Academic Entrepreneurship: Gendered Discourses and Ghettos

Ylva Fältholm, Lena Abrahamsson, Eva Källhammer
2010 Journal of Technology Management & Innovation  
In this paper, based on texts on academic entrepreneurship as well as on interviews with teachers and researchers at two Swedish universities, we will explore how local discourses of academic entrepreneurship are constructed and gendered. We see this as an important basis when discussing how gender mainstreaming interventions can be introduced in the complex and elusive arena of academic entrepreneurship. Swedish and international higher education is in the process of changing identity; from
more » ... te-financed monopolies to more selffinanced institutions. In addition to competing for students and research funding, the universities are to contribute to economic growth by, for example, cooperating with industry and commercialize research results. It is a global discourse, providing 'rules' for ways of speaking and writing about academic entrepreneurship and it affects the way research and science is looked upon, both within and outside academia. It also provides material for gendered practices and social constructions of women as entrepreneurs and as researchers. Our findings show for example that in texts promoting academic entrepreneurship pictures of men address both women and men, while pictures of women are only targeted to women, often found in 'entrepreneurial ghettos' at the university and conceptualized as in need of support, as less risk-willing and less willing to commercialize their research. Notwithstanding that a discourse might be global, however, it is not always hegemonic, as it competes with alternative discourses and is translated and modified to adapt to local discourses and practices. This is particularly evident within academia, which is characterized by powerful and often contradictory discourses. Our findings show that the global entrepreneurial discourse is met by both counteracting and contributory discourses in academia. For example, it is true that academic entrepreneurship and other types of managerial ideas imposed on academia are seen as important, but also as jeopardizing the core values of academia, such as the idea of independent research and collegial decision making and autonomy. At the same time, Swedish society, including academia, is subject to the discourse of gender equality. Universities have for example been pointed out by the government for not doing enough to increase the number of women professors and as a result, a number of gender mainstreaming measures and projects have been introduced at the universities. As a consequence also projects on for example academic entrepreneurship are to deal with the issue of gender equality and to present measures toin this case -increase the number of women entrepreneurs. Notwithstanding that gender equality is seen an important goal, at least on a rhetorical level, such projects and interventions tend to ignore that both academia and discourses of gender equality, entrepreneurship, innovation, and triple helix are gendered. Our findings show that there is a clear risk that interventions aimed at supporting 'women entrepreneurs' instead of leading to fundamental organizational and cultural changes reproduce and reinforce the image of the successful male academic entrepreneur. One problem addressed in this paper is how to design gender mainstreaming interventions without reproducing stereotypes. We believe the solution is not gender neutrality, but to move back and forth between structural approaches and more critical constructionist approaches. INTRODUCTION Networking and innovative capability is one of the key factors for developing countries to achieve world leading positions in different industrial sectors. STATE OF THE ART ABOUT THE TOPIC A study by Lee et. al., (2001) revealed that external networks and partnership-based linkages of firms to sources of finance had a significant influence on performance. Furthermore, a study by Cooke and Wills (2004) showed that government used networking to enhance business, knowledge and innovation performance. Linkage capabilities are required to leverage on high transaction costs and to gain grounds in narrow and inefficient markets. While networking in firms is not sufficient to bring about innovative capability, it is a crucial factor to strengthening their innovative capability (Sher and Yang (2005). Thus, through internal development supplemented by external network linkage, competitive positions of firms change as a result of shifts in both exogenous (e.g. technology cooperation and acquisition) and endogenous (e.g. R&D expenditure and manpower) factors (Keizer et al., 2002). RESEARCH FOCUS This study attempted addressing the following questions: How does the networking activities of firm impact on their economic and innovation performances? What kind of networking or external linkage impact on the novelty of technological product and process innovation? And what type of ownership structure moderate the link between the use of specific external knowledge sources and firm performance? METHODOLOGY The study areas include Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and the Federal Capital Territory -Abuja in Nigeria. These cities were selected based on their predominant commercial activities, their age-long existence and the presence of most ICT firms involved in development/manufacturing, assemblage, repairs and maintenance of ICT hardware and software. This is because these firms have interrelated developmental activities which provide details on the nature of technological effort undertaken in the industry. The study employed the use of structured questionnaires and personal interviews to obtain primary data from purposively sampled 185 ICT firms involved in production, engineering, maintenance of ICT hardware and software with 85% response rate. A pilot test was conducted in Lagos, Nigeria with about 20 firms and three tertiary institutions. The result of the pre-test was used to validate the research instrument. The firms were asked to indicate the number of existing linkage/networking they have in the years 2003 to 2007 with government laboratories, universities or polytechnics, ICT regulatory body, competitors, suppliers, and financial resources. The parameter was also measured using the intensity of firms' collaborative efforts with sources of Information and Knowledge, Sources of Technology/Process, Human Resources, Financial Resources, Government laboratories, Universities or polytechnics, Competitors, Suppliers and Policy institutions/Regulators on a five-scale rating of 5-Excellent, 4-Very Good, 3-Good, 2-Moderate, and 1-Poor. The data gathered were sorted, coded and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) now known as the Predictive Analytic Software (PASW) and Excel. FINDINGS Among the 14 different types of linkages used by the firms, networking activity with competitors (correlation coefficient = 0.794) ranked highest. Evaluation of the impact of networking and linkage capability(NLC) on firms' performance revealed that while NLC does not impact on the annual profit (R= 0.286, > 0.05) and capital outlay (R= 0.317, > 0.05) of the firms; it impacts strongly and positively with number of patents granted to firms (R=0.776, < 0.05), novelty of the firm's product innovation (R = 0.623, < 0.05), and novelty of process technology ( R = 0.500, < 0.05). Specific types of networking and linkages that impacts on novelty of process and product innovation respectively include: involvement in subcontracting ( =0.000, B=-0.170; =0.006, B=-0.198), linkage with financial resources ( =0.013, B=-0.574), universities/polytechnics ( =0.012, B=-0.405), policy/regulatory institutions ( =0.013, B= 2.477; =0.009, B=4.243), competitors ( =0.004, B=-0.891; =0.000, B=-4.047), suppliers ( =0.000, B=2.790; =0.001, B=3.873), and engaging in innovation cooperation/acquisitions of rights to use patents ( =0.000, B=-0.418; =0.000, B=-0.961). The negative Beta (B) values show the amount by which the respective linkage activities will decrease as more novel product or process innovation occur in the firms, and vice versa. Number of patents obtained by firms yearly while being impacted by all the above NLC plus collaboration with research laboratories is however, not influenced by engagement in subcontracting. Regression analysis carried out showed that ownership structure is not a predictor of knowledge sources used by firms and also performance. CONTRIBUTIONS AND IMPLICATIONS From the study, networking and linkages with competitors, sources of information, research laboratories and sources of technology are most important in other to achieve positive effects on sales and market share to changes in productivity and efficiency in firms. NLC was found to impact strongly and positively with number of patents granted to firms, novelty of the firm's process and product innovation. Furthermore, firms collaborative efforts with policy/regulatory institutions, competitors, suppliers, and subcontracting impact on the novelty of technological product and process innovation in firms. Also, collaborative efforts of the firms with University/Polytechnic were found to be significant in determining the number of patents granted to firms. The result suggests a strong link between conducting research and development (R&D) and generating patents. It also suggests that subcontracting does not favour or enhance the generation of patents by firms. Last but not the least; ownership structure is not a predictor of knowledge sources used by firms and also performance.
doi:10.4067/s0718-27242010000100004 fatcat:exivwgvlsna7be5rqshbiuvtwq