Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Senyard, JM, Pickernell, D, Keast, RL & Mohannak, K 2008, 'Government policy, HEI's and entrepreneurship in industry development : an example from Queensland, Australia', in FL Murray (ed.), Melbourne, Vic., 5-8 February, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Vic. ISBN: 9780980332834


Universities are increasingly being encouraged to take a leading role in entrepreneurial creation, whilst the entrepreneurship literature recognises the importance of economic development policy. Recent research has focused on evaluating roles and interactions of government policy, Higher Education Institutions' (HEIs), entrepreneurship, and the creation of innovation. This is an important area for research because HEIs have an important ties in both knowledge creation and its dissemination in the economy. This contributes to the public knowledge stock and knowledge spillover's: important economic drivers of regional development and growth (Guellec & Potterie, 2004, Acs et al 2004).The optimum mechanisms of these stakeholders are currently not well understood, necessitating an exploratory approach to research.

The paper's aims are to enhance the understanding of the role government policy plays in influencing HEIs' entrepreneurial behaviours and direct innovation creation and dissemination in the Australian biotechnology industry. This involves (i) evaluation of the role of HEIs in high potential nascent firm development in the biotechnology industry and government influence on this role (ii) identifying behaviours within HEI-created nascent firms and iii) examination of potential commercialisation mechanisms and conceptual changes required to clearly articulate value creation and spillovers.

The study uses a framework developed by Pickernell et al (2006), with a particular focus on role and impacts of government policy interactions with university policy concerning the allocation and use of government resources. This framework builds on the 'Triple Helix' model of Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff (1998), which incorporates the role of key stakeholders (industry, government and HEIs in particular) in innovation generation, diffusion and commercialisation. This, however, emphasises the need for multi-disciplinary and interactive knowledge production between the stakeholdders. This paper utilises this broad framework to identify and evaluate the specific roles of HEIs and government in high potential nascent firm creation, behaviour, and spillovers. It also allows highlighting areas for further research, particularly direct HEI start up and commercialisation processes and company behaviour.

Methodology/Key Propositions A range of HEI's commercialisation decisions , including the process of creating entrepreneurial small firms (clusters, spinoffs, licensing), the actors/individuals and teams, the decision to commit resources (finance, assistance) and the complex nature of relationships between Govt and HEI's, lead to entrepreneurial formations, behaviours, and outcomes. The biotechnology industry has received greater focus and funding in Government policy within the last decade. Increased access to this funding influences entrepreneurial behaviours and further policy development in HEI's which warrants further examination, particularly given the limited research conducted in Australia. Orsenigo, Pammolli, & Riccaboni (2001) argue that the majority of research in biotechnology development and industry occurred in the United States, leaving a gap in the literature for the Australian context. This may not provide an accurate reflection of current Australian conditions, owing to differences in government policy e.g. Doyle Bayle Act, environment and practice (Orsenigo et al., 2001). Further, size, structure and access to resources, including finance and tax incentives on research and development differ between the US and Australia (Marsh 2002). In the context of university technology transfer and commercialisation, there has also been little research on possible contingency effects of particular institutional structures or processes (Powers & McDougall, 2005).

There is also a paucity of literature in the research and development cycle in new firm creation, where no sales have been conducted, but value has been recognised and is seeking to be developed (Lockett, Siegel, Wright, & Ensley, 2005). Moreover, limited research has occurred in the commercialisation of R & D in universities and the risks posed by HEI technology transfer policies and practices in Australia (Griffith, Redding, & Simpson, 2004). Lowe (2006) also suggests further empirical evidence is needed on HEI commercialisation and firm developments.. Despite the recent phenomenon of the entrepreneurial university, and the increased focus on commercialisation (Griffith et al., 2004; Siegel et al., 2001), there is therefore more research needed in the management aspects of university commercialisation both in the US and elsewhere (Prabhu, 1999).

In order to utilises the broad framework identified in Pickernell et al (2006) to the research areas highlighted in the Principal Topic section, a two-stage qualitative approach was utilised, to allow the complexity of the issues to be explored.: In stage one scoping interviews were conducted with various industry stakeholders including members of Federal and State Government, university members and industry partners. The second stage used the comparative case study approach (in-depth interview techniques) of 3 Queensland biotech firms who were selected for their different stages in commercialisation processes. These firms were linked to university and government funding in different ways and dealt with policy and opportunities differently. This occurred within a greater project evaluating asymmetric behaviours and entrepreneurial orientation of Queensland Biotechnology firms. The research focused on the role and importance of HEIs and government policy in this innovation-focused sector.

Results and Implications The key contribution of the paper is providing insight of the roles and behaviours of key stakeholders in area of innovation and economic development, in particular HEI's. Preliminary analysis of the result indicate opportunistic behaviours in the development of HEI shell companies to access Government funding, reducing funding effectiveness in industry development and innovation. This creates opportunities for further research into the interactions between policymakers, HEI and practitioners in policy development and research, highlighting key areas where changes to policy may be required, and the need for further research to better inform such policy changes.

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