'Pompous' academics dampen fervour for spin-offs

April 8, 2005

A climate of suspicion is hindering links between university business schools and technology transfer offices, research suggests. The report concludes that universities fail to capitalise on the expertise of business schools in commercialising ideas.

The research was carried out by Nottingham University Business School. A member of staff at one technology transfer office who was interviewed described business school staff at the university: "They're sort of very academic and pretty pompous and I'm not really interested - and they're not..."

One business lecturer said their university was "unfathomable".

Mike Wright, who led the research, said the team was surprised at how little interaction they found between departments.

"There has been a lot of criticism of business schools that they are too large-corporation oriented," he said. "This is keying into the debate of the future of business schools and how they can become more relevant."

The Lambert review of university business links noted that, although universities were creating spin-off companies, few of them generated much value.

Professor Wright said business schools' expertise could help universities overcome this hurdle.

The researchers reviewed published data and interviewed 42 staff working in business schools, technology transfer offices and science departments.

The discussion paper produced by the team found only two institutions where business schools were working successfully with technology offices.

Although neither was named in the report, The Times Higher has identified them as Lancaster University and Imperial College London.

The research suggested that universities need to employ staff who are capable of crossing the boundaries between business schools, technology transfer offices and science departments, generating exploitable research.

Pressures to perform well in the research assessment exercise for business academics also proved a barrier, as entrepreneurial activities are not recognised. The researchers found this was exacerbated by low awareness of academic entrepreneurship among business school deans, who did not understand activities that did not contribute to the RAE.

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