Entrepreneurship and Academic Employment. More Alike than You’d Think
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Recognising the increasing value of knowledge and technology transfer, the scientific and political communities in Germany have recently devoted much attention to academic entrepreneurship. Seeking to explore similarities and differences between academic employment and entrepreneurship, we interviewed 112 postdoctoral students from the four major German research organisations and 16 senior transfer managers whose responsibilities included spin-off facilitation. Our findings indicate that those involved in such occupations often believe that academic employment and entrepreneurship differ substantially on many levels. Both interviewed senior managers and postdoctoral students considered engaging in commercialisation activities to be a risky and serious undertaking and a significant career change. Simultaneously, the opinions and observations of postdoctoral students helped us identify a wide range of similarities between academic employment and entrepreneurship. Our findings can help make entrepreneurship more accessible to researchers, re-define the boundaries between scientific and commercial activities, and, ultimately, foster knowledge and technology transfer.