounts, health impacts were used to justify and valorize entrepreneurial engagements Lehoux et al. The practices and activities of academic entrepreneurship, among these scientists, were characterized as legitimate through their alignment with academic research activities, and the shared goal of downstream health impacts. Scientists in this study described, and indeed claimed to foresee and ensure, that benefits to patients could be achieved through entrepreneurial activities. Indeed, translation to the clinic was positioned as a fundamental aspect of doing basic biomedical science, and inscribed into the mission of academic biomedical research.

    As such, participation in entrepreneurial activities that required the pursuit of patents, the creation of spin-off companies, and collaborations with private industry were characterized as fundamental and necessary activities for basic biomedical researchers to engage in, with the intended ends of clinical impact. Yet, alongside these claims about the generation of impact in entrepreneurial activities, scientists resisted directives that would force research in this direction, and spoke to the importance of basic research and serendipitous discovery.

    In doing so, they claimed to protect academic freedom and non-directed discovery while maintaining the value of impact and economic development as an aspect of academic research. Scientists thus espoused the value of directing science toward applied ends as a beneficial and mission-centric pursuit, yet also resisted the imposition of these applied ends and protected the value of serendipitous discovery.

    Conflicts of interest became cast as an irrelevant concern for these scientists through their claimed distance from patient populations, both for individual scientists, and for the field of basic biomedical science as a whole. In order to justify and legitimize entrepreneurial activities, these scientists thus distanced from the clinic in the face of proposed harms, and denied the possibility that entrepreneurial activities would link the worlds of basic biomedical science and clinical impact.

    Involving faculty researchers in product commercialization also enables clients to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace by accelerating new product development and launching. Another important benefit is the cross-fertilization of ideas between industry and institutions of higher education. Synergies with respect to the training and development of staff may be significant as well.

    Faculty entrepreneurial activities also benefit institutions. External funds secured by faculty entrepreneurs may supplement monies available to institutions for conducting basic research and offering improved grants or assistantships to graduate students. Permissive policies regarding faculty entrepreneurship enable institutions to recruit professors who otherwise would be inclined to opt for employment in private industry or government. Additionally, successful faculty entrepreneurs improve institutional visibility and reputation. Faculty entrepreneurs take an active part in solving various social or community problems by providing their expertise to non-profit organizations and governmental agencies.

    Furthermore, academic entrepreneurship, especially efforts that involve start-up companies, plays an increasingly important role in regional and national economic development. On the whole, faculty entrepreneurial activities promote technological advancement and accelerate the transfer of knowledge from discovery to utilization, thus contributing to social progress. On the negative side, faculty entrepreneurial activities may lead to situations involving conflicts of interest, commitment, or internal equity.

    Conflicts of interest may arise when faculty entrepreneurs engage in activities to advance their own financial interests that might harm their institutional employer. The potential for conflicts of interest exists, for example, when faculty entrepreneurs use institutional resources for their outside activities or have financial interests in entities that do business with the institution. A faculty entrepreneur may manipulate research design or fail to present accurate research results if the findings do not yield a profit or desired result for the sponsoring entity, and the dissemination of research findings may be unduly delayed or prevented on the grounds that proprietary information has to be protected in order to secure the competitive edge of the client.

    Another important, but often over-looked, conflict of interest involves student interests. Potential exists for faculty entrepreneurs to abuse their positions by using students as inexpensive labor or to exploit students' ideas without giving them credit. More subtle conflicts that also represent significant risks include steering student research toward topics that reflect the priorities of a faculty entrepreneur or corporate sponsor, or delaying student publications because of proprietary interests.

    Conflicts of commitment between the role of the faculty entrepreneur and the role of teacher, researcher, or public servant merit attention. The central issue to consider when assessing possible conflicts of commitment is whether particular entrepreneurial activities negatively influence faculty teaching, research, and service productivity. Existing research provides mixed results and suggests that the relationships between entrepreneurial activities and faculty productivity are nonlinear, may vary across academic disciplines, and depend on the time spent on outside activities.

    Conflicts of internal equity involve conflicts between the values of faculty as entrepreneur and faculty as collegian. Internal institutional practices increasingly favor academics engaged in entrepreneurial activities. Whether you need a gift in a pinch or you're simply running low on household essentials, a Shipping Pass subscription gets you the things you need without hurting your pocket. When you purchase Shipping Pass you don't have to worry about minimum order requirements or shipping distance.

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